Range Rover Is Introducing Reductionism As A New Brand Design Tenet
PSFK test drove a new vehicle that exhibits the automaker's focus on what matters most, continuing to balance capability and luxury
2017 is a big year for the Land Rover brand. The new fifth generation Discovery will go on sale and Range Rover gets a fourth vehicle added to its lineup. The Range Rover Velar was unveiled in early spring at the London Design Museum, a location chosen to reinforce the design story of this model. The Velar is significant because it reveals the thematic design direction the three other models will likely adopt for the next decade.
If the Velar name sounds unfamiliar, it comes from a somewhat obscure point in Land Rover’s history. Velar was used as a badge on Land Rover’s first secret prototype back in 1969 to confuse journalists and the general public. The name comes from the Latin word velum meaning ‘veil.’
To understand where Velar fits in the line, Range Rover produced a handy chart. The Velar is larger than the Evoque and a bit more compact than the Range Rover Sport. Size wise, they’re classifying it as a mid-sized SUV.
We were invited to test drive the Velar around the costal town of Alesund in northwest Norway. The stunning scenery made the task of getting to know the Velar a battle against distraction. But we did come away with some good impressions, particularly of the design.
One of the more remarkable things about the Velar is that it shares its structure with the Jaguar F-Pace. Why is this important? Platform sharing in the auto industry is a common strategy to produce a range of vehicles from a single base foundation. At its worst, you end up with a stripped down budget version and a dressed up premium model that compromise on function and don’t look that different. Conversely, the F-Pace and Velar look and feel quite distinctive even when analyzed side by side.
Both vehicles are as much a representation of each brand as they are the individuals who lead each respective design department. Ian Callum of Jaguar has a history of working on performance and sports cars, while Land Rover’s Gerry McGovern is a devout modernist.
During a design brief, McGovern said that the Velar was developed with the approach of simplification. Only essential lines were left to define the design. This way of thinking has roots in classic modernist architecture, an inspiration source for McGovern. But he offered the term ‘reductionism’ to characterize the result.
The exterior of the Velar is the most elegant of any Range Rover yet. It has very clean lines and is well proportioned. There’s very little fussiness to the design: even the door handles disappear in to the body. The model we drove is the R-Dynamic First Edition and has copper accents and a special badge.
The tapered lines help to reduce any bulky appearance in the rear. The tail lights are very thin and have an infinity mirror effect when illuminated. I’ll nitpick on the silver trim piece that frames the exhaust below the bumper: it contrasts in shape and color, which catches the eye too much for me.
Stepping inside the Velar is a completely different experience to the F-Pace as well. It even better represents the reductionism theme. The dashboard, for instance, is a long linear plane devoid of switches. The center console is also spare, with just a few knobs.
The horizontal lines increase the perception of width inside the Velar and make the windshield seem expansive. It is quite a contrast to the F-Pace which has a more driver-focused cockpit feel.
Integrated into the dash and lower console is Jaguar Land Rover’s new display system called Touch Pro Duo. The infotainment system consists of two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens. Each screen is responsible for delivering a separate set of controls and information. The top screen handles frequently used features like navigation, media and communications. The lower screen is dedicated to driving dynamics and climate controls. Two rotary controls are integrated into the display and context adjust their functions depending on the features displayed.
Even though our time using the system was fairly brief, it was intuitive. Zooming and panning on the map, however, was slow, but that might have been a symptom of the remote location.
You don’t regularly hear about innovations in interior automotive fabrics, but the Velar has a couple of interesting elements relating to that. The seats are perforated with a unique Cut Diamond motif that is represented in other parts of the interior. The pattern is subtle enough to miss at first glance but looks pretty cool.
Land Rover has partnered with European design textile brand Kvadrat to offer a no-cost premium textile alternative to leather. The sustainable fabric combination consists of a wool-blend textile paired with Suedecloth for seat inserts that are made from recycled plastic bottles.
The video below features Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer, discussing more of the design story behind the Velar and how he classifies what good design is.
Images: Land Rover and Dave Pinter
Disclaimer: Land Rover paid for our flights and hotel in London and Norway and provided us with a couple of opportunities to sample amazing Norwegian cuisine