British bulldogs

Special Operations boss John Edwards reveals Jaguar and Land Rover’s plans to take on Germany’s power brokers

TOBY HAGON

TAKING on the might of AMG, Audi RS and BMW M is no easy task. But John Edwards and his Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations division are hell-bent on doing exactly that.

Future flagship Jaguars, Range Rovers and Land Rovers will carry SVR badges, starting with the Range Rover Sport SVR reviewed this month. Powered by the same 405kW/680Nm 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as the Jaguar F-Type R sports car, the $218,500 SVR was – for a brief time – the fastest SUV around the Nurburgring.

Edwards, a 25-year veteran of the British brands, explains how SVR will match the might of the German powerhauses.

What can we expect from SVR?

Our raison d’etre is to push the boundaries of Jaguar and Land Rover products in terms of luxury, all-terrain and sports performance.

We will increasingly be applying the SVR sub-brand to our performance vehicles. We’ve defined our DNA; it’s about light weight, increased power, improved aerodynamics, more agile dynamics, steering, gearing, unique styling – if you tick all those boxes then you may get to wear the SVR badge.

What sort of potential do you see for the sub-brand?

There’s huge potential. For this part of our business there are

some very clear competitors, the most obvious of which are AMG and M. The size of the market is huge (but) they’re not waiting for us to come along and take some of that market, so it’s not going to be easy.

How quickly can you grow the SVR range?

We call these cars halo products.

Our five-year plan assumes that we deliver a halo product every year. This time next year we might have two SVRs.

Is it just about product or will it take time to warm people to the brand?

It will take time. It is really important that our products have integrity, they’re not cosmetic.

We recruited, nine months ago, a guy called Paul Newsome who used to be chief technical officer at Williams F1.

Brand perception is important and it will take time. We need to earn the right, but we’re up for that.

Will you create more extreme off-roaders?

Yes. There are different ways you can execute that. We sometimes take inspiration from Camel Trophy [off-road rally] and think about really hardcore expedition vehicles. There’s another way of executing it, which is to think about the kind of rally raid, if you like, where speed is more important. We’re exploring both of those dimensions.

You could imagine the nextgeneration Defender absolutely having one of those vehicles.

That’s the closest natural fit of any of our products. It doesn’t mean that a Range Rover couldn’t be a Jaguar crossover, but the most obvious car to fit into that category is a Defender.

How important is it to be faster and more powerful than AMG and M?

They’re a benchmark. In that particular area of the market, they clearly set the agenda, so we’ll always reference them.

How will electrification play a role?

As a business, we’re looking at electrification. In many ways electrification lends itself very well to performance cars. (But it) is well down the agenda. We’re is well down the agenda. We’re not working on anything.

“Our five-year plan [for SVR] assumes that we deliver a halo product every year.”