The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), one of the biggest and most anticipated auto shows in the world, is easily one of the best places to introduce a concept car. Held in Detroit, Mich., more than 6,000 journalists cover the event, and moments after hosts lift the sheet from their new design, blogs dedicated to the auto industry post hundreds of photos, press releases and general reactions all over the Internet.
The biggest trend at recent auto shows like NAIAS is the green factor -- many companies are throwing everything they have into producing cars with better fuel efficiency and less of a negative impact on the environment. Toyota's iQ Car concept, for example, attempts to solve traffic congestion with its compact size without sacrificing space on the inside. On the other hand, this doesn't stop several companies from making faster, bigger and more expensive models like the Aston Martin Rapide or the Lamborghini Reventon.
So there seems to be a conflict between two opposing platforms -- the urge to go green versus the urge to push powerful sports cars or big, luxurious SUVs. But what if you could have the best of both of those worlds? The makers of the Land Rover, the well-known British line of all-terrain and multi-purpose vehicles, are attempting just that with their new concept, the Land Rover LRX. Unveiled at the 2008 NAIAS and dubbed a "cross-coupe" by its creators, the LRX is a smaller, lighter version of previous Land Rover models, with a hybrid diesel engine capable of running on biodiesel and a more streamlined design
Land Rover's Web site states its intentions clearly -- "For sixty years, our pioneering vehicles have taken explorers, environmentalists and scientists all over the world. Now we're using our innovation to ensure we reduce our impact on the planet." At the same time, the LRX's press release doesn't forget to mention the car's SUV-like performance and traditional luxury qualities that enthusiasts expect from a Land Rover.
To learn more about the Land Rover LRX's attempt to combine sustainability with luxury features, read the next pages.
Land Rover LRX Specs
A three-door “cross coupe,” or somewhat of a mini-SUV, the LRX’s engine is one of the main things that sets it apart from previous models. A hybrid powertrain with a 2.0 liter diesel engine reportedly gets about 50 miles per gallon, extremely good numbers for any kind of SUV. This performance is made possible simply by shifting power from one part of the engine to the other -- when the LRX is traveling at less than 20 mph, the car is powered solely by electricity, while speeds above 20 mph require the diesel engine.
This lets you know that the LRX isn’t quite the off-roading vehicle that Land Rovers are known to be -- electric speeds of 20 mph are more suitable for stop-and-go, urban driving, not adventuresome excursions out on the prairie. Even the vehicle’s design suggests a sportier look than previous Land Rovers. The LRX is 5.9 inches shorter and 8.1 inches lower than the Freelander 2, which is Land Rover’s smallest car currently in production. The windows and roof are also constructed from lightweight polycarbonate, which is 40 percent lighter than glass, and the vehicle’s more aerodynamic shape helps to reduce drag -- all of this leads to better fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions that total about 120 g/km, another impressive statistic for an SUV.
To learn more about the LRX's interior, read the next page.
Land Rover LRX Interior
Like the Toyota iQ Car concept, the Land Rover LRX attempts to solve the problem of creating a more compact car by coming up with innovative ways to save space. Behind the steering wheel, for instance, is an electronic display system that uses "floating" LCD graphics -- instead of putting every instrument in front of the driver, the graphics change back and forth, only showing relevant information when necessary. If you want to see specific statistics, the information is customizable with touch-screen capability.
You can also choose a specific drivetrain mode -- economy for stop-and-go urban traffic that conserves gas; sport for tougher, all-terrain conditions; and standard. The interior lighting and ambiance of the LRX will change with your selection. Green indicates the economy mode, red indicates the sport mode and blue denotes the standard mode.
As car and gadget integration systems are becoming more and more popular, the LRX is jumping right into this trend. The Apple iPhone is an integral part of the vehicle, as there's a slot built especially for the device in the center console. Everything from MP3 files to the inside temperature and seating adjustments can be controlled with the iPhone system, which is part of the LRX's efforts to save space by getting rid of any excess knobs or buttons. Both sides of the backseat also have an iPod docking station, just in case there are grumpy kids in the backseat unhappy with mom and dad's taste in music.
The seats of the LRX also "float," according to Land Rover designers, on plinths, the same structural bases on which statues are built and able to overhang. This allows for extra storage space under the seats, making up for the LRX's more compact size while decreasing the weight of the vehicle without a heavy, complicated seat base. The seats, along with several other parts of the interior, are also built from sustainable material -- the leather is "vegetable-tanned" and chromium-free, and the "fine suede" on the doors and headliner isn't actually suede, but 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.
The Land Rover LRX is just a concept, so the folks at Land Rover don't plan to put it into production. This makes sense because not everyone owns an iPhone and an iPod, but the LRX does help determine future choices made by the company. The car's debut at the NAIAS can offer consumer reactions and help shape future policy on making more sustainable, urban vehicles that appeal to those of us who still like to get our tires dirty once in a while.
For lots more information on cars and concepts, see the next page.
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More Great Links
- Lorio, Joe. "2008 Land Rover LRX concept." Automobile Magazine.
- Murph, Darren. "iPhone integral part of Land Rover LRX concept." Engadget.com. Dec. 14, 2007.
- Phillips, Drew. "Detroit 2008: Land Rover LRX lights up Motor City." Autoblog.com. Jan. 13, 2008.