As Land Rover welcomed sister brand Jaguar to its Lode Lane plant for the first time with production of the new XE saloon starting in Solihull, speculation has been mounting the famed 4x4 manufacturer is set to add another Range Rover model to its expanding line-up.
The model tipped to be the next arrival in the Range Rover family is a longer and larger version of the Range Rover Evoque, bridging the gap between the standard version and the Range Rover Sport.
A heavily disguised version of what is thought to be the new Range Rover has been sighted being tested on British roads recently.
The magazine Autocar has led the way with speculation on the new model, which it has suggested could be unveiled in 2016.
A larger ‘Evoque Plus’ would be the fifth model in the Range Rover family as Land Rover seeks to diversify its line-up. It recently confirmed it will produce an Evoque Convertible.
The Midland SUV-maker recently launched the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the first vehicle in its new Discovery family of vehicles.
It will be joined in due course by a replacement for the current Land Rover Discovery, with other models also set to be added to the line-up.
In all there would be three sub-brands or families of vehicles - Defender, Discovery and Range Rover.
Land Rover has yet to unveil plans for the replacement for the current Defender model, production of which is set to cease at the end of this year.
The company has indicated the iconic go-anywhere 4x4 could be produced elsewhere in the world for certain markets but tough European emissions and safety regulations have led to time being called on it in the UK.
Land Rover has given little indication of what will replace the Defender as yet, but the DC100 concept unveiled as a possible Defender replacement was not given a warm welcome by enthusiasts.
It is thought a Defender successor could be built in a new facility as part of Jaguar Land Rover’s expanding operations at Whitley in Coventry, as the Solihull plant continues with production of the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery and Jaguar XE.
Next year a second Jaguar is set to be built at Solihull in the shape of the F-Pace crossover.
Reports regarding the Evoque Plus suggest it would be based on the same platform as the F-Pace, Jaguar’s first foray into the SUV market.
Also that it would be a stretched platform offering the option of a seven-seat layout.
Some versions of the new vehicle would be powered by the new Ingenium four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines being built at Jaguar Land Rover’s new engine plant near Wolverhampton.
Some automotive analysts think there is plenty of scope for further expansion of the Range Rover family, particularly given the runaway success of the Evoque, which has become Jaguar Land Rover’s best-selling model globally.
Originally expected to sell around 35,000 units a year it has enjoyed sales of 125,000 a year.
Automotive journalist Ian Donaldson, who is chairman of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers, believes a larger Evoque would be well received.
He said: “Land Rover can do no wrong at the moment - selling cars at a handsome profit all over the world as the company tries to meet demand for ever more posh SUVs.
“The so-called Evoque Plus, expected next year and with an optional third row of seats, can’t be costing its maker much extra for design and development and will give the model an even stronger customer base.
“It may lose a little of the looks that keep the original, shorter version selling like cupcakes at a Mumsnet convention, but sell it will.”
If a larger Evoque were based on the F-Pace platform, it too would be built at the Solihull plant, which has seen a £2 billion investment in a new aluminium bodyshop and a production line that can build different vehicles simultaneously. It is currently used to build both the Jaguar XE and Range Rover Sport.
Jaguar Land Rover sales in 2014 totalled 462,678 units, a nine per cent increase on the 425,006 vehicles it sold in 2013.