Ask the oracles about the future of the auto industry and you'll hear a lot of murmuring about an all-electric future featuring shared autonomous shuttles shuffling around city centers. They may be right, but in today's auto industry it's size that sells. Pickup trucks remain rolling ATMs for American and Japanese automakers.
For the Europeans, the crisp bank notes come from giant coupes: Take an SUV, subtract some practicality, add a dose of style and a few cow herds' worth of leather. The results—vehicles like the Mercedes GLC coupe and BMW 6-series—are popular for a sporty look with a high, commanding driving position. And they command a high price to go with it.
At the Geneva Motor Show this week, Jaguar Land Rover debuted its latest entry into this growing field: the Range Rover SV Coupe. The luxury ride, which starts at $295,000, looks like a two-door, squished version of the Range Rover Sport, or a Range Rover Velar with an even more sloping back. In other words, it fits right in.
Before we continue, a few words about automotive jargon. As marketers apply the sportiest names to the most ungainly machines, body style definitions are growing increasingly wooly. Range Rover's use of the word "coupe" is unusual—this is an SUV, after all—but at least the thing fits the technical definition, with two doors and a fixed roof. What most people would call "sedans" (or in Britannia, "saloons") BMW and Mercedes now call four-door coupes, or sport activity vehicles, or grand tourers of some sort. The point is, these words don't mean much anymore, so don't pay too much attention to them.
So let's look at the reality of this new SV Coupe. Making a Range Rover harder to climb into sounds ridiculous—how will the queen make her entrance?—but the new proportions make the car seem more eager and powerful, even if it’s less practical. If you do clamber into the back, you’ll find two super-plush rear seats with quilted stitching. If you want, they’re available in a different color than the fronts, for a two-tone look. And once settled, you can close the two doors with the push of a button.
Jaguar Land Rover is preparing for the electric future, but this vehicle is not part of that plan. The 5-liter, turbocharged V-8 engine should be good for a 5-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph. Of course, nobody is ever going to take this thing off-road, but it comes with the usual Terrain Response 2 system, which can tackle the toughest obstacles, just in case the driver decides they have something to prove.
The SV Coupe is no historical aberration.
It’s not the first two-door Range Rover. The company offered a two-door version of the Evoque when the baby SUV entered production, but recently withdrew the option from the US market. And classic Range Rovers from the 1970s used the two-door look to signal more utility than luxury, particularly in the popular mustard-yellow paintwork.
If you're into the modern rehash of the look and don't mind spending McLaren money on an SUV, move quickly. Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations Technical Center in the UK will build just 999 copies of the car, starting sales at the end of this year.
If you miss this round, fear not. Range Rover seems intent on filling every conceivable niche, and it'll likely find buyers wherever it goes. But it faces competition from all the other luxury brands rushing to capitalize on luxo-SUV demand, from Lamborghini’s Urus to Bentley’s Bentayga. Not to mention the electric SUVs unveiled around the Geneva show, like Jaguar’s I-Pace and a surprise Mission E Cross Turismo concept from Porsche, which looks like a jacked-up version of the sexy Mission E sedan. Or is it a four-door grand tourer coupe?
Whatever they’re called, sporty SUVs are ever-more popular at all ends of the price range. (Toyota's Rav4 SUV recently unseated the Camry as the country's best-selling car.) Don’t be surprised if other manufacturers copy Range Rover’s lead and start leaving doors off to try to capture the coupe buyers as well as the previously-sedan fans.
Forget the Utility
The Geneva show is always fun for supercar fans. This year McLaren showed its million-dollar Senna to the public.
Bentley was one of the first luxury automakers to realize its future depended on an SUV. Hence, the Bentayga.
As well as the mainstream automakers, they face competition from startups, like Byton, which is building a self-driving luxury SUV.
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