Range Rover LRX (2011): the first spy photos

Published: 21 September 2009

These are the first spyshots of the Land Rover-based mule for the new 2011 Range Rover LRX. The cut-and-shut Freelander bodyshell is clearly truncated enough to shrink around the running gear of the 2011 LRX, the much-hyped baby Range Rover which will move the 4×4 brand into new, greener and cleaner territories.

This LRX mule was only registered in the first week of September 2009 and it’s already pounding the Nurburgring test track in Germany, as Land Rover engineers from Gaydon step up their work on the LRX project. And our scoop photograhpers were on hand to grab these spy photos.

Remind me of the LRX… I thought it was going to be a Land Rover

Indeed it was. The Land Rover LRX was shown as a concept car at the 2008 Detroit auto show, but the west Midlanders rapidly realised that a small, premium soft-roader was exactly what its upmarket Range Rover arm needed. So the LRX has crossed the corridor and will wear a RR badge when it’s launched in 2011.

Does Range Rover badging mean Range Rover pricing? Perhaps. There’s been a distinct trend in the motor industry for big prices on small cars, led by the Smart Fortwo, Mini and Toyota iQ. We’d expect the baby Rangie to follow suit.

What will be under the skin of the new Range Rover LRX?

It’s telling this spyshot was taken with the LRX masquerading as a baby Freelander; the two models will share the same transverse layout and engineering package, and the LRX will be built alongside the Freelander up in the Halewood plant in the north west of England. The capacity will be freed up as the Jaguar X-type – another Halewood product – is quietly euthanased.

The model testing here is equipped with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, but smaller capacities will be offered too, as befits a car with a footprint similar to a VW Golf. In the longer run, Land Rover is engineering a hybrid drivetrain for the LRX, using the electrically driven rear axle as shown on its eco concept cars.

We’ll see the finished Range Rover LRX in 2010 – perhaps to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Range Rover next summer – with production starting in early 2011.

That’s what we’re expecting; officially, the project has yet to be given the thumbs-up, as Land Rover passes its own internal ‘gateways’, aka business plans to make sure the stats add up. But we reckon the pace at which development is hotting up indicates approval is but a formality. Let’s hope so, as small is definitely the way forwards for a brand better known for its full sized, high-CO2 4x4s.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet