Recession, eh? Jaguar Land Rover seems to be recovering its showroom mojo. Worldwide February sales of both brands were 60 per cent up on February 09. Mind you, Feb 09 was a pretty dire month.
And, of course, there's more to come. We've already told you about the new Jaguar XJ. But a far bigger seller is coming late next year, in the form of Land Rover's small crossover, the LRX. We saw the show car at Geneva in 2008, and the real thing will debut at the Paris show this September.
Land Rover will emphasise that the debut is the 40th anniversary of the original Range Rover's launch. In fact, there's a big birthday party in May, and they might use that event to give us a sketchy glimpse of the LRX.
The connection is significant. The LRX will be badged a Range Rover, not a Land Rover. This means it's not going to be the cheapest car LR makes. The starting price won't be far shy of £30,000. That's more expensive than a Freelander, even though it's a bit smaller than a Freelander, because of the trimmed-down overhangs and taut design.
By the way, an original Range Rover was shorter overall and in the wheelbase, lighter and a lot narrower than a current Freelander.
Design Chief Gerry McGovern says the LRX will look even better than the concept. Well, he would. The main difference is that it's a five-door, but in other respects we're promised it really will be very true to the concept.
The interior has that Range Rover feel to it, too. You'll immediately see the heritage in the straight lines and strong vertical sides of the centre console, and the twin strong horizontals of the main dash. And it's going to be very premium, we're assured. Assured by a man who knows premium when he sees it, the CEO of the Tata Motors group, ex-BMW man Carl-Peter Forster.
You might remember Land Rover got a loan from the European Investment Bank to help (in a small way) getting the LRX into production. That money was conditional on bringing low-carbon technology to the market. Sure enough, diesel versions of the LRX will have a sophisticated hybrid system, bringing CO2 down to about 110g/km. And it'll still be a proper 4WD, able to dig you out of a mucky hole.
Paul Horrell, Consultant Editor of Top Gear magazine