British Bailout Buys a Land Rover LRX

In an attempt to turn Land Rover an environmentally friendly shade of British Racing Green, the U.K. government is giving the SUV-maker £27 million ($38 million) to defray the cost of developing a compact SUV based on their LRX concept.

landroverLand Rover says the new two-door (which they call a “cross coupe”) will be the “smallest, lightest, and most efficient” the company has ever produced. With the exception of the County Classic, we think it might be the most attractive as well. Whatever superlatives it claims, it could very well show up as a 2011 model after it gets an official go-ahead from management. “We welcome the Government’s support for this project, which would form a key part of our future product plans and which we very much want to put into production,” Land Rover Managing Director Phil Popham said in a statement.

That news really stings for those of us across the pond. After all, Chrysler got $4 billion and they’re still churning out Sebrings. At least the Brits got to spend their tax dollars on a car that’s desirable.

While the concept featured a biodiesel-electric hybrid drivetrain with Lithium-ion batteries that would get up to 50 mpg, the first production LRXs will probably head to dealerships with the LR2’s 3.2 liter I6 under the bonnet. The LRX is smaller and lighter than any of its stablemates, which means it’ll significantly improve on the LR2’s 15 city/22 highway even without a hybrid. Motor Trend says the LRX will probably be badged as a Range Rover and sold in both three- and five-door iterations. It will probably make it to the U.S.

Much to the chagrin of “real” Land Rover enthusiasts, in addition to its sporty appearance and small stature the LRX also features Hill Descent Control in lieu of low-range gears and Terrain Response System with an “eco” setting. Cool concept features such as the integrated iPhone dock and the removable carbon-fiber roof probably won’t be carried over into the production version, though we hope the gorgeous modern rework of the traditional Range Rover “wood and leather” interior remains.

Even though we’ll never be able to afford one, we hope that the project is a success for Land Rover and the British government which, as British business secretary Lord Mandelson told The Guardian, “is fully committed to supporting the U.K. automotive industry as it moves to a lower-carbon future.”