BYD has released images of a camouflaged prototype of its upcoming off-roader, which will be sold under the new Yangwang brand.

    The premium brand will be launched in the first quarter of 2023, with the first model reportedly wearing the R1 nameplate.

    Photos reveal the first Yangwang model to be a bluff, upright SUV in the vein of a Land Rover Defender, Mercedes-Benz G-Class or GWM Tank 300. Like those models, the spare tyre is located on the tailgate.

    Patent images published by Car News China reveal the Yangwang model will also feature an intricate grille and running lights that sit atop the front fenders, plus three raised bumps atop the windscreen which may contain either lights or sensors.

    It’s also rumoured to feature four electric motors with one driving each wheel, like the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQG.

    Chinese outlet Yiche also reports the R1 will have a tank turn function, like on the Rivian R1T and R1S, and refers to a patent BYD has filed for a “floating” mode that can help it wade at greater depths.

    Though BYD is best known in Australia for its Atto 3, one of Australia’s most affordable electric vehicles, the Yangwang R1 will be priced closer to the an EQG.

    In a statement reported by Reuters, Yangwang vehicles will be priced between 800,000 and 1.5 million yuan (A$171,850 to $322,219) – making them the most expensive vehicles produced by BYD – and the brand’s first model will be an off-roader.

    As BYD has ceased production of conventional combustion-powered vehicles, Yangwang will offer electrified vehicles – though whether it offers a choice of plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicles or just the latter is unclear.

    Unlike those models – or indeed any BYD vehicle – there appears to be a distinctive, dual-cowl-type dashboard with an expansive and seemingly curved portrait-oriented touchscreen.

    Yangwang models’ pricing will put them well above BYD’s current flagship offerings, the Han sedan and Tang crossover.

    BYD is enjoying record sales, with volumes tripling in the first 10 months of this year to 1.4 million. That’s despite its discontinuation of combustion vehicle production in March 2022 in favour of an exclusively PHEV and EV line-up.

    It wouldn’t be the first Chinese automaker to spin off a more upmarket, SUV-focused brand.

    Great Wall Motor has two: Wey for (mostly) crossovers, and Tank for more rugged, body-on-frame SUVs. Models from the latter are expected to launch here next year, albeit with GWM Tank badging.

    Chery has its Jetour brand, and is also readying a new, blocky off-roader called the T-1 with particularly Defender-esque styling.

    It’s due in 2023, and will offer petrol, hybrid and electric powertrains. It’ll be the first in a range of T-Series vehicles for the Jetour brand.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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