Rover’s Landed gentry
The LRX is the lap of luxury, writes KEVIN HEPWORTH
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.