Journey starts here . . .
With the shape of things to come, writes Paul Pottinger
THE stylised lines of the Evoque, Range Rover’s first prestige compact SUV, represent the shape of vehicles under development, says its designer.
Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern insists the radical change of direction signalled by the ‘‘cross coupe’’ — revealed in Paris last month and a star of the Australian International Motor Show at Darling Harbour — is ‘‘part of a journey for the Range Rover brand’’.
The ‘‘game-changing’’ Evoque is released here next September, priced from about $60,000.
‘‘We’re in the process of designing a whole new generation of Range Rovers and this the first one off the block. For us it’s about recognising our past but not being harnessed by it,’’ McGovern says.
The designer says he fought a pitched battle with engineers not to compromise his LRX concept, which dropped jaws at Detroit in 2008.
‘‘We were intransigent about not moving away from that design intent,’’ McGovern says.
‘‘It was a case of ‘We need to move the roof up 60cm’ and we said ‘Over our dead bodies’. In the end we all got friendly and serious about delivering it.
‘‘The original concept was always there in the studio as we started to develop the production vehicle.
‘‘ It almost became a catalyst for changing the culture of our business, for how we shape the future of Range Rover and Land Rover products.
‘‘And we’re well on the way to designing all those vehicles.’’
McGovern’s team prevailed to the extent that, while the interior has been greatly developed from the ‘‘very concepty’’ innards of the LRX, ex- terior changes amount to little more than the bonnet and roof being raised by 20mm.
‘‘The design hasn’t lost its drama, it’s got that falling roof, the dramatic belt line and overall visual robustness. Clearly this is unlike any previous Range Rover, but it’s very obviously a Range Rover,’’ McGovern says.
While the more practical five door version is a starter for Australia, the three door was demonstrated by none other than Land Rover’s managing director, Phil Popham, who folded his 190cm-plus frame into the cossetted rear seats with ease.
He calls the Evoque a ‘‘ game changer— hugely significant’’ both for the brand and the market segment.
While McGovern says he is determined to shed the baggage of the past, Popham denies suggestions that the two-wheel-drive version of the Evoque (offered alongside the AWD) diminishes the luxury marque’s proud off road heritage.
‘‘Two-wheel-drive is really focused in Europe where they want the versatility of an SUV and the elevated driving position, but where a lot of people don’t actively use AWD capability.’’
To boldly go: the Evoque sets new standards for the compact SUV.