Love them or loathe them, SUVs are here to stay after conquering virtually every sector of the car market. And now it’s the turn of the super-luxury segment to feel the sport utility vehicle heat…
It’s shortly going to be war at the very highest echelons of the marketplace where huge sporting/luxury names such as Bentley, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and the daddy of them all, Rolls-Royce, will soon be fielding SUVs with prices well into six figures.
Their target? Of course the vehicle that wrote the luxury SUV rulebook, the Range Rover. In a bid to stay in touch at the top of the market, this week Land Rover unleashed a new ultimate Range Rover, at £164,500 (plus options) – you can read our review of the new SV Autobiography here.
And if you think that’s as dear as a Range Rover could ever get, think again. There’s lots more to come, according to Paul Newsome of JLR Special Vehicle Operations, the outfit behind the new super-Range Rover.
‘I don’t see a problem with a Range Rover for £280,000 if the content is special enough,’ the SVO director tells GRR in our exclusive interview. Read on to discover more about the future of one of the Britain’s best loved cars and where it fits into a rapidly changing luxury landscape:
Are you feeling flattered or a little put upon that everyone seems to want a slice of the market that Range Rover created?
We are not feeling put upon at all. Others coming in to the market just increases the opportunity for us. When Porsche introduced the Cayenne people thought it would have a big effect on Range Rover. It did – we massively increased our sales and introduced the Range Rover Sport. I believe we will sell more Range Rovers after the Bentley Bentayga goes on sale (early 2016 – ed).
So is the new Range Rover SV Autobiography your response to the new Bentley Bentayga?
No not at all. The Range Rover SVA positions us on list price in the same market but it is a very different car. I have a great deal of respect for Bentley and the Bentayga (below) will bring a lot of focus to the luxury 4×4 sector, but it’s a very different product. The SVA is the ultimate expression of Range Rover luxury and in long wheelbase form it’s the most spacious vehicle in its segment, until you go to something like a Cadillac Escalade. We anticipate a significant number of owners being chauffeured in the car during the week. Then because it’s such a great driver’s car they will drive it themselves at weekends – that’s the sort of person we designed the car for.
If the Range Rover is not the fastest, most powerful and expensive SUV, what are its USPs?
Luxury and all-terrain capability. We firmly believe that Range Rover is the best all-terrain vehicle you can buy. On-road performance has always been entirely capable but we’d never strive to outperform a Porsche Cayenne. But the breadth of on-road and off-road ability is absolutely the best.
Another Range Rover USP is its design, which is not contrived in any way, shape or form. The shape is so well defined, born out of generations of history of the model and it’s a huge part of the Range Rover’s appeal. Others coming into the market find it difficult to achieve that balance. The Range Rover doesn’t need to try to be anything other than what it is.
Can you see 4x4s increasingly challenging saloons in the super-luxury market?
Yes I think so. Saloons still make up the vast majority of luxury cars but Range Rover has been there on its own for a long, long time. Others haven’t really pushed to do a complete luxury 4×4 product with global appeal. But now I think that ratio will change, just as it has with cars below this market. A huge number of customers have gone across to 4x4s and the same thing will happen in the luxury segment.
You are taking the Range Rover upmarket all the time – so how high can it go?
Entrants like Rolls-Royce and Bentley set a precedent for how far the market can go. If someone comes in to the market and charges £250,000 for a car in this segment then our ability to move, and keep moving, is clear. How high could it go? I think if we did a product with reduced availability and a higher level of craftsmanship we could push the price miles up. There are already people who go to external companies with a Range Rover and walk out after spending the best part of £300,000 on it.
So the new £164,500 model is not the end of the story?
If we said we want to do a £250,000 Range Rover and make 4000 of them next year it wouldn’t work. But if we said there are going to be 300 Range Rovers worldwide next year at £280,000 each and the content is going to be this special, then I think that could work. I don’t see a problem with that at all.
When it gets to that stage, shouldn’t a Range Rover look more different?
Yes. The new SVA doesn’t need to look any more different than it does – that’s demonstrated by the fact that we have a full order book for the next 12 months. But if we went to a higher price I see a car that would have to be visually fundamentally different.