The L860 will sit below the new Defender – previewed here by the DC100 Concept

The L860 will sit below the new Defender – previewed here by the DC100 Concept

Sources suggest Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is planning a small, rugged SUV to sit below the upcoming Defender replacement. The planned latest addition to the Land Rover SUV range will be aimed squarely at younger buyers and 'millennials'. The currently unnamed model is thought to be called L860 internally, and could be a development of the aborted L851 project – a similar entry-level Land Rover project. No official details have been released but mid-2021 has been hinted as a possible start of production date.

This isn't the first time the L860 has reared its head, having first been proposed for manufacture in India. In the face of economic uncertainty arising from factors including Brexit and the Trump administration, however, the British brand reportedly scrapped those plans in late 2016.

Scrapping the Indian plans didn't entirely scupper the project, however. It's now understood that L860 will probably be built either at the firm's existing Halewood facility or at the new facility in Nitra, Slovakia which is due to come on line in late 2018. Production volume of around 70,000 per year is considered likely. As with all JLR models, the L860 will be sold globally so, as well as Europe, the vehicle will be sold in the crucial US and Chinese markets.

When the new Defender – L663 – arrives in 2019, it'll be the first model to embody the final thread of Land Rover's three-pillar product strategy – which are Defender, Discovery and Range Rover. The Defender pillar emphasises rugged styling and tough off-road hardware. The L860 – like the Discovery Sport to the full-fat Discovery – will sit within the third pillar below the new Defender. Whether it'll be called the Defender Sport, however, remains to be seen.

Land Rover is aiming the L860 squarely at younger buyers including Generation X and millennials. That means it'll have to offer the latest connectivity options and advanced driver-assistance systems to steal sales from already-established rivals including Audi Q2, Mini Countryman and Mercedes GLA. It's likely to become the most affordable model in the firm's range, making it the new entry point into Land Rover ownership.

The L860 will use JLR's 'Ingenium' range of petrol engines – including an upcoming three-cylinder petrol version – probably mated to its existing Getrag-sourced six-speed manual or ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmissions. It's also likely that, following lessons learned from the Jaguar i-Pace electric car, the L860 will be able to accept some form of electrification either as a hybrid or full-electric vehicle. It's unclear at this point whether diesel will be an option, due to the market's rapid decline.

Similarly, it's not clear what will underpin the L860 but sources close to JLR have pointed to a new steel-based platform called 'D10'. This will be cheaper to manufacture than the aluminium platforms currently employed by the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery, enabling the firm to sell the car at a comparatively low price.

Nevertheless, Land Rover won't lose sight of its premium billing so the L860 will still command a premium over similarly sized rivals from Mini and Audi. It's also possible that, to bolster the L860's business case, the platform could be opened up to Jaguar and Range Rover to produce higher-end versions of this compact SUV.

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