Jaguar Land Rover is on a roll. The patience of parent company Tata Motors — and its willingness to invest in new product — means the two British luxury brands are healthier than ever. Land Rover, riding the global boom in SUV sales, is setting the pace and making the lion’s share of JLR’s profits right now. Jaguar, a latecomer to the SUV party with its new F-Pace, is playing catch-up as it moves away from relying on increasingly unfashionable sedans and niche-market sports cars. But both face near-term challenges.
The all-electric I-Pace SUV due for 2018 is pitched as another turnaround car for Jaguar, though a much riskier one than the F-Pace. The brand’s first zero-emission vehicle marks a bold approach, and the learning curve ahead is steep, with issues such as scalability, battery life, charge time, performance characteristics, cooling, and packaging to be resolved.
Among the EV engineering solutions JLR developed with researchers at Coventry University are front and rear motors that are concentric with the drive shafts and deliver a total system output of 400 horsepower. Battery life is 186,000 miles — at least 800 charge cycles — and if one of the 36 cells or modules in the under-floor battery pack has a problem, it can be accessed easily via service panels.
Loosely based on the F-Pace’s aluminum-intensive D7a architecture, the I-Pace will be built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. The initial production target is 15,000 units per year, but insiders say it could double with a modest investment. If the design catches on and the market demands it, Jaguar could launch a roomier, three-row version featuring a larger energy pack.
E comes before I, however, and the Evoque-sized Jaguar E-Pace SUV, based on the same D8 architecture as the high-style baby Range Rover and Land Rover’s Discovery Sport, will make its debut in September at the Frankfurt show. The conventionally engineered E-Pace borrows styling cues from the F-Pace and shares its four-cylinder gasoline and diesel powertrains with the Evoque.
It’s not all SUVs or EVs at Jaguar, though. The next-generation XJ sedan, due in 2019, was planned to be an all-electric vehicle to differentiate it from the all-dominant Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But there’s been a change of heart. “We thought long and hard about this,” admits an insider, “but the world may not yet be ready for a second EV from Jaguar.”
Under consideration now is a matrix architecture that packages internal combustion, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric powertrains. Design chief Ian Callum’s team initially pitched a sporty coupelike concept, but top management favors an elegant, long-wheelbase, three-box sedan aimed at China and the U.S. For the plug-in hybrid model, a 335-hp version of the new 2.0-liter Ingenium four-cylinder gasoline engine, supported by a 134-hp electric motor, is likely. Pure EV range is expected to be more than 50 miles.
The next-generation F-Type, due for 2020, is the last of the new Jaguar cars on the immediate horizon. The coupe/roadster twins will grow in size to deliver more cabin space and will introduce new infotainment and connectivity features.
Although it’s all change at Jaguar, it’s steady as she goes at Land Rover. Well, almost. The stylish new Range Rover Velar is the first Land Rover in history built on Jaguar vehicle architecture — D7a, which underpins the XE and XF sedans and the F-Pace SUV. Positioned between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, the Velar is a late entry into the sporty SUV segment, but Gerry McGovern’s pretty design means it should be a strong seller.
The Velar will be joined in late 2018 by the second-generation Range Rover Evoque, which is essentially a rework of today’s car, using the existing all-steel D8 architecture. More interesting is what happens to the Evoque and Discovery Sport — and Jaguar E-Pace — when D8 is retired in 2025.
Replacing D8 with a new lightweight aluminum-intensive structure, while useful in helping with Land Rover’s looming CO2 emissions problem, would break the bank, insiders say. So there’s talk of joining forces with BMW to rework the UKL architecture now used for the 1 Series, 2 Series, and Mini lineups, possibly with Toyota as a third partner. When asked whether there was a grain of truth in this rumor, however, senior BMW engineer Klaus Fröhlich shook his head, grinned, and said, “That’s news to me.”
In the meantime, the long-awaited, all-new Land Rover Defender, the first product out of JLR’s new factory in Slovakia, arrives in 2019. Based on a de-contented version of the off-road optimized D7u architecture that underpins the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover Discovery, the Defender gets a total reboot in all departments. Expect two- and four-door versions in two configurations each, one for city slickers and one for off-road enthusiasts.