ATHENS, Greece - Having long been known as a brand that sold a couple of different SUVs, Land Rover began to evolve a decade ago when Ford Motor Co. sold the automaker to the Indian conglomerate Tata. Gerry McGovern as chief design officer was given a freer hand to transform the brand with his modern design sensibility, something that started with the first Evoque.
"It changed our culture and it made people within the business realize that, actually, design can work and be in harmony with engineering without negating the ability to do something that's well-engineered."
But beyond that, McGovern's design work starts with the overall size, shape and look of the vehicle before it goes to engineering. McGovern pared back the surfaces and reduced the amount of line and detail to highlight the essence of the overall volume and proportion.
"We sometimes forget how important volumes and proportions are," McGovern said.
"I never slag the competition, but you see a lot of vehicles out there get the basic proportions wrong - (and) once they're wrong, it doesn't matter how beautiful it is, how good the detailing is, you'll never get back to something that looks right. And that volume and proportion has to work in every view."
McGovern's passion for modern design is one that's informed by other luxury goods.
"Range Rover lives in that world of luxury," he said. "There are a lot of luxury products out there, whether it's watches or furniture, holidays - all sorts of great luxury things. And the reality is that we don't need any of them, do we? But we desire them, and there's nothing wrong with that at all."
And to McGovern, great design extends beyond looks.
"The thing about desirability, about emotional design - it can be a car, but it can be about any product," he said. "We always break it down into three elements. Visceral: When I look at it, do I desire it? Behavioral: When I've got it, does it work? Does it do what it's supposed to do? And, last but not least, reflective: Once I've experienced it over a period of time, do I continue to desire? Does it continue to work properly, and am I building a lasting relationship, which why I bought it in the first place? That's the core of successful products."
Having established its unique look, McGovern chose evolution, not revolution, when updating this car for 2020.
"The people who bought that car love it, and they still do," he said. "So when it comes to the next generation, what we wanted to achieve was, instantly, when you look at the new car, it's Evoque. It's got to be Evoque. I think that's important, that we try to reconcile that person who has the vehicle and still likes it and doesn't feel cut short because something has replaced it that (looks) really bad." Not that you could make the Evoque look bad anyway, McGovern added. "It's intrinsically right."