The second ever Land Rover concept was revealed at the 2008 Detroit motor show, after being previewed to the press in December 2007.
It was a design masterpiece, and few would have suspected that it would go into production with almost unchanged styling just three years later. In fact, we’re struggling to think of any car that made the transition from concept to production line as uncorrupted as the LRX/Evoque. Here’s its story and the team who styled it inside and out…
Words: Keith Adams
Concept to reality
The LRX was the first all-new Land Rover revealed since Gerry McGovern became the company’s design director, and only the second motor show concept in the company’s history, following on from the brilliant Range Stormer. The LRX was a natural extension of the Land Rover range, defining a new market segment, following the Stormer’s failure to make it into production.
Work on the concept began in 2006, and right from the beginning, the LRX was conceived with production possibilities in mind. Despite the dramatic (for an SUV) proportions, the LRX needed to maintain many recognizable Land Rover (well, Range Rover) design cues – so you’ll see that it carries over the clamshell bonnet, the floating roof and a solid ‘wheel-at-each-corner’ stance. The original 1970 Range Rover was the epitome of a classless car, and design director, Gerry McGovern hinted at this at the LRX’s reveal: ‘It’s a Land Rover that would be comfortable on Bond Street or Fifth Avenue, but wouldn’t flinch at getting its wheels dirty.’
The exterior styling of the LRX was masterminded by Julian Thomson (above) with ex-Lincoln designer Jeremy Waterman (below) devising many of the early design sketches. RCA graduate, and now Jaguar design director, Thomson was extremely well placed to understand what any new Land- or Range Rover needed, having been part of the Jaguar Land Rover design team since 2000 and well versed in British design language. Before that, he rose to prominence for his work at Lotus, where he penned the brilliant series 1 Elise.
The LRX encapsulated Land Rover’s future thinking for its Range Rover marque (although we weren’t aware of this at the time), with the taper to the floating roofline and a muscular shoulder running the length of the car, accentuated by the rising beltline becoming design signatures not just for the production Evoque, but also the L405 Range Rover.
The glazing wraps right around the LRX, with no exposed pillars, creating a bold design graphic – a styling cue put to good use by Gerry McGovern’s former Rover boss, Roy Axe. Look at the Rover R8 and XX 800 (and the David Saddington/Frank Stephenson’s R50 MINI) to get a real feeling for how effective this method is.
Jo Keatley (below), Sandy Boyes and Mark Butler were behind the concept car’s interior, which was bold, exciting and watered down for production. The ‘fast’ sloping architecture of the centre console reflects the LRX’s sporty dynamics, and did make it to the showroom, but the electronic display using ‘floating’ LCD graphics to create a three-dimensional look – and which looked lovely – ended up of the cutting-room floor.
It’s a shame that the LRX’s distinctive seats that ‘float’ on individual plinths and have open frameworks to reinforce the impression of light, airy interior space never made it into production. They were a brave idea, which we suspect might end up being used in the DC100, which is set for production (like the LRX) three years after the original concept was shown.
Even the choice of the 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 percent recycled material made from used plastic bottles. Much of that thinking went into the Evoque unchallenged.
And that’s the story of the LRX – simple, and focused. Turning it into a production car was the real achievement – and with those gorgeous concept car looks almost untouched, we can conclude categorically that Julian Thomson and Jeremy Waterman created one of the finest pieces of production car design to emerge from a British company since… well, since the original Range Rover in 1970.
Concept vs reality
To give you an idea of how little the LRX changed to become the Evoque, here are the two cars side-by-side in profile view. Although the concept is cleaner in its detailing, there’s really very little in it… Well done Land Rover for being so brave, and productionising this concept almost untouched.
2007 – Land Rover LRX
2011 Range Rover Evoque