Range Rover’s Smallest SUV Gets A Makeover

Range Rover is cramming more into its smallest package. In a bid to stay competitive as rivals from BMW to Buick vie to dominate one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments—luxury compact crossovers—the British marque is partially electrifying and adding new tech.

The 2020 Range Rover Evoque arrives at dealerships as S&P downgrades its parent company’s credit rating due to uncertainty over Brexit and U.S. import tariffs.

S&P cut its rating for Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s largest automaker, to B+ from BB on Wednesday following weak third quarter results. The ratings agency said it could lower the rating further depending on the company’s full-year results as well as Britain’s Brexit deal and potential tariffs on vehicles imported to the U.S.

The Evoque, marketed as a car that performs equally well off-road as in the city, sold nearly 800,000 units worldwide since launching eight years ago. For the SUV’s second generation, parent company Jaguar Land Rover kept the Evoque’s small footprint while adding legroom and cargo space.

Starting at $42,650 when it goes on sale this month, the compact SUV is also expected to provide an entry to the luxury brand for younger, urban-dwelling customers – and women in particular. Nearly three-quarters of Evoque buyers live in urban areas; most do not have children.

“I think this is going to move really quickly, particularly with younger people,” Gerry McGovern, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief designer, said at the SUV’s global launch in Athens, Greece.

Land Rover has benefitted from the global appetite for larger vehicles, with U.S. sales up 23.3% last year. The Velar, Range Rover’s new mid-size SUV, fueled much of that growth. The Land Rover Range Rover and bestselling Range Rover sport round out the marque’s four-vehicle lineup.

“The first-generation Evoque helped to define the compact premium CUV segment, and the second generation faces far more competition,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at IHS Markit. “Land Rover is facing the competition by leveraging the Evoque’s strength -its striking design – but bringing the interior and powertrain up to challenge competitors.”

Jaguar Land Rover is banking on a number of improvements that it hopes will resonate with U.S. customers. In addition to the Evoque’s 246-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine, Range Rover is offering the brand’s new hybrid-electric powertrain, a 48-volt 296-horsepower mild hybrid that uses energy normally lost during deceleration.

Despite its city chops, the Evoque comes equipped with a terrain management system that tailors the SUV’s response to off-road conditions such as rocks, sand and mud. The new model gets more than inches of ground clearance and can ford nearly two feet of water, about four inches more than last year’s model.

Range Rover’s new ClearSight Ground View camera system allows the driver to see beneath the hood and under the front end by projecting a 180-degree view of the ground on the Evoque’s touchscreen, a feature equally useful for navigating narrow city streets as countryside corniches.

CarsJaclyn TropFortune