Land Rover unveiled a vision of its future today at the North American International Auto Show (Detroit Auto Show) with the world debut of the LRX hybrid concept - a bold evolution of Land Rover design that indicates the brand’s progressive shift into new areas of the market, while remaining true to its core values. As the company prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary during 2008, the three-door LRX, with its more compact size, lighter weight and sustainability-focused technologies, clearly addresses the needs of a changing world and offers the potential of 120 g/km CO2 emissions.
“The LRX concept delivers the powerful message that we are as serious about sustainability as we are confident about the continuing relevance and desirability of our vehicles,” says Phil Popham, Land Rover’s managing director. “LRX is in every respect a Land Rover, but it’s a very different Land Rover.
“LRX has unmistakable Land Rover design and the breadth of capability that you’d expect from our vehicles. But it carries those essentials into a segment where the brand has never been before, and with a proposed level of efficiency that would make it one of the cleanest vehicles in its class. It is Land Rover’s way of affirming the brand’s responsible approach to future product development. At this stage, LRX is purely a concept, designed to help us develop our thinking as well as gauge customer reaction – but this feels like a hugely exciting direction to take.”
COMPACT AND PREMIUM
LRX is described as a cross-coupé and dramatically extends the scope of what Land Rover represents. Though 5.9 in (149 mm) shorter than the LR2/Freelander 2 and 8.1 in (205 mm) lower, LRX was conceived as a premium vehicle, designed to appeal to new customers in the luxury and executive sector – those who want many of the benefits of an SUV and the presence of a larger vehicle, but in a more compact package.
The first all-new Land Rover revealed since Gerry McGovern became the company’s design director, LRX is a natural extension of the Land Rover range, complementing the existing models and helping to define a new segment. Its many recognizable Land Rover design cues include bold new interpretations of the signature clamshell bonnet, the floating roof and the solid ‘wheel-at-each-corner’ stance.
“LRX is a design born out of passion for the brand, but it is different, relevant, engaging and exciting – because Land Rover has never built ordinary vehicles” says Gerry McGovern. “LRX has a highly desirable identity and the design alludes strongly to its capability, while clearly underlining our forward-looking philosophy – it’s a Land Rover that would be comfortable on Bond Street or Fifth Avenue, but wouldn’t flinch at getting its wheels dirty.”
Its compact size is one of its greatest assets, which will appeal to anyone who wants the versatile ability of an agile SUV with the cachet of the Land Rover name. In addition, its lower weight and the reduced aerodynamic drag resulting from the smaller frontal area would help give significant gains in fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.
HIGHLY EFFICIENT POWERTRAIN
LRX is conceived as a highly fuel-efficient, U.S. Federal-specification, 2.0-liter, turbodiesel hybrid, capable of running on bio-diesel. In combination with other Land Rover technologies, this powertrain could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 30 percent compared with other SUVs of comparable size, and reduce emissions to approximately 120 g/km.
LRX’s improved efficiencies are the result of advanced mechanical and electrical energy-saving elements, which are combined to achieve cumulative gains in many areas.
The concept’s integrated Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) is particularly significant in Land Rover terms as it would allow LRX to use electric drive alone at lower speeds while retaining full (even improved) sport utility ability in tough conditions. Unlike the hybrid technology used by some SUV rivals, Land Rover’s unique solution retains mechanical drive to all four wheels.
Off-road, the ERAD would provide additional torque only when it is needed, and with maximum electrical torque from standstill, this solution offers even better low-speed control and enhanced pull-away on difficult surfaces (such as packed snow or wet grass) or when towing.
On the road, the ERAD would allow low-speed traffic creep up to 20 mph (32 km/h) on electric power alone, with the Integrated Starter-Generator (ISG) function re-starting the engine automatically when needed. The electric drive would then continue to assist the mechanical drive until the engine is running in its most efficient range, benefiting both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The ISG would also stop the engine automatically when the vehicle halts in traffic, so the engine does not idle needlessly, and restart it quickly and smoothly as required.
The electrical drive system uses power stored in a dedicated high-voltage, high-capacity, lithium-ion battery pack, independent of the normal 12-volt battery. This is charged by a regenerative braking energy system, also working through the ERAD.
LRX also incorporates Hill Descent Control and Land Rover’s acclaimed and user-friendly Terrain Response system, which optimizes vehicle drivability and comfort, as well as maximizing traction. On LRX, this has five modes, including the new and efficiency-focused ‘Eco’ mode. Principally for on-road use, this configures all the integrated elements of the vehicle’s system for optimized fuel economy. The other four Terrain Response modes provided are sports (also new), general driving, sand and ‘grass/gravel/snow’ (a single program for slippery surfaces).
EXTENDING ‘BREADTH OF CAPABILITY’
The positioning of LRX could be described as moving subtly from traditional SUV to crossover, with its more car-like appearance and dynamics that are sportier and on-road biased. But while its character is underlined by excellent agility, handling and performance, LRX also promises the widest breadth of capability in the class.
The design of LRX was developed entirely in-house by Gerry McGovern’s team, driven by a passion to create a vehicle that truly represents Land Rover’s future thinking. It has a very dynamic profile, with a distinctive taper to the floating roofline and a muscular shoulder running the length of the car, accentuated by the rising beltline. The glazing wraps right around LRX, with no exposed pillars, creating a bold design graphic. The architectural structure of the upper body can be glimpsed through the windows and roof – echoing some of the best contemporary buildings.
Pushing the wheels out to the four corners helps give the car its purposeful stance, and its front-end design makes a powerful and instantly recognizable statement of Land Rover’s identity. The carefully sculpted corners dramatically reduce the car’s visual overhangs front and rear.
There are new interpretations of Land Rover’s traditional clamshell bonnet, distinctive headlamps and perforated two-bar grille. The vehicle has jewel-like, tapering blade indicator clusters front and rear, and the wheel arches are wide but softly integrated, housing highly polished 20-inch alloy wheels.
The fine detailing includes additional polished aluminum in the form of side-strips, side and bonnet vents, and the exterior door releases, which are concealed in the vehicle’s shoulders. Graphic details such as these appear to be ‘punched out’ of the smooth body surfaces rather than overlaid on them. The ‘frosted’ white paint color was especially developed for LRX and its visual depth helps to highlight the vehicle’s form.
IMPECCABLE, PREMIUM INTERIOR
The interior of the LRX concept clearly demonstrates how a compact Land Rover can still be roomy, practical, versatile – and sophisticated. The impeccably executed cabin features a combination of soft leathers in rich tan and dark chocolate, with polished aluminum details, while the visible structures of the seats, instrument panel and roof architecture not only give a highly distinctive look but also help save weight.
The ‘fast’ sloping architecture of the center console reflects LRX’s sporty dynamics, as does the distinctive binnacle over the instrument cluster. The electronic display uses ‘floating’ LCD graphics to create a three-dimensional look that can be personalized for different drivers, as well as interacting with LRX’s touch-screen display.
The instrument graphics present data in layers depending on their level of importance, to give maximum relevant information with minimum distraction. When appropriate, displayed information transfers between the main instrument cluster and the touch screen. Further adding to LRX’s involving personality, different Terrain Response modes are matched by changes in the cabin’s background ‘mood’ lighting color – green in ‘Eco’, red in sports and blue in general driving and off-road modes.
CLEVER USE OF SPACE
Although LRX is compact, clever use of space makes it impressively roomy, and many neat design touches maximize its practicality. A second touch-screen area gives a fully interactive display and control for LRX’s iPhone docking facility.
On either side of the horizontally-split, power-operated tailgate, removable and power-adjustable speakers include an iPod docking station. There is also a cooler box, plus a bottle chiller that can be clipped to the lowered tailgate. The tailgate also has integral aluminum cup holders between two padded seating areas, for a new twist on the idea of a traditional Land Rover tailgate lunch.
Every interior design detail combines to maximize both actual space and the feeling of space. The clear roof is supported by a ‘spider’ frame running into the A-pillars, and the rear quarter pillars have glazed apertures for improved visibility and a lighter feel in the cabin.
LRX’s distinctive seats ‘float’ on individual plinths and have open frameworks to reinforce the impression of light, airy interior space – while also creating useful under-seat and under-floor stowage areas. The clever, articulated mechanism of the powered seat backs maximizes interior flexibility and helps create a large, flat storage area when needed. With the rear seats folded forward, two mountain bikes can be fitted upright behind them, with front wheels removed and stored in dedicated slots in the floor. Alternatively, skis and surfboards can be accommodated in the generous load space, which has multiple tie-down options and a through-loading option.
“Flexible load-carrying capacity is fundamental to the concept of LRX,” says Gerry McGovern. “With this car, we’ve interpreted the idea of Land Rover ‘breadth of capability’ to be more about versatility and on-road dynamics than about ultimate off-roading. This meets the needs of the new customers that we believe would be attracted by this type of vehicle; they will not only appreciate LRX’s flexibility, but will also recognize that it has been packaged with the highest levels of precision.”
SUSTAINABLE PRODUCT DESIGN
The exposed structures of the seats, roof and instrument panel are just one novel approach that Land Rover’s designers have taken to reduce vehicle weight. Another example is replacing the glass for the side windows and roof with polycarbonate from SABIC Innovative Plastics, which is around 40 percent lighter. The polycarbonate also blocks virtually all UV light (protecting interior materials from fading), while special nano-technology within the material reduces infra-red transmission, helping to keep the interior cool.
Even the choice of premium-quality trim materials reflects Land Rover’s deep thinking about sustainability, with vegetable-tanned leather (chromium-free, so better for recycling), extensive use of aluminum (both lightweight and readily recyclable) and carpeting made of felt from sustainable sources. And the luxurious, vanilla-colored ‘fine suede’ on the door inserts and headliner is a 100% recycled material made from used plastic bottles and fibers.
“We are determined to make sustainability a key element in our future product design and the way we do business, while still creating vehicles that have a strong emotional appeal as well as fulfilling people’s practical needs,” says Phil Popham. “No single technology delivers all the answers to whole-life sustainability, but the LRX concept brings together some of the ideas for the future that interest us, integrating them into a car that we believe represents an exciting way forward for Land Rover.”
Source: Land Rover Press Release