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Land Rover OKs LRX-based small SUV for Range Rover

Wed, 11 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0700

Land Rover will put its striking LRX concept car, first displayed at the 2008 Detroit auto show, into production with the help of a $37.1 million grant from the British government.

But in a move suggesting it will be pitched further upmarket than originally intended--against four-wheel-drive rivals such as the Audi Q5, the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK--the LRX will reach showrooms wearing Range Rover badges.

"Internal studies have shown that if we deliver the LRX to market, it would be best suited to the Range Rover brand," Land Rover boss Phil Popham said.

The change in badges is, in part, related to the elegant design of the LRX, which Land Rover suggests is at odds with its long-established reputation of delivering utilitarian-style vehicles more suited to rugged off-road driving.

While Popham contends the production version of the new small Range Rover, whose overall development budget is put at around $550 million, will get close to mirroring the design of the concept, there will be changes apart from the switching of badges.

AutoWeek sources say the two-door body has been reworked to incorporate a set of conventionally hinged rear doors. The shallow backlight and plunging roofline have reportedly also been altered to increase interior room, most notably rear-seat headroom.

The production version of the LRX is planned to share its underpinnings with the Land Rover Freelander and the Volvo XC60--the two conceived and developed together when Land Rover and Volvo were part of Ford's disbanded Premier Automotive Group. Land Rover considered offering the compact SUV in a two-wheel-drive version. However, this proposal has apparently been dropped.

Instead, the new Range Rover will be offered exclusively with four-wheel drive.

Production of the LRX will take place at Land Rover's Halewood facility in England, as laid out in conditions relating to the government loan.

By Greg Kable