There’ll be more than just a birthday cake to help Land Rover celebrate the 40th anniversary of its flagship Range Rover tomorrow, a bouncing baby brother that’s been making the rounds, in concept form, as the LRX.
Lower, sleeker and decidedly more crossover-like, the compact Range Rover that’s due to a formal unveiling could take the British-based marque into a new era, one where car-based crossovers have come to dominate traditional, truck-like sport-utility vehicles on the sales charts.
Similar to the concept vehicle Land Rover has been promoting on the auto show circuit for several years, the production version of the LRX boasts a less boxy appearance, with a more sloping honeycomb grille, pinched headlights, and a roofline that appears to taper towards the rear hatch.
The show car – along with a number of heavily camouflaged prototypes seen in recent months – sported a two-door configuration, but a 4-door is also reportedly under development.
Don’t expect to see the show car’s LRX name to carry over into production, various sources report, though the actual moniker will be tightly held until a global webcast launch from Land Rover headquarters in the U.K. Thursday afternoon.
The compact Land Rover will feature some significant new technology, much of it aimed at improving the brand’s notoriously weak mileage numbers. A hybrid version, in fact, is on tap though not expected to be available at launch. But there should be a wide range of engines including downsized diesels for the European market – none of which are expected for the American market, at least not anytime soon.
First unveiled at the January 2008 Detroit Auto Show, and shortly after at the Geneva Motor Show, Land Rover Managing Director Phil Popham noted that the concept was “smaller and lighter, and focused on sustainability.” Land Rover officials later confirmed that would be their same target with a production version.
One of the more interesting features of the LRX concept vehicle was the use of an unusual hybrid system, dubbed ERA, or Electric Rear Axle Drive, which uses direct gasoline power for one axle and electric drive for the other, creating a dual-drive approach to all-wheel-drive. Precise details for the production hybrid will likely be detailed during Thursday’s webcast.
The real surprise is that this new premium ute will be the first front-drive model in Land Rover history, though initially production is likely to be limited to an all-wheel-drive version.
Look for the first compact Land Rovers to reach showrooms by late this year, and the hybrid to debut no later than 2013.
The sibling to British luxury carmaker Jaguar, Land Rover did the heavy development work for the LRX while still owned by Ford Motor Co., but it will debut under the auspices of India’s Tata Motors, which purchased the two high-line brands in early 2008. Seen as a potentially large-volume offering, the success of the compact Range Rover will be critical to the success of not just Land Rover but Jaguar and Tata.
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