In a year that saw Range Rover celebrate its 50th anniversary, and demand continues to outstrip supply, Land Rover is about to release a redesigned model for 2022.
TheDetroitBureau.com first reported on the new model in October, which will make its public debut at the LA Auto Show next week.
Recently, we were able to sit down with Prof. Gerry McGovern, OBE, Chief Creative Officer for Jaguar Land Rover, and talked about what led to the latest model’s design revisions.
Updating a classic
TheDetroitBureau.com: As much as the design and style continues what you’ve done in the past, this is actually quite a dramatic update. What guided you, as you’re approaching the car, as to what you wanted to do with it.
Gerry McGovern: The first thing is with the Range Rover, that is the one you’ve got to be so careful with. Because our consumers are very, very smart. There isn’t anything else like it. It’s peerless. I think you just have to be very careful about changing just for the sake of it. When you look at the current vehicle, they’re still a great looking vehicle. But the brief for this vehicle was how do we take this big vehicle and make it breathtaking modern, reducing it back to its absolute essence?
That is the greatest challenge because if you do that and you don’t do it convincingly, it can either look cheap — because it hasn’t got anything on it — or it’s not convincing.
So I’m building a house at the moment, I’m redeveloping a modernist house in Warwickshire and I’m constantly having a dialogue with the builders and the architects about how do you minimize that section? How do you get rid of that section? It’s that sort of debate.
What technologies will allow us to get rid of waste? What sort of pressings were used to make sure that we get a section that doesn’t need loads and loads of lines? So it’s the design strategy, the modernist philosophy that has driven this. Simply put, it’s about reduction, of paring everything back without taking too much off. That’s the hard bit, you know? Less is more; that’s the point I’m trying to make.
TDB: What’s interesting about the new one is it doesn’t it doesn’t have the heaviness that the sides of a Range Rover used to have. That’s gone now, and I’m not sure exactly how you manage that. Perhaps it’s the larger wheels.
GMG: Wheels are important because they shrink the mass, although it still looks good on a 22 or even a 21. A lot of that is visual trickery. You know the sloping sill that goes up into the rear, so that doesn’t look too heavy. As you come around the back, that encapsulation of the upper half which makes it lean, and the amount of fall on the flanks.
Then the lower bumper; darken it and so you don’t use the whole weight. I’m making sure that the balance between the cabin and the body is right. And again, the sill reduces some of that. It’s all that sort of stuff which you’re constantly trying, and it’s a big car That’s why in its restraint, it doesn’t look heavy.
TDB: And it’s a wonderful view as you walk around the back. It’s really stunning.
GMG: Yeah, the pulling in of the flanks, look at the plan shape. And what I mean by the plan shape is in the rear, as it twists around, when you see it from a distance, you see the overall length, because your eye goes to the center lines. But that fender in isolation doesn’t look overly long.
So we will maximize the interior space; we’ve got to do that. It’s not informed by fashion, it’s not informed by trends, it’s informed by modernist philosophy, and it’s not informed by form following function. Most people think the modernist is form following function; it’s not. It’s a balance of the aesthetic. People say, “oh, it’s not just about the aesthetic.” Actually, it is. The ascetic is God. That’s what creates the emotional connection. But it has the integrity of that, added to a balance of the functional elements. It’s still got plenty of space inside and still does the things it’s supposed to do. You know that as well as I do.
TDB: Yes, and the paring back is astute, particularly the element that replaces the L shape that swept rearward from the fender.
GMG: Yeah. I look back at that originally thinking is this too much. So, the irony here is, we wouldn’t have got to this unless we’ve done that first. This has grown in confidence. You have to have real confidence to do something as simple and as clean as that. If I showed that to a lot of board directors, certain companies, it would frighten them to death. They say lose it; you’ve got enough going on with all this shit.
TDB: That’s what’s going on with so many of your competitors. It’s like they don’t know when to stop.
GMG: That’s my bit about restraint; it’s a masterclass in restraint. You know, this is about having a business, not just saying it. Because I hear a lot of it from design leaders, “our weird design centric business.” Really? Really? Why have you got a proportion like that? Because the proportion has been forced on you by the engineer of the vehicle, which has given you a car with a longer front end and rear, you’re never going to get a good proportion.
We’re very fortunate. You know, it started with Mr. Tata when he bought this business 15 years ago or whatever it is now. He was an architect, he’s not latent. He’s always behind this business of designing what it’s for. And I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where most people in the company, they’re going to listen. They’re not trying to fight me. They’re trying to give me the ability to create that vision that I’ve got with the team.
TDB: And isn’t paring down, that simplicity, isn’t that the ultimate luxury?
GMG: Yes, exactly! That’s the Coco Chanel thing, you know. It’s not in the excess. It’s in the removal of vulgarity, that simplicity. Also, when you get to that level is simplicity, it’s all about the quality of the material. It’s got nothing else to show. It’s about the tailoring, the way it’s cut and the way it’s finished.
And you can celebrate eclecticism as well, you know. When you look at modernism, there’s two extremes: there’s minimalism and there’s maximalism. We’re not taught minimalism, but we’re closer to that than we are to excess.
TDB: Now that you’re overseeing Jaguar as well, how is that affected how your approach to Land Rover?
GMG: It has not changed how we move Land Rover. It will have a massive impact on Jaguar. It will be a while yet, but you’ll see a massive change.
TDB: I think what Ian Callum did was good because it got it got Jaguar out of the retro phase it had been trapped in. But it didn’t seem to move past that.
GMG: In fairness to Ian, I think it was an invidious position. I wouldn’t have taken the opportunity. Jaguar’s strategy in my view was all wrong. Mainstream volume, going up against the Germans; it’s fundamentally flawed. How are you going to create something truly compelling in that scenario?
TDB: Getting back to the Range Rover, the interior is certainly a huge step up from the current model.
GMG: When you think about Range Rover, Range Rover Sport; they’re big volumes for what is a luxury vehicle compared to the competition. I’ve always felt the Range Rover doesn’t really have a ceiling on it. It can justify whatever price, depending on how you appoint it of course.
GMG: Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be about changing stuff for the sake of it. It’s not. It’s about honing and refining, more in layering in terms of that luxury component.
TDB: And obviously with SV — Special Vehicle Operations — and the availability of customization, that’s going to be the growth point going forward.
TDB: But it’s also about avoiding trendiness as well.
GMG: It’s not about fashion. It’s not about just following those things because it needs to be above that. It’s not about looking back either.
TDB: That’s a trap, isn’t it?
GMG: Yeah. The retro trap, I call it. It’s what killed Jaguar for many years.
TDB: Well, it’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward, because you’re not afraid to try something new. That’s what the company was always about.
GMG: You’ll see.