Concept to reality: Land Rover LRX to Range Rover Evoque

We trace the LRX concept car's development into the stunning Range Rover Evoque

In the first part of our series looking at how concepts have been changed into real cars we can all buy, we detailed how the VW up! had to change from a radical rear-engined layout to a front-engined one to become viable. But in this second instalment, we’re looking at a car whose stunning show-stand looks were kept remarkably intact as it entered the showroom: the Range Rover Evoque.

Land Rover was not conceived as an urban brand, but lifestyle trends during the company’s life have added that facet to its appeal with customers. In particular, the arrival of the Discovery in 1989 opened the brand up to buyers who wanted practicality over luxury or off-road prowess. 

Almost two decades later, though, Land Rover’s design team knew there was the opportunity for an urban-focused model with streetwise looks. So in 2006, the company’s studios started work on a new concept that would embody chunky, rugged looks in a more sophisticated-looking shape than ever before. Design director Gerry McGovern was at the overall helm while Julian Thomson led the exterior work on a cool, urban Land Rover: LRX.

The car made its debut at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show and it was immediately obvious that it had sales potential. Fans cooed over the way that McGovern and his team had stitched typical Land Rover traits – clamshell bonnet and floating roof among them – into a smaller vehicle.

The concept had been created with a production model in mind – but there were significant obstacles to achieving that goal, not least the platform; LRX had showcased a trick electrified powertrain, but Land Rover didn’t have that sort of tech at its disposal. The car would be based on a heavily modified D8 platform from Land Rover’s then-owner Ford. This couldn’t deliver hybrids, but it was a solid base, and engineers knew how to make it work off road.

Even so, maintaining the show car’s distinctive stance – in particular, that high beltline with the sloping roof – was a nightmare for the engineers led by Murray Dietsch.

There are signs that the team knew of the impending struggle even as they worked on the LRX, though. The little ‘tabs’ at the top of each plastic wheelarch lining are functional, helping to hold the unit in place. Every millimetre of travel was needed in the wheelarch itself if the Evoque were to keep that distinctive LRX stance without increasing the depth of the rear bodywork, so the mounting for the lining had to be adapted accordingly.

There was, however, one key change between LRX and Evoque – the bonnet badge. During development of the car, it was decided that the vehicle could be pitched more effectively (and more profitably) if it became a Range Rover rather than a Land Rover. It was a significant switch, and one that has subsequently allowed the Evoque to find its place more easily in the Range Rover pillar of what McGovern calls the ’three families of Land Rover’.

In any case, becoming a more luxurious product didn’t dent demand for the Evoque, which caught even Land Rover by surprise. The firm expected to sell around 40,000 examples per year but annual production at the Halewood site (and, in time, in China) topped 120,000 units on more than one occasion. Small wonder that Land Rover fought (and, unusually, won) a copyright case against a Chinese firm which copied large chunks of the vehicle’s looks.

And when it came to launching the second generation of the Evoque, McGovern himself admitted that the key would be to not take the model too far away from those LRX origins. “We’ve worked hard to make sure the Mk2 is unmistakably Evoque,” he said, “but unmistakably new Evoque.” The detailing may have been changed to ramp up the sophistication another notch. But the LRX’s distinctive stance and profile look set to feature on the current Evoque, and many more, for years to come.

Are you a fan of the concept's looks? Let us know in the comments below...

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