Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept, top – unveiling on USS Intrepid. Click image to enlarge
Article by Michael Bettencourt, photos courtesy Land Rover
Land Rover and Range Rover design director Gerry McGovern has been on a design (and sales) hot streak for the past three years, ever since the Range Rover Evoque’s launch in 2011 brought a newly modernized and stylized design-focused philosophy to the company. Land Rover vehicles for the past six decades – and today – generally conform to a ‘boxy-is-good’ design ethos that stresses its off-road prowess and upscale utilitarian history. But with the launch of the Discovery Vision Concept in New York and Beijing recently, Land Rover is making a visual and engineering statement that its exterior design will be as advanced as the technology it offers in its luxurious but still versatile SUVs.
McGovern confirmed that this concept previews a smaller production vehicle that will be sold in North America in 2015 to be called the Land Rover Discovery Sport. While providing a few clues about the production vehicle, he dug deep into the Discovery Vision Concept’s design and some technology details at a special concept preview in New York, as well as in a one-on-one interview from the floor of the New York auto show.
MB/Autos.ca: Looking at this futuristic Discovery Vision concept, is the traditional Land Rover boxiness dead?
Gerry McGovern: Boxiness is probably a term you could apply to all Land Rovers. That pure rectilinear style doesn’t work so well in aerodynamics, so that’s about to change. The sportiness has to be presented in a different way. That leaned over C pillar post is a strong visual differentiator. The thin rear lamps give it a higher butt, also making for a sportier, more athletic look. When you look at a car on the first time you focus on the centre, so you have to visually shrink the car, but not physically.
It’s a balance of making the design more dramatic, and more versatile for off-roading. Every feature, every line is thought about, not only for visual appeal, but how it fits in with our other vehicles.
MB/Autos.ca: So how do you visually differentiate between upscale Land Rovers and even more upscale Range Rovers?
Gerry McGovern: Easy. It’s by understanding the pillars of each brand, and who those customers are. The design and capability are our killer combination in the market, for both brands. Depending on the brand, other aspects take precedence in other areas: refinement for Range Rover, and versatility for Land Rover, which will allow you to drive the differentiation of the design.
Land Rover Transparent Bonnet Technology & Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept. Click image to enlarge
So this affects how you optimize the storage in the Discovery concept (with the removable driver’s armrest that becomes a rolling carry-on suitcase complete with extendable handle), versus Range Rover, which is more about being exclusive. You’ll never have a big Range Rover as a seven-seater, for example, because it’s not appropriate for Range Rover – they don’t want to carry seven people in it, they like having the executive seating in the rear, which is more of a four-seater. Things like the storage, the ability to remove the luggage with you, is something that a Land Rover customer would like to do.
The person driving the Range Rover will have their own Louis Vuitton bag they’d want to use.
Visually, the stadium seating in the Land Rover Discovery (where each row of seats are raised for a better view out) will give the vehicle a different profile. So it’s a case of the versatility informing the design, but not necessarily form following function. For me I want Discovery’s to have more visual appeal and compelling design.