Leaving the land behind
After 60 years, Land Rover takes the soft-roader option, writes Paul Gover
THE first Land Rover designed for the city and not the country will hit Australian showrooms within 18 months. The production version of the LRX concept car — one of the last projects given the green light by Australia’s Geoff Polites before his death — is now confirmed for production as a 2011 model, pointing to a production start before the end of next year. But it will not be called LRX — a new name will be chosen for showrooms.
The LRX is a major change of direction for Land Rover, since it is a serious soft-roader and not remotely related to the off-road family, which has its roots in the 1948 Series I that the company developed to rival the Willys Jeep in the years following World War II.
Confirmation of LRX production comes from Phil Popham, the managing director of Land Rover, who says it will be built at the company’s factory at Halewood in Liverpool.
Popham says the go-ahead is ‘‘excellent news for our employees, dealers and customers’’.
The LRX is intended to be a fashion item with a Land Rover badge and will go up against the new breed of prestige SUVs including the BMW X1 and the upcoming Mini crossover wagon. Even so, it will have a new Haldex all-wheel drive system.
Land Rover has high hopes for the LRX and is making big claims for the vehicle, which it says is the smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient vehicle the company has produced.
It is the first completely new model from Land Rover under its new ownership by Tata Motors, which is based in India.
The LRX has been fast-tracked from the time it was revealed as a single teaser picture at the Frankfurt Motor Show two years ago, before a string of major show appearances in Europe and the USA starting at the Detroit show in 2008.
It is closest in style to the Range Rover Sport, which was the first model to step away from the bush in the search for city sales. It is intended to drop in below the Freelander and will not share the compact four-wheel drive’s major mechanical parts.
‘‘It is a demonstration of our commitment to investing for the future, to continue to deliver relevant vehicles for our customers, with the outstanding breadth of capability for which we are worldrenowned,’’ Popham says.
‘‘Feedback from our customer research also fully supports our belief that a production version of the LRX concept would further raise the desirability of our brand and absolutely meet their expectations.’’
TARMAC TERRITORY: Land Rover’s LRX and its interior.