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Land Rover goes front-drive

Mini-Rangie: LRX concept will morph into reality next year.

Land Rover confirms next year's LRX-based compact Rangie will come with 2WD

Land Rover logo18 May 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

LAND Rover has confirmed it will release its first two-wheel-drive model in 2011 when the compact Range Rover LRX concept enters production, headlined by an entry-level front-drive variant.

The move follows the recent release of cut-price front-drive versions of a range of compact crossovers, including Toyota’s RAV4, Hyundai’s ix35, Holden’s Captiva, Mazda’s CX-7 and Nissan’s Dualis.

The superseded Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage pioneered the front-drive SUV segment in Australia and both Nissan and Mitsubishi are understood to be investigating front-drive versions of the X-Trail and Outlander respectively.

Mitsubishi has confirmed its upcoming ASX sub-compact SUV will be available here in both 2WD and AWD guise from July, leaving only Subaru’s top-selling Forester and Honda's once-dominant (and predominantly front-drive) CR-V as the only all-AWD compact SUVs available.

24 center imageLand Rover has confirmed that in addition to the four-wheel drive version of its all-new compact Range Rover model, the LRX concept-based model will be offered as a 2WD that will emit less than 130g/km of CO2 – making it the lightest, most fuel efficient Range Rover.

According to Autocar, the company ruled out a front-drive version of its Golf-sized ‘coupe-SUV’, which is expected to emerge in final production form at the Paris motor show in September, but now says it “cannot ignore the growth of the two-wheel-drive SUV segment”.

The respected UK publication says ‘Range Rover Compact’ is one of five nameplates under consideration for the showroom model, which will go on sale first as a 4WD, with a cheaper 2WD version to follow soon after.

Hybrid power will follow Land Rover’s three main strategies to improve efficiency: weight loss, the reduction of parasitic losses and increased powertrain efficiency, and was always said to be part of the LRX plan.

Now, however, Land Rover has confirmed its first diesel-electric hybrid model will become available in Europe in 2012, before hitting European roads in 2013 – and it will be based on the large Discovery-based Range Rover Sport.

Land Rover says it will test its first diesel hybrid prototype, called the 'range_e', by the end of this year. Powered primarily by Land Rover’s existing 3.0-litre TDV6 diesel engine, matched with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, the hybrid Rangie Sport’s goals are to achieve a range of 32km using electric power only, emit less than 100g/km of CO2 and to accelerate to a top speed of around 190km/h.

Some reports say the diesel-electric Rangie_e will employ a 25kW electric motor, which will be matched in the LRX hybrid with a petrol engine and complemented with plug-in hybrid technology by 2015.

Chief hybrid engineer at Jaguar Land Rover Peter Richings has been reported as saying the 2015 plug-in hybrid “ ... means you can drive a Range Rover for at least 20 miles on full electric power around town, (while having) emissions of less than 100g/km and speeds of up to 70mph in EV mode.”

The standard Range Rover LRX is expected to emerge with a variation of the larger Land Rover Freelander’s PSA-sourced 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, mated with a six-speed manual – making it the first manual Range Rover since the second-generation Rangie that disappeared in 2002. It should still emit less than 140g/km.

Even with a 2WD variant, however, there's no guarantee Land Rover's all-new compact Rangie will be priced below the Freelander, which starts at $45,590 in Australia.

“Land Rover has announced that the all-new compact Range Rover will be available in 2WD,” said Land Rover managing director Phil Popham.

“This is good news for the company and for our customers. A 2WD option is just one way in which we are developing our vehicles efficiency whilst adding to the Land Rover range and expanding our customer base.

“We will continue to make the 'world's finest all-terrain vehicles' for those customers who require 4WD but will also now offer an alternative to those that don't.”

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