2008 Land Rover LRX Concept

Land Rover's LRX concept for the Detroit Auto Show is a radically smaller, two-door crossover/coupe. Of course, the company is not saying it will build the LRX, but clearly Land Rover would like to add a smaller, more urban, and - most importantly - more environmentally friendly vehicle to its lineup. As Land Rover managing director Phil Popham put it: "This feels like a hugely exciting direction to take."

The concept is built on a cut-down LR2 platform, but Land Rover insiders say that a production version would get a unique chassis. The LRX is some 6 inches shorter and 7.5 inches lower than an LR2, but the wheelbase is about the same. The vehicle has four-wheel drive, hill descent control, and Land Rover's Terrain Response System, the latter adding a lower-emissions Eco mode. Land Rover has not yet released details about the LRX's powertrain, saying only that it uses technologies from 2006's Land_e concept. Although it would be off-road capable, the vehicle is designed with more of an on-road bias than any current Land Rover.

The styling is an evolution of the current Land Rover design language, reinterpreting cues such as the "floating roof" (blacked-out pillars), clamshell hood (here with the corners angled off), and round headlights (LEDs here, with projector beams at the center). The sloping roofline and rising beltline are departures for the brand, while the two-piece tailgate is a traditional Land Rover element.

A clear roof with exposed structure brightens the interior. The roof and side glass are polycarbonate, which Land Rover claims is 40 percent lighter than glass. The leather seats (for four) seem to float above the floor, which is illuminated with rows of lights. The brown leather is accented with cream cloth that is made from recycled materials.

Concept vehicles are rare at Land Rover. In the words of design director Gerry McGovern, "Concept cars tend to be things we're serious about." With the sale of the company imminent, it will be Land Rover's new owners who decide whether the LRX turns out to seriously portend a new type of Land Rover.

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