Previously, it was thought the new vehicle would go straight at the luxury sedan segment in the U.S. and China to to challenge the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Lately, understanding has shifted to the idea of a wagon-y crossover-y offering like the Audi Allroad or Volvo V90 CrossCountry, with S-Class luxury and, most important, an all-electric drivetrain. The car would be twinned with the next-generation aluminum-bodied Jaguar XJR platform capable of all-electric and ICE powertrains, but would focus on the electric possibilities. With a twin-motor electric powertrain and roughly 300 miles of range, a Road Rover's real competition could be the Audi E-Tron Sportback.
The thinking is that JLR wants to reach 1 million annual sales per year by 2025, and even Jaguar's improved fortunes and potential C-Pace and J-Type won't be able to clear the distance from last year's 604,000 sales. The market rides on crossovers and SUVs, so JLR needs to get more of them out, quickly. Last year, Autoweek doubted Land Rover would forsake Range Rover brand equity for an unproven nameplate, especially for a top-flight luxury vehicle. However, Autocar thinks that the company doesn't want to dilute Range Rover's hardcore all-terrain perception with a soft-roader, that the electric powertrain would be too difficult to adapt to such capability, and that the blocky, upright Land Rover design language would be too difficult to integrate into a useful EV. JLR also needs something beyond the I-Pace to fulfill coming ZEV regulations in California and nine other states.
The Road Rover name was used once before in the company's history, as with the Velar. In the 1950s, Rover Company produced prototypes it dubbed Road Rovers that would bridge the gap between Rovers cars and Land Rover trucks; the idea behind one of those prototypes evolved into the Range Rover. It's possible we could see a new Road Rover concept on display at this year's L.A. Auto Show.