Thought the Range Rover Velar was as close to a road car as you could get from Land Rover? Think again. Autocar reports that the British off-road brand could, incredibly, build a true luxury crossover called – wait for it – the Road Rover.

Set to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late 2019, the first Road Rover is expected to be a high-end electric vehicle that will rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in terms of luxury and craftsmanship, with prices topping out at £90,000 (RM509,600). It will be tuned to provide “impressive on-road performance,” albeit with a modicum of off-road capability thanks to height-adjustable suspension.

Built on a new aluminium architecture capable of accommodating both battery packs and internal combustion engines, the Road Rover is being developed in tandem with the next XJ – they will both be fully-electric vehicles with twin electric motors and all-wheel drive. The publication threw out ballpark figures including a range of at least 480 km and a zero-to-100 km/h sprint time of under five seconds.

Building a electric version of the full-fat Range Rover would be a significant challenge

That won’t be the only model bearing the Road Rover badge, as Land Rover intends to expand the lineup over time to create a range of more road-biased and car-like (although Autocar asserts they will still be rugged) vehicles, much like how the Range Rover brand grew to include the Sport, Evoque and Velar.

It may seem like a completely asinine move to make a “less capable” Range Rover, but there are a number of reasons why. First of all, Jaguar Land Rover is pushing its electrification strategy to meet stringent new Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) sales targets in California, with the company needing to ensure that battery electric vehicles make up between 16% and 25% of sales by 2025.

Building a fully-electric vehicle with the off-road ability of a full-fat Range Rover would pose a significant technical challenge, especially in terms of making the powertrain waterproof. It would also need to be more aerodynamic to maximise range, which the big, bluff Range Rover models are not.

Even with the introduction of the F-Pace and E-Pace (above), Jaguar sales are sluggish

Finally, the greater JLR group is aiming to hit its medium-term sales goal of a million units a year, and even with the introduction of the F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers, Autocar believes that Jaguar sales are not going to grow enough to contribute significantly to the cause. Just 94,000 units of the core XE, XF and XJ models were sold during the 2016/2017 financial year.

Submitting to the larger market trend towards crossovers and SUVs seems like a logical move, then, but JLR is also hedging its bets in case the market turns against large gas-guzzling off-roaders like the larger Range Rover models. A new crossover brand like Road Rover will hence provide greater potential for growth, and safeguard the company against any shifts in the global market.

The Road Rover name isn’t new – it was conceived in the 1950s as a halfway house between Rover and the original Land Rover. The project was shelved, but it was revived in the 1960s as a three-door wagon, eventually evolving into the first-generation Range Rover. As an aside, Tata, which owns JLR, also owns the Rover brand – something it inherited from Ford when it bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008.