Rover’s Landed gen­try

The LRX is the lap of lux­ury, writes KEVIN HEP­WORTH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige News -

THE LRX may be com­pact but don’t call it mass-mar­ket while Land Rover’s de­sign chief is within earshot. ‘‘RAV4s, CR-Vs and Vi­taras are very much mass-mar­ket ve­hi­cles,’’ Ju­lian Thom­son says. ‘‘I don’t want to den­i­grate them, but Land Rover is about pre­mium lux­ury.

‘‘This car (LRX), at 4.2m long, is pretty small re­ally, Audi A3-size.

‘‘It is a very small car, but it is not meant to be an en­try-level car — we are not try­ing to do that. We are try­ing to do small lux­ury cars that are in tune with the chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Thom­son, whose full ti­tle is stu­dio di­rec­tor Jaguar Land Rover Ad­vanced De­sign, is happy to con­cede the LRX styling is in line with the con­sumer rush to com­pact SUVs — but that is as far as the en­try-level dis­cus­sion goes.

‘‘This car is small . . . it is the sort of thing we will be do­ing in the fu­ture, but it is not meant to be like a RAV4. This is much bet­ter look­ing, much more lux­u­ri­ous much more ca­pa­ble — a much, much bet­ter car than a RAV4, much more de­sir­able.

‘‘It is not a mass-mar­ket ve­hi­cle.’’

The LRX, un­veiled at the North Amer­i­can Mo­tor Show in Detroit in Jan­uary, is only the sec­ond con­cept car Land Rover has ever pro­duced.

The first was the Range Stormer, pre­sented in Detroit in 2004. The con­cept evolved to be­come the Range Rover Sport.

Though no one at Land Rover will give a def­i­nite yes to the LRX as a pro­duc­tion model, it is ex­pected to be in show­rooms within two years.

While lead­ing the way into a new niche — the com­pact lux­ury 4WD coupe — the LRX show­cases tech­nolo­gies aimed at ad­dress­ing the gen­eral SUV com­mu­nity as fos­sil­fuel glut­tons.

The con­cept car is shorter than a Free­lander and has a diesel-elec­tric hy­brid driv­e­train with a claimed CO2 emis­sion level of 120g/kilo­me­tre — only 18g shy of the Toy­ota Prius.

‘‘Land Rover is in­vest­ing huge amounts of money into tech­nolo­gies to im­prove CO2 emis­sions . . . I think in the next year we will be in­vest­ing £700 mil­lion,’’ Thom­son says. ‘‘We are prob­a­bly do­ing more than the av­er­age man­u­fac­turer to change and con­trol emis­sions.

‘‘We are look­ing at ev­ery­thing about that — you have heard of tech­nolo­gies like our elec­tric rear axles, we have stop/start on petrol Free­lander from next year, we are look­ing at hy­brids, we are look­ing at al­ter­na­tive fu­els. It’s very much part of our de­vel­op­ment pro­grams.’’

Thom­son says many of the mis­con­cep­tions about SUVs are be­ing over­turned through bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously 4WDs do use more fuel than a 2WD car, but peo­ple also en­joy the ca­pa­bil­ity it of­fers and the se­cu­rity fac­tor,’’ he says.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing seems to be lev­el­ling out now be­tween crossovers, SUVs, 4WDs. There used to be an ob­vi­ous tar­get to throw eggs at when it came to CO2, but now that peo­ple are see­ing raw num­bers and the com­par­isons, some of those il­lu­sions are be­ing bro­ken down.

‘‘They will of­fer bet­ter ca­pa­bil­ity and bet­ter abil­ity, but they can’t af­ford to be gas-guz­zlers. You can’t get away with that any more.’’

Thom­son de­clined to be drawn on the com­pany’s fu­ture in the shadow of be­ing sold to In­dian gi­ant Tata, but says there is no cul­ture of doom and gloom within Land Rover or Jaguar.

‘‘We see a lot of suc­cess and the brand is in­cred­i­bly strong. We just have to make sure we make the right prod­ucts — re­spon­si­ble prod­ucts.

‘‘So I don’t see any rea­son why Land Rover can’t con­tinue with its suc­cess,’’ he says. ‘‘We are not bat­ten­ing down the hatches, we are very pos­i­tive about the fu­ture.’’

Stormer warn­ing: the lux­ury Land Rover LRX and (be­low) the Range Stormer con­cept that evolved into the Range Rover Sport.

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