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Official: Landie lives!

It's a Landie, baby: This image was shown alongside a Mini at Frankfurt.

Land Rover comes clean at Frankfurt about the prospects of a sub-Freelander mini-SUV

18 Sep 2007

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in FRANKFURT

AFTER years of denying its existence, Land Rover has teased the world by showing a clip of a compact urban SUV virtually no bigger than a Mini.

The British off-road brand revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last week that it was working on a compact concept SUV that would sit below the Freelander if it reached production – which is expected to occur in 2010.

Shown as a fleeting image, and now tipped to appear in the metal at the Detroit motor show in January, the three-door Range Rover Sport-like SUV is still to be named but demonstrates, according to Land Rover, a “commitment to innovation that embraces the challenges of sustainability while retaining Land Rover’s core values”.

Take it for granted that Land Rover's all-new model line, dubbed Landie by British press, will be a premium entrant with higher-than-average off-road capabilities, but also with new-found levels of environmental performance that the Ford-owned British brand was keen to emphasise at the German show last week.

From 2009, a stop-start system (which turns the engine off when the vehicle is stationary) will be fitted standard to all Freelander TD4 manual vehicles – and will flow into other vehicles from there.

Land Rover claims this will help cut the Freelander diesel’s CO2 emissions by more than seven per cent (from 194g/km to 179g/km) and reduce fuel consumption from 7.5L/100km to 6.8L/100km.

As for the sub-Freelander SUV, Land Rover CEO (and former Ford Australia president) Geoff Polites told GoAuto in Frankfurt last week that “if you paid attention there was a hint about its size”.

“That was a hint about its size... and you can speculate all you want from there,” he said.

Asked when we could expect to see such a vehicle, Mr Polites tried to water down suggestions that a baby Land Rover is imminent. “It’s just a toy we are playing with,” he said. “It is a possibility.” Mr Polites refused to divulge further information on the vehicle, leaving open the question as to whether the vehicle is related to the Ford Kuga unveiled in Frankfurt – itself a Focus-based compact SUV – or whether the larger Freelander II base serves as its foundation.

However, Mr Polites did deny that the three-door wagon version of the prototype as depicted in the video shown at the Frankfurt press conference was just a rouse for a four-door wagon production version.

In 2005, the model we know as the production Range Rover Sport was also originally previewed as a two-door wagon called the Land Rover Stormer – complete with radical scissor-action doors and an outrageous paint job.

A compact SUV would arm Land Rover with a foil for the likes of the just-announced Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as Audi's eventual Q3 and other baby luxury soft-roaders in development.

It would also be charged with giving Land Rover a homegrown competitor against the Mini, especially in North America where the BMW-built baby has been a runaway success.

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