Concepts : Land Rover LRX

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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

2008 Land Rover LRX Concept

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.’

Exterior Design

Julian Thomson

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.

Jeremy Waterman

Design sketches

Land Rover LRX

Land Rover LRX

Land Rover LRX

Interior Design

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.

Jo Keatley

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

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

31 Comments

  1. ive seen several evoque now, they are clearly welling well even in new zealand and I really like them, although i know some LR fans that dont like them. one thing that strikes me about the concept pictures up above is that they somehow remind me of the Rover 800 sketches. I still my 827 vitesse. alex

  2. Totally in the opposite direction, the Plymouth Prowler escaped with negligible changes into production.

    Three cheers for the often overlooked design team of the Ewok though.

  3. Interesting comment about the Concept One. As you can see from these images, rather a lot of changes were made between original full-sized concept car and production reality. I’d say that LRX’s transition into Evoque was far less noticeable than Concept One to Beetle…

    Volkswagen Concept One

    Volkswagen Beetle

  4. The concept 1 and new Beetle look totally different – they’ve moved the B pillar a couple of feet left!

    Probe 3 was a taster for the Sierra.

    The Fiat Trepiuno concept previewed the new 500.

  5. 1998 Peugeot Vingt-Coeur and 2000 206CC. The Vingt Coeur preceded the hatchback 206 as well.

    BMW CS1 from 2002, preceded the 1 Series convertible by five years. Pity BMW showed the pretty convertible as a concept and not the hideous hatchback. A tidal wave of adverse comment might have pushed them to a rethink.

    These days it’s just getting silly, at the Paris Mondiale in September Honda showed the new CR-V as a “concept” although it had been on sale for months just about everywhere except Europe.

  6. I always thought that the Evoque was styled by Gerry McGovern. Thanks for putting that right.

    Is this the same for the Freelander (Mk1) and MGF?

  7. I Think the LRX and Evoque look great, but looking at those sketches they have lost something of a spark between top sketches and what has actually gone into production.

  8. It wasn’t the second Land Rover motor show concept car – we did a “Defender Tender” with BMW in the 90’s – a highly modified/customised black Defender pickup with a BMW bike on the back. I wonder what happened to it?

    Some Opel cars went straight from concept to production, eg the original Tigra and I think the curvier Senator, although I remember a colleague from MGA telling me the Opel main designer subsequently committed suicide which is tragic given what he produced.

  9. But they did make play of her involvement. I can’t imagine that she genuinely had any real design input unless they let her do some colouring in and helped show her which way up to hold the crayons. She doesn’t exactly have a great deal of intellectual credibility.

    Had it been someone like Stella McCartney, maybe.

  10. The current Chevrolet Camaro went from concept to production with very few changes. Can’t see out the back of that car, either!

  11. @ Chris Baglin:

    ‘Posh Spice’ (aka Mrs Victoria Beckham) was actually a consultant on secondary colour and trim features for the Evoque which ultimately formed the basis of a limited edition variant called the Evoque SE. It has an on-the-road price of £80,000.

    @ Triomatic:

    This was something that also happened during the Rover Group era where Gerry McGovern often put his name to many projects, where it was often interpreted that he did the whole project himself. He usually didn’t but ‘simply’ had the lead role in a team of designers who reported at Director level progress with the project. Most design engineers usually specialise in either interior design or exterior styling. Some will be more specialised in areas such as exterior lighting design, graphics, wheel design, seat, door and carpet materials etc and be more conversant with particular legislations in that specific area.

    In the case of the Evoque, Mr McGovern lead a team of highly talented desigers with skills honed in particular areas. A winning combination that has created a huge success story for Jaguar Land Rover.

    Give it a few years and there will be a book published about the Evoque which will name those involved and what they ultimately did.

  12. @ Chris C:

    There was also the rather wild-looking Defender SVX unveiled at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show; elements of which were eventually productionised for use in the Defender 90 SVX limited editon unveiled in 2008 to commemorate sity years of Land Rover.

    I believe the Audi TT was another car that in production form remained relatively faithful to the original design concept.

  13. @ Keith Adams:

    Audi TT – sorry, I did not notice the above image until after I had posted my reply.

    MG EX-E and MGF – A good point about the MG EX-E and MGF which add further intrigue and questions as to why certain individuals are intrinsically linked to certain projects. I wonder if MG authority David Knowles is looking in and can answer this?

  14. £80,000 for a limited edition Ewok???

    That is a ridiculous amount of money for a car of that position in the market.

  15. @ Chris Baglin:

    “£80,000 for a limited edition Ewok???

    That is a ridiculous amount of money for a car of that position in the market.”

    I believe most of these are destined for China and North America.

  16. Going back a bit further, the original Ford Probe concept wasn’t a million miles away from the final Sierra. Without comparing photos, I can’t be sure, but I suspect that the Probe had slightly greater daylight openings than the series one Sierra, but when Ford facelifted it, the larger windows came back in.
    Just occurred to me, haven’t seen a Sierra in yonks…

  17. @Chris Baglin – Theres nothing rediculous at all about charging £80K for an Evoque if buyers in China are prepared to pay it. That additional £40K over a “standard” Evoque will effectively go straight to the bottom line. You are still clearly in a British Leyland mind set.

  18. Agreed, the Ford Probe wasn’t a radical prototype, that was so popular they decided to use it as a basis for replacing the Cortina! It was very much p-art of the same ongoing programme.

    The Evoque almost feels like something Pininfarina or Ital Design might have done as a motor show special, which then got picked up by LR, as it’s that radical and that good! The 1st Lotus Esprit, for example was an Ital Design show car.

  19. Wasn’t the Isuzu Piazza based on a Guigiaro show car, which I recall made it too production with minimal changes.

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