INTERNATIONAL - Jaguar Land Rover is planning a new version of its Evoque SUV to be built in northern England, safeguarding production at a site where output has been squeezed by sliding sales in the run up to Brexit.
The new Evoque, which will be priced from 31,600 pounds ($41,000) in the U.K. and commence deliveries in the first months of 2019, will also be the Land Rover division’s first “mild-hybrid” model, using so-called regenerative braking to provide a power boost to the standard internal combustion engine.
The launch provides a lift for Jaguar Land Rover following disappointing sales in China and a slump in U.K. demand that it has blamed on Brexit jitters and government moves to outlaw diesel engines. JLR announced 1,000 job cuts earlier this year, mainly at Solihull, central England, and said it would scale back output at Halewood, near Liverpool, where the new Evoque will be built.
“Our commitment to U.K. production remains firm,” JLR Chief Executive Officer Ralf Speth said in a statement, adding that the company has invested 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) to support the model’s development, including 110 million pounds spent on updating Halewood’s manufacturing capabilities.
The Evoque refresh is also crucial to JLR, a unit of India’s Tata Motors Ltd., because the original vehicle, introduced in 2010, helped define a new category of luxury SUV aimed at the younger urban driver. That car is also credited with enhancing the appeal of Land Rover and its Range Rover brand among women.
The revamped model was unveiled in the industrial surroundings of the Old Truman Brewery in London’s Brick Lane, where cars were driven over an indoor assault course to reinforce their off-road abilities, something JLR still views as a major selling point, even though most Evoques never stray from the highway.
The new Evoque will debut JLR’s Ground View technology, which uses cameras in the front grill combined with a head-up display system to create the illusion of a transparent hood that allows drivers to see the road ahead even on the steepest incline. The back window also has a camera feed to the rear-view mirror meant to aid visibility if the direct line of sight is blocked by luggage.
The vehicle is about the same size as the original -- which has accounted for one in four Land Rover sales in the past eight years -- and retains a coupe-like silhouette, while offering 10 percent more bag space and extra knee room.
The mild-hybrid powertrain harvests energy lost during deceleration and redeploys it to assist the engine when the driver accelerates, reducing fuel burn. A plug-in hybrid option will also be available in 12 months. JLR, Britain’s biggest carmaker, has said all new models will come with hybrid or fully electric variants by 2020.