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Britsh singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding modelling the new Ranger Rover Velar. (Nick Dimbleby/JAGUAR LAND ROVER)
Britsh singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding modelling the new Ranger Rover Velar. (Nick Dimbleby/JAGUAR LAND ROVER)

NEW YORK AUTO SHOW

Where does Land Rover go from here? Add to ...

Land Rover has been making nothing but SUVs since the 1970s. It produced one in 1948, long before that silly acronym existed. It has supplied vehicles to explorers and adventurers for decades, blazing trails across the great deserts and dense jungles of the world, creating a rich history that the marketing team draws upon.

Today, SUVs are in-fashion like never before. Canadian and American drivers are buying them like life rafts before a flood., propelling new-vehicle sales to record highs.

“We were on the bandwagon before there was a bandwagon,” said Andy Goss, global sales director at Jaguar Land Rover, at an event Tuesday to introduce the Range Rover Velar. “The market has moved towards us. This is what we do.”

But what now? Where can Land Rover go from here? How will it distinguish its SUV in a market flooded with them?

The company lineup already consists of five SUVs divided across the Land Rover and Range Rover brands. There’s one for nearly every size and price-point. An entry-level model, the all-new Defender, is coming soon. It could come in two-door and four-door variants. Perhaps it could tempt buyers away from the Jeep Wrangler?

Before the Defender arrives, the Velar -- the sixth Land Rover SUV -- made its North American debut at the Lincoln Center with British pop-star Ellie Goulding providing the soundtrack.

First impressions are, well, why? It seems redundant. When it goes on sale this summer, it will start at $62,000, just $500 more than the Land Rover Discovery, positioned between the $49,900 Range Rover Evoque and $77,000 Range Rover Sport.

The Velar has five seats and is meant to be a direct rival to the hot-selling Porsche Macan S. But each of these Land Rover SUVs could conceivably be cross-shopped against the Macan.

The point of the Velar, though, is to show the way forward for Range Rover. The vehicle’s cabin breaks new ground, not just for Land Rover, but for the entire auto industry. We’ve seen touchscreen panels like the one that runs down the centre console before, but only in concept cars, never in production, let alone a mid-range model like this. It’s such a futuristic interface.

“We’re spending almost [$6.5-billlion] a year on product development, and cars like the Velar are the result,” said Goss. Normally technology and design trickles down from the top of an automaker’s lineup, but Goss said this time everything will come from the Velar. “It’s the start of the next cycle.”

Gerry McGovern, design director at Land Rover, pointed to the door handles, which disappear flush into the body, the ultra-thin LED lights and the bronze trim as examples of design made possible by new technology – made possible by that investment.

The pace at which Land Rover is launching new models and new infotainment systems is outpacing even its larger German rivals. Land Rover has come from being far behind in terms of in-car technology and user interface to now appearing ready to lead the pack. The company is iterating faster than anyone else.

“The world’s moving quicker,” said Goss.

Technology doesn’t adhere to the slow product cycles of the old auto industry. Velar is Range Rover’s future, but it’s also just another beginning.

If Land Rover remains a leading SUV company, it won’t be because of luck.

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