Insiders at Land Rover have confirmed to Autocar that a design team is working on a car-based model. ‘We have to make a business case for a new model,’ said our source. ‘This is a relatively complicated process, as Land Rover has to prove that the investment by Ford over the past five years is paying off.’
Despite the hurdles that the Solihull-based company has to clear, the new car could be seen as a concept in the near future. And if the baby Land Rover does appear in the spotlights at a major motor show, we can be sure Ford has given the idea the green light. But the project would be a substantial development effort by Land Rover’s engineering team, making a launch unlikely before late 2007.
We understand the new vehicle will be based on the Ford Group’s C1 chassis, which underpins the Focus and the Volvo S40/V50. This offers both front- and four-wheel drive and a range of four-, five- and even six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.
In 2002 Wolfgang Reitzle, then overall boss of Land Rover, revealed his idea of a smaller, cheaper model – nicknamed the Landy – to be positioned under the Freelander.The Landy would probably be marginally shorter than a Focus estate but have a much taller roofline. The project could be a new chapter in Land Rover design, marking a freshinterpretation of today’s distinctive look.
There’s a strong sense at Land Rover that in 12 months, when the new Freelander is rolling off the line, Land Rover and Ford will have triggered the Landy project. And by then, anti-4x4 sentiment could make the model a necessity.
Meanwhile, work continues on next year’s replacement for the Freelander. Mules have been spotted testing at the Nürburgring under the body of a current Freelander. Secrecy surrounds the looks, although Land Rover design-boss Geoff Upex has endowed it with an appearance similar to that of the Range Rover and Discovery. Unlike today’s model, only a five-door version will be available, and insiders say there won’t be a seven-seater despite bigger dimensions.