There’s a fair bit of angst in Land Rover marketing circles, because this traditional manufacturer of SUVs has finally decided to make a two-wheel-drive version of one of its models.
The new baby Range Rover-of-many-names (LRX at concept stage, currently Range Rover Compact as it nears production, but likely to be something else again in the showrooms) will have a two-wheel-drive model in its line-up.
After 60 years of making 4x4s that were always the most capable in their class off-road, the company is modifying its principles to cater for perhaps the biggest SUV demand of all — for drive-to-school models of fairly compact dimensions, which still offer users the comfort and security of an elevated driving position and the robustness of Land Rover design and build.
Though a serial owner of Land Rovers of the traditional kind, I see this new development as great news. And long overdue.
It was the Freelander, in this country at least, that opened up a market for just the vehicles above, expect that it missed out on many sales as the market expanded because a good proportion of buyers wouldn’t pay for extra traction and robustness they didn’t need.
The Freelander made the case for the genre, then the Honda CR-V (and many others) cleaned up. It seemed all wrong
The current concern at Land Rover seems to be over the fact that some people will reckon the new two-wheel-drive development as a dilution of Land Rover’s traditional brand values, but I’m convinced this is needless concern.
The company simply needs to keep designing its cars to maintain the brand values we all understand, and to keep supplying — and demonstrating — versions of its vehicles that can cope in extreme conditions for the many people who continue to want them.
Meanwhile, the news that there are to be lighter, more frugal, more affordable Land Rovers that are, if anything, more stylish than ever, will help bring extra distinction to the rest of the range, and defend the Land Rover marque from (harsh but understandable) accusations that it makes only overweight gaz-guzzlers.
So everyone’s a winner.