Posted Oct 25th 2014 4:00PM
For the past couple of decades, Land Rover has watched pretender after contender try to topple it from its throne as the world's ultimate purveyor of luxury SUVs. The British automaker has answered with an ever-expanding and ever-improving array of entries of its own, capped by a flagship Range Rover that seems to go more upscale every year, positioning itself as the high-riding counterpart to fellow British luxury marques like Jaguar and Bentley. It might even abide by the Leaping Cat, its sister company, launching a crossover of its own – heck, it'll even lend a helping hand or two – but in the case of Bentley, well, it won't be so quick to concede ground. What we're looking at here seems to be the fight it's preparing to put up.
This camouflaged prototype was spotted entering JLR's test centre at the Nürburgring (our base for the day when we drove the XFR-S Sportbrake and other supercharged Jaguar specials recently around the Nordschleife). But what is it, exactly? It appears to be based on the long-wheelbase version of the Range Rover introduced nearly a year ago, but if you look around back you'll see four round tailpipes protruding from under that geometrically camo'd rear bumper – suggesting (even more than its presence at the 'Ring) that something more potent is afoot.
The natural conclusion is that JRL's new Special Vehicle Operations department is preparing an SVR version of the Range Rover L, which would likely feature the same 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as the XFR-S, XJR, F-Type R and (most poignantly) the new Range Rover Sport SVR. The engine will presumably arrive in similar 550-horsepower spec, but could also conceivably go for the 575 horses squeezed out for the Project 7 roadster. A sportier chassis, enhanced aero and upgraded brakes would help keep all that power and heft in check as it hustles VIPs around at breakneck speeds – and give Bentley's forthcoming SUV (which promises unprecedented levels of luxury with a 200-mph (320 km/h) top end a high-speed run for its leather suitcases full of pounds sterling.