This autumn, after a turbulent 18 months, Land Rover will kick off an extremely significant two-year period of consolidation and expansion. This move will define the brand for the next decade.
A great deal of the activity will relate to not just the launch of four new vehicles but also to increased electrification within its line-up. Although the marque’s pure-electric vehicles are still years away – with sibling brand Jaguar leading the group in this market segment – all new Land Rover models from late 2019 will be offered with the option of either mild-hybrid or plug-in hybrid drivetrains, allowing it to leave its diesel difficulties behind.
Perhaps the most important addition during that time will be the all-new Mk5 Range Rover (imagined in the adjoining image by our sister publication, Autocar UK) which is expected to be unveiled in 2021. The mainstream version of the new flagship will be a plug-in hybrid based on an all-new aluminium platform, dubbed MLA. It has been designed to be much lighter than the current Jaguar Land Rover aluminium architecture, as well as accommodating conventional engines and/or electric drive.
Sources at Autocar UK say that there will be an all-electric Range Rover 5, but it will be targeted at city users – particularly in East Asia. However, a vast majority of sales are expected to comprise the plug-in hybrid version, which will combine the new straight-six Ingenium engine with twin-electric motors – one assisting the front wheels and one driving the rear axle.
Land Rover engineers hope that the combination of the new architecture and downsizing the engine will offset the weight of the battery pack, which will offer about 64km of pure-electric driving.
A mild-hybrid Range Rover 5 will use a very similar set-up to the upcoming Range Rover Sport, so expect 304- 406hp versions of the new straight-six Ingenium engine assisted by both a 48V electric supercharger and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Kinetic energy (which would otherwise be wasted) is harvested and stored in a small battery that, in turn, powers the engine’s electric supercharger.
Elsewhere in the line-up, Autocar UK understands that the Range Rover Sport is getting a significant mid-life hybrid makeover now, as a vote of confidence in its enduring appeal. A replacement for this popular model is thought to be at least three years away.
Further out, the first globally targeted Land Rover EV will most likely be the so-called ‘Road Rover,’ which will be much lower and more aerodynamic than other Range Rovers.
Despite JLR’s new ‘Project Charge’ cost-cutting efforts, Autocar believes that the Road Rover is still on the company’s model cycle plan and will most closely compete with Porsche’s next-generation electric Macan, to be twinned with the next-generation Jaguar XJ.
The future, MLA-based Velar could also be offered in pure-electric form, but the next-generation model is expected to be more than four years from launch, and is now at the planning stage.
In the shorter term, the long-awaited Defender will be revealed to the public this year. It will be sold in mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms. Fears that a plug-in Defender, with an electrically powered rear axle, would be compromised off road are, as Autocar UK understands, misplaced.
An electric motor offers maximum torque from step-off and torque delivery is far more controllable than with a conventionally driven rear axle, greatly improving off-road performance.
There’s no firm news on a pure-electric Defender, but it remains a possibility. However, a plug-in hybrid with about 56km of silent and emission-free electric range could be as useful off road as in a city centre.
In the immediate future, the new Range Rover Evoque, which rolls on a completely re-engineered platform and has received praise for its refinement and poise, is already available with a mild-hybrid setup, assisted by a belt-driven starter/generator.
Early next year, though, the Evoque plug-in hybrid will arrive using a three-cylinder engine, a 48V hybrid system and an electrically driven rear axle. The 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine alone develops a healthy 200hp and 201Nm of torque. In addition, the electric motor on the rear axle generates 108hp and 260Nm. The vehicle’s electric range is expected to be about 56km.
The Discovery Sport – until recently Land Rover’s bestselling model – has been suffering against some strong competition, especially from Volvo. Judging by the reception for the new Evoque, however, its imminent reinvention as a more luxurious car with both mild-hybrid engines and plug-in capability should significantly revitalise sales in 2020.