Production

Special Vehicle Operations is Jaguar Land Rover's biggest success story of 2020

Jaguar Land Rover sells high-powered and customized versions of its models for discerning customers.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Want it faster? With more of a growl coming from the exhaust? Incredibly spacious? What you want are Jaguar Land Rover's range of Special Vehicle Operations (SV) models.

You're not alone, that aspect of JLR's business retailed over 9,500 high-performance and luxury SV products in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, up 64 percent from the previous year.

Range Rover Sport SVR Media Drive, March 2018 Models in the Special Vehicle Operations product line wear SV badging. Photo courtesy of Land Rover

"Despite a challenging sales environment for the automotive industry as a whole, we're delighted that the demand for Jaguar and Land Rover SV products continues to grow strongly, just five years after the division was first launched," said Michael van der Sande, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations. "We currently have our broadest-ever range of models offering enhanced performance and luxury, each with its own distinctive personality that resonates with our customers."

The strong demand is well distributed. There are seven SV vehicles offered that have driven the growth, including the long wheelbase Range Rover SVAutobiography, which offers airline-style Executive Class seating, and the driver-focused 550-horsepower Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic.

JLR's best-selling SV SUV is the 575-horsepower Range Rover Sport SVR, which saw sales growth in its fifth year of production.

The company launched the 550-horsepower Jaguar F-PACE SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition in 2019.

To capitalize on markets primed for these models, JLR has rolled out SV Specialist Centers in the areas and dedicated SV areas at retailers. The company says that these retailers are specially trained to meet the needs of the SV customer base. SV Specialist Centers have already launched at 100 retailer sites globally, with more to follow.

"We've focused on satisfying demand for existing SV vehicles, while simultaneously expanding into new sectors with models such as the Jaguar F-PACE SVR, which instantly became our second highest volume vehicle," said Mark Turner, Commercial Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations. "Developing the SV presence in the global Jaguar Land Rover retail network and on social media, in conjunction with SV Bespoke, is also having a positive effect on our business."

There's another page to the menu. The Special Vehicle Operations SV Bespoke department is available to customize the vehicles from tailoring paint color and finish to interior and exterior trim choices. This area of the business has seen a 20 percent growth in bespoke commissions and Premium Palette paint finishes for a selection of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Land Rover Defender holds up when compared to the Defenders of the past.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

If you know anything about extreme off-road expeditions and four-wheel-drive icons, you know the Land Rover Defender. If you have an imprint in your head of vehicles that have roamed the wilds of Africa or the outback of Australia, you'll likely conjure up an image of these stalwart, boxy and tall-legged utilitarian models kicking up dust across the savannah. You might even have a memory of Defenders ferrying British royals around their castle grounds or on hunting and fishing forays.

Since the 80s, this legendary SUV has garnered a fervent fan-following. It has been a workhorse and conqueror of jungles around the globe, but unavailable in the U.S. market since 1997 due to stiffened safety regulations. An all-new version has been reimagined for the 21st century; the five-door 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 is on sale now while its stablemate, the three-door 2021 Defender 90, goes on sale in the new year.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender is easy to drive, but steering is a bit heavy.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The Defender has been engineered on a new all-aluminum unibody platform that is the stiffest Land Rover body ever created; it has short front and rear overhangs that aid in off-roading, with a rear-mounted spare tire. New is a fully-independent suspension, twin-speed transfer box and permanent four-wheel-drive. It has been crafted for personalization with four different Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban), and the greatest number of individual accessories ever offered by the brand.

I drove the 2020 Defender 110 X on a three-day test drive of more than 200 miles. The tester was set up with a number of options, including electronic air suspension, and retailed for $85,750. The X derivative is adorned with a Gloss Black inset contrast hood with Gloss Black claddings, along with front and rear skid pans and other trim elements that are coated in a Starlight Satin finish, while Windsor Leather and Steelcut Premium Textile accent the interior.

I am a "classic" Defender enthusiast and have driven these models on numerous extreme off-road journeys around the globe, so I approached my evaluation of the new model with a bit of mild trepidation fearing that I would favor the original and eschew the new. There were many pleasant surprises.

2020 Land Rover Defender A day of testing included on- and off-road driving.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

I found the emblematic upright, brick-shaped silhouette had morphed into a more contemporary expression penned with softened lines that will enhance fuel economy over the '97. Its looks are appealing and mesh well with other models in the Land Rover portfolio, with angles of approach and departure that speak to its off-road mission, and up-level styling cues and trim elements.

The interior was not only bright, roomy and ergonomically pleasing but laden with luxe-level comfort and convenience features, such as heated and cooled seats, wireless charging and heads-up display. I appreciated the lockable 1.5-gallon glovebox, deep door pockets and thoughtful array of stowage features.

Off-roading requires supplies and supplies require storage space. The Defender's second-row seatbacks split 40/20/40 for flexibility and loadspace rails on the floor of the rear cargo area come with load retention accessories to keep smaller items from moving around inside. A lockable, heavy-duty steel Security Box adds protection and secures to the loadspace rails; it can hold laptops, tablets and other valuables, while an exposed cross car beam serves as a shelf to hold 1.83 gallons of open storage. A clip-in, washable loadspace cover doubles as a ground mat for picnics or for changing mucky footwear on wet surfaces.

2020 Land Rover Defender The interior of the Defender is upscale with an intuitive infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The drive route took me on fast-moving highways and along slow, meandering byways providing two different opportunities to evaluate the vehicle's design prowess for serious four-wheeling and its intelligent off-road technologies. Defender's road manners were excellent, with a slightly heavy-handed feel to steering. Its responsive suspension brought confidence to navigating its mass of more than 5,000 pounds on tight and twisty tarmac with adaptive dampers monitoring body movements up to 500 times per second and responding almost instantly to optimize body control and comfort.

The Defender, as tested with the available 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, provided an ample 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, seamlessly runs through the gears for smooth up- and down-shifting and its stopping power comes in a measured manner. The engine features mild-hybrid technology which helps it get off the line more efficiently.

Our first foray into off-roading was at the Land Rover Experience Center, in Manchester, Vermont, where a lengthy, wooded off-road course with stretches of technical track provided an opportunity to try out the bevy of intelligent off-road tech, including Terrain Response 2 with its new Wade program (Defender has 35 inches of water fording capability) and Land Rover's new off-road Configurable Terrain Response system, which is designed to set up the Defender for precise conditions using the center touch screen controller. A choice of three settings for the throttle and gearbox response, steering and traction control, lets drivers tailor their Defender.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender has 35 inches of fording capability.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Other cool tech includes advanced All-Terrain Progress Control (moves the vehicle independently at preset speeds) and ClearSight Ground View, a forward-facing camera which was developed for extreme off-road situations, and shows the hidden area directly in front of the vehicle using the central touchscreen.

That touch screen, a 10-inch Pivi Pro system comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and over-the-air updates.

After trying out the 2020 Defender technologies on steep up and downhills, off-camber slopes and through water, we motored on a series of logging roads and dirt tracks to the top of Mt. Equinox, that sits at nearly 4,000 feet along the Green Mountain range, in southern Vermont.

2020 Land Rover Defender A two-tone paint scheme is available.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Two days of off-roading and multiple miles of driving on paved roads brought confirmed insight. The legendary Defenders of the past will still appeal to purists and will always kick up dirt in the outbacks and savannahs of the world, and likely still ferry the Royals. The new Defender is laudable; it's designed and engineered to appeal to today's buyers and it will soon develop its own fan following.

Trending News

 
 

The front of the concept is very EV in its design.

Photo courtesy of Honda

The Honda SUV e:concept debuted in China this week signaling what's ahead for a future mass-production model of the Honda brand's first electric vehicle to be introduced in China. While what's sold in China doesn't always make it to American shores, there are a few things to be learned by taking a closer look at the concept.

We know that the vehicle's powertrain is electric. How many motors? What type of battery? How much power? In a nutshell, we have no idea. However, that could be where Honda's relationship with General Motors kicks in. A recent agreement to share platforms and co-build future vehicles builds on the electric vehicle platform sharing agreement the two automakers signed in April. In the first agreement agreement, Honda agreed to work with GM to develop two new electric vehicles based on GM's global EV platform powered by Ultium batteries.

Honda SUV e:concept The sloping roofline of the concept is indicative of another Honda model.Photo courtesy of Honda

The concept's sweeping looks are more crossover than SUV. While there's plenty of doubt that the model will be a two-door vehicle when it arrives in showrooms, its overall aesthetic is new for Honda, though it has hints of the current-generation CR-V and Accord in its nose.

The roofline of the SUV and side profile look a lot like the 2020 Honda Avancier, a true crossover that got its start as a station wagon and now sits as the company's flagship in China. If indeed this model is an electric Avancier, it means that the U.S. market is unlikely to see it.

From a business perspective, this makes sense. Electric vehicles are not nearly as popular in the U.S. as they are in China and Europe, where they have been regulated into residents' lifestyles. Additionally, the U.S. electric vehicle charging infrastructure leaves much to be desired.

2020 Honda Avancier

Photo courtesy of Honda

Cars built for the Chinese market also do not have to meet the same strict safety testing standards as American vehicles so they can be made for less and sold for less. Upping to U.S. standards costs more and, when shipping and taxes are added in, the model may be priced out of sensibility for American Honda customers.

Wherever it's destined to go, the Honda will be a mass-production electric vehicle.

The company is committed to equipping the car with a number of safety technologies including omnidirectional advanced driver assistance systems, the next-generation Honda SENSING safety and driver-assistive system with improved recognition, predication and decision-making performance, as well as the next-generation Honda Connect, which features an AI assistant interface, smartphone link, and wireless updates.

Honda SUV e:concept The model features a unique black end with slim lights.Photo courtesy of Honda

Expect to see the next steps in the evolution of this concept in the coming year, even if it's just in spy photos.

Trending News