A $320,000-plus Range Rover could become a permanent fixture in showrooms as Land Rover aims to future-proof its iconic off-roader from a raft of new super-luxury SUVs.
The Maserati Levante, the just announced production name for the SUV previewed by the Kubang concept, will go on sale in 2013, while the Bentley EXP 9F and Lamborghini Urus concepts unveiled in 2012 will transform into showroom models by 2015.
Aston, meanwhile, still intends to enter the SUV category following its Lagonda concept of 2009.
Land Rover says that rather than seeing the new wave of high-brow SUVs as a threat, it believes the market trend and research indicates there is room for the company to build a Range Rover that is more expensive than its flagship Autobiography variants.
Autobiography models were introduced late in the cycle of the outgoing Range Rover, offering opulent interiors with more higher-quality materials. The most expensive version was called the Ultimate Edition, and for a $317,500 price tag incorporated a rear cargo compartment lined with yacht-inspired teak decking, handcrafted leather upholstery, generous smatterings of wood and machined-aluminium trim, and a business-class-style back seat with iPad screens and a centre drinks console.
The Autography trim returns for the new-generation Range Rover, and will cost from $232,000 when the vehicle goes on sale locally in January 2013.
“I think the challenge is an opportunity and that challenge for us will be what can we keep adding in terms of features to Range Rover to keep on expanding that in terms of price point,” says Land Rover’s operations manager, Phil Phopham.
“Because there’s no doubt people are telling us they’re willing to pay more if we can get substantive features [into the vehicle].”
Land Rover says it has already set out to take the Range Rover’s level of quality, refinement and capability to another level.
It says the emergence of new high-end luxury SUVs will merely further expand the number of potential customers, while it confidently predicts the Range Rover will remain the market leader.
“Yes, there are premium manufacturers who see an opportunity for an SUV, but it just means the desire and relevance of a premium SUV is becoming more widespread.
“Range Rover has basically created a segment. Other people have come in and we’ve remained the benchmark, and we’re successful as a business.
“I don’t’ think the uber premium manufacturers are going to come in with their SUVS and challenge the Range Rover for market share.
“Why am I so confident? Range Rover is the original, and the investment we’re making in it is absolutely focused on keeping it at the top. The technology of the new Range Rover will ensure it remains the pinnacle.”
Phopham says the Range Rover will continue to conquest sales of luxury executive cars, while for owners of those cars who want both a sedan and SUV he says he isn’t convinced Bentley limousine owners, for example, will necessary want an SUV from the same marque as Bentley is hoping.
“They may come in [with more opulent interiors than the Range Rover] but some Bentley owners own Range Rovers… and would you want a Bentley limousine and a Bentley SUV or would you want to be part of the real thing in terms of Range Rover.”