The London Taxi Company (LTC) has introduced a close-to-production prototype called TX5 that accurately previews the next evolution of England’s iconic black cab.
LTC is owned by Geely, a large, China-based automaker that also owns Volvo. Geely explains it invested over £300 million (roughly $465 million€417 million) to design the TX5 from a blank sheet of paper and assemble it in a brand new factory that’s currently being built on the outskirts of Coventry, England.
Penned by British designers in Barcelona, Spain, the TX5 borrows styling cues from the Austin FX4 cab that was introduced in 1958. It looks more modern than the outgoing TX4 taxi, but it remains instantly recognizable as a Hackney carriage thanks to a tall, narrow grille, round headlights and a sculpted belt line. Geely says it’s slightly longer and taller than the outgoing model but no wider.
The story is different under the skin. The TX5 rides on a modular aluminum platform that Geely officials predict will ultimately underpin no less than seven different models. Power comes from a plug-in hybrid drivetrain — a technology that will be mandatory for all cabs operating in London starting in 2018 — that’s built around a four-cylinder gasoline-burning engine. Full technical specifications aren’t available yet, but the TX5 needs to be capable of driving on battery power alone for at least 30 miles in order to comply with the upcoming regulations.
Although Geely presumably has access to Volvo’s parts bin, whether the TX5 is built with Swedish components is anyone’s guess at this point. It’s worth mentioning that the second-gen XC90 and the upcoming S90/V90 are built on the same modular platform, and they’re all available with the same gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
The TX5 offers seating for a driver and six passengers, one more than the current TX4. The cabin features a tourist-approved panoramic moonroof, an in-car WiFi connection and charging points for mobile devices. Like the aforementioned FX4, TX5 is equipped with rear suicide doors.
TX5 production is scheduled to start in 2017. The new plant will have an initial annual capacity of 36,000 cars, a surprising figure that far exceeds demand from taxi drivers in the British capital, and Geely openly admits that it hopes to export the cab to major cities all around the globe.