Drawing Restraint

No, you haven’t blundered onto Auto Cropley by accident. 

(c) media.landrover

Since their acquisition in 2007 by Tata Motor, JLR management’s brand-stewardship has been, how shall we say this: uneven. Not so when it comes to brand-Range Rover however, for there is no conceivable question now about its elevated position, close to the pinnacle of the luxury vehicle ziggurat. Of course this is no rags to riches fable; in metaphorical terms, more a muddy pair of Wellingtons to Church’s hand-tooled Oxfords style transition, given the use to which the average L405 series is habitually put. But it is likely that Anno-2021, the RR is probably a more convincing luxury conveyance than anyone’s private-hire Sonderklasse.

Yes, we are in another country from Charles Spencer King’s 1970 opus[1] and have been for some time now. Indeed, as we bid farewell to the aforementioned L405 Rangie, and welcome its new for 2022 replacement – the freshly announced L460 – we are presented with what to the casual eye might perceive as a purely evolutionary step, but is perhaps a more comprehensive reimagining of the Range Rover than meets the eye.[2]

Before we continue, we must address one of several elephants loitering conspicuously next to the drinks cabinet[3]. The Range Rover is, as you cannot fail to have noticed a large, profligate SUV/ off-roader, suffused with all the signifiers of material gain and social superiority a vehicle which costs this much is expected to convey, and as such, some of us at least are naturally hardwired to perhaps think less of it than we otherwise might.

Not being averse to a spot of inverse snobbery myself, I will admit to once being a little sniffy about Range Rover, until I spent some quality time with one; the road to Damascus beginning at Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way apparently. I digress. For regardless of where one sits upon the Range, or indeed conspicuously oversized luxury SUVs in general, the announcement of a new-generation model remains in automotive terms, somewhat more eventful than its München-Milbertshofen or Sindelfingen equivalents.

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How eventful? Well, that is up to you. But what I am prepared to say is that with the L460, Land Rover’s designers have done a very good job indeed and on visual acquaintance at least, the new model appears to bear witness to the claim that their Chief Creative Officer is indeed a modernist at heart.

There is of course nothing radical about the L460’s shape, the Range Rover silhouette being as codified as anyone’s Golf or 911, and in this new iteration, the evolution in form from L405 is obvious. However, the new car has benefited from a process of reduction, which has seen the detailing of the design being pared back considerably from that of its predecessor – to say nothing of its rivals.

Especially striking is the rear treatment, which incorporates very thin vertical lamp units and a broad horizontal light bar and is probably the aspect of the car which deviates most from what has gone before. The overall effect, Land Rover would have us believe lends “the impression that the vehicle has been milled from solid.” And while no car has ever quite achieved that feat, one can perhaps see what they are getting at.

(c) media.landrover

The Range Rover’s cabin also comes across as something of a shrine to minimalism. Normally an area where LR excel (especially latterly); again, needless frippery is banished, and the surfaces are clean, linear and appear refreshingly unforced. It simply looks like a very nice place to be. Now you may say that it ought to at the kind of money Land Rover are charging, but compare this to your Maybach GLS, your BMW X7, (heaven help us), Bentayga or indeed, madam’s Aston DBX? Well, I suppose they do represent choice.

datadotcoaza

Mr. Professor G. Mc Govern OBE has been accused of many things over the years, and some of them might even be true, but one aspect of his role, one in which he has so far proved unerring is in the design stewardship of brand-Range Rover and in this, its fifth distinct iteration, team-Gerry certainly appear to have maintained form.

Because even if it does come in as profligate a package as it does here, in today’s outspoken automotive firmament, restraint seems to be in rather short supply.

 

[1] Spen King was reportedly dismayed by the later urbanisation of the Range Rover, somewhat akin perhaps to the expression of regret from Robert Oppenheimer about the A-bomb?

[2] The 2022 RR is on an all-new (MLA) platform, with a bought-in (BMW) V8 alongside JLR’s own petrol, diesel and hybridised in-line six units and will be offered in fully electrified form in 2024.

[2] Can elephants loiter in any other manner he asks rhetorically, especially while holding a champagne flute?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

33 thoughts on “Drawing Restraint”

  1. I never liked Range Rovers, apart from the first generation in three door form. The overall design of the new L460 is good, I reckon, but not minimalist enough for my liking. What’s that weird U shaped thing on the front door? Why have the indicator, headlight and grill that strange stepped design? I know it’s a JLR trademark, but there was a time when it wasn’t. Was that horizontal light bar really necessary? Why the ugly steering wheel?

    And how minimalist is it really? The way I see it the term minimalism has three meanings: 1) the art form, think Donald Judd and you know what I mean, 2) living simply as in owning as few things as possible and 3) objects that are appear to be simple, but in fact are just another way of conspicuous consumerism, think a John Pawson house.

    The Range Rover is only in the last category.

    1. Good morning Eóin. Hmm, I’m inclined to agree with Freerk’s observations above.

      To my mind, the new Range Rover looks like something of a missed opportunity. The rear is an interesting attempt to do something different which I applaud, even if the thick horizontal black bar rather compromises the effect. Why the ‘same again’ front end, which is now very much out of step with the rear? It would have been much more interesting if they had been brave enough to abandon the existing ‘corporate’ face in favour of something fresh that reflected the rear. As it is, it looks like a new tail has been grafted onto the existing model, a rather odd ‘facelift’. The fake vent detail on the front doors is an unnecessary garnish.

      Inside, the steering wheel is indeed ugly, and I cannot understand the current industry obsession with making the touch-screen appear to ‘float’ in front of the dashboard. Everyone knows it’s not removable, do why not sculpt the dashboard to integrate it properly?

    2. This Range Rover is neither a piece of art, nor a 21st century take on the Fiat Panda – obviously.

      Sticking with your analogy, I’d rather take the oversized John Pawson/Richard Meier/Neutra home than any of the Dubai-flavoured gin palaces the competition has on offer. As long as there’s demand for these lamentable products, I’d prefer it be met by this Range Rover, rather than any of the visual atrocities from Milbertshofen, Crewe, Sindelfingen or Goodwood.

      Ignoring the (de)merits of this particular category of car, I must express that I wish the Jaguar XJ had been nurtured the way the Range Rover has been over the past 25 years. The world wouldn’t be a better place, but the streetscapes would be considerably more attractive at least.

    3. I agree with you. That thing on the side is wholly unnecessary as is that horrid swept back sidelight/indicator unit and the overly fat rear bar. I do like the simplified rear break light units and interior however. Overall though it’s hard to describe this object as minimal given it’s gross demand for so many resources and such wanton consumption. The older I get the less I value such excess and consider people of my era who are smitten by such things ever so slightly embarrassing. I noticed this trend with my parents generation. Those who appreciated high end saloons and sports cars began to revise their opinions in their mid fifties choosing good but less in your face type products. I have noticed Jeremy Clarkson is driving around is farm in a less than mint Range Rover these days and looks all the better for it.

  2. It takes power and strength of character to swim against the tide. In an age characterised by baroque grotesquery, the new Range Rover is pared back and calm. I like it a lot.

  3. I have to agree with Messrs Ward and Doyle; this new barge is softer and all the better for Gerry’s treatments. I like the Sandy colour of the car in question which lightens the load more so. Darker hues will no doubt look heavier but in this new guise, (hopefully) less ostentatious. I’d love to see someone plump for a flat blue or red, maybe even mustard to give the car a wholly different perspective. Dream world (or nightmare) I know.
    And starting at £95,000, I fully expect the affluent area around my employment to be swimming with them before too long. The Def’ner isn’t quite as common as any given model of the Rangie. And Sports just don’t cut it round there. It’s full fat Rangie or nowt.

  4. As per the Velar and latest Evoque I am curious as to how reliable those pop-out door handles are, particularly in much colder climes. How do you get the doors open in an accident? I see from the Harry’s Garage review that the doors are electrically opened and closed now.

    They may have embraced the iPad-stuck-on-the-dashboard look, must at least they’ve had the good sense to retain physical knobs for the HVAC controls.

    1. Ric: The Rivian EV has a pleasing calmness to its forms, but it always reminds me of a Ford Flex – or perhaps the SUV version of the Flex which might have made more of an impact saleswise with Mr or particularly, Mrs. Average. The vertical elements at the nose of the Rivian are the only aspects of the design I find discordant, but without them, it would probably even more closely resemble the Ford.


      We covered the Flex back in 2019, btw…

      Darwin’s Estate

  5. I agree with Freerk too. Whilst the general smoothness and lack of surface clutter is commendable, the bits that remain are dubious – the weird fake vents on the side, the fussy lights/grille. Also, personally, I find the “boat” tail too tapered. When it comes to large, boxy SUVs, I think Rivian have done a much better job. A far more distinctive and innovative face, and (for me) just the right level of surface graphics.

    1. Hi Ric. Thanks for posting those images of the Rivian, which is a much bolder and more coherent design overall than the new Range Rover. I’m not sure the front end treatment entirely works, but otherwise its a very nice piece of work. It shows the sort of leap JLR might have taken, but failed to.

    2. Ric: The Rivian EV has a pleasing calmness to its forms, but it always reminds me of a Ford Flex – or perhaps the SUV version of the Flex which might have made more of an impact saleswise with Mr or particularly, Mrs. Average. The vertical elements at the nose of the Rivian are the only aspects of the design I find discordant, but without them, it would probably even more closely resemble the Ford.


      We covered the Flex back in 2019, btw…

      Darwin’s Estate

  6. I like what they have done with this new version – although I wonder how it will age. I would prefer more taper to the tail, not less (the previous RR had more, I think) and I would also prefer a simpler grille, no fake vent and no light bar … But, it’s hard to argue that is is not handsome, it really is and I think will come across even better in the metal.

    The interior lacks a bit of the distinctive strength of it’s grandparent (L302??), although it is commendably simply designed. Overall, I agree with the author that, although I find him obnoxious, GMcG has done a good job of husbanding RR’s designs.

  7. This is one of those interesting situations where I find myself agreeing with both the compliments and criticisms of this new Range Rover. Viewed in the context of the market for huge ultra-luxury SUVs, I would agree it is admirably restrained and clean. Viewed in a broader context, huge ultra-luxury SUVs are inherently absurd things that cannot qualify for descriptive terms such as restrained.

    I honestly don’t know on which side of the fence I should fall here.

  8. I honestly didn’t realise the current Range-Rover had been around long enough to need replacement. And yes, the new one looks quite svelte, but no, I don’t like touch-screen controls, retracting door-handles, electric hand-brakes etc.
    That steering wheel reminds me of a time when Porsche adopted particularly ugly steering wheels…

  9. Hi, all. I’m a bit on the fence on this one: the front end seems a missed opportunity, or a failure of nerve, being too fussy and same-y (to me at least), as does the side flourish which seemed better resolved in previous generations. I like the rear and can forgive the horizontal bar and I also like the overall shape. I understand the Rivian, but it does seem a bit willfully brutish where I would expect a Range Rover to be more of a balance between imposing and – for lack of a better word – elegant. The Range Rover strikes that balance nicely, I think.

    There does seem to be a trending to conservatism in current design, though, with many manufacturers opting for the safety of simply refining a shape that has been successful (or “iconic” as it is invariably called by the manufacturer themselves) whilst talking up the “many, many” changes made. Maybe that’s inevitable with the entire industry’s attention directed at the transition to electric, which to me seems the first really major change to the technical make up of cars since the overall concept of the mass-produced motor car was chrystallised somewhere in the ‘Seventies. At the ICE side you see conservatism, at the BEV side you see a great uncertainty about the ideal shape in relation to brand identity, especially since the aerodynamically ideal shape is probably a Tesla.

    Of course, the Golf has gotten away with such conservatism since its inception, but the newest one does seem to indicate (quality or decontenting issues aside) that they’ve run out of ideas there, too.

  10. It’s a ‘no’ from me, I’m afraid – I expect that billions will be knocked off JLR’s share price as a result, so apologies in advance.

    It might just be the pictures, but it looks very tall; I think the ‘drooping moustache’ tail lights possibly exaggerate that impression, although I suspect they’re meant to mask it. It does look solid, though, (and heavy and inert).

    To be fair, I’m not a potential buyer of one of these and it’s the views of the target market that matter. It just all seems a bit 2012 / vodka bar / nail bar, somehow.

  11. I thought I might play around with the new Range Rover to see if I could come up with new front and rear ends that matched, but move away from the stepped grille and headlamps and the little ‘ears’ on the lights that have been a feature of the current model, but still keeping the inclined grille. I’ve also deleted the redundant styling feature on the front doors:


    I think that it’s now a bit bland and needs further refinement.

    1. Daniel, I like the front but I’m not so sure about the rear. The trouble is that Evoque inspired roof line – for me it will always resemble a Tonka toy that has been victim to a toddler’s temper tantrum.
      Like Charles, I’m not a potential buyer so should perhaps refrain from comment. A friend who restores cars for a living, however, spends much time traversing the country with his Range Rover crammed full of pieces of machinery and more often than not a complete vehicle on a trailer behind it. Accessing clients who live in challengingly remote places means that the RR is the ideal vehicle – especially if bought at 8 – 20 years old, by which time some lost soul with more money than sense has borne the depreciation. It will be interesting to see what the latest version’s market value will have sunk to by, say, 2030…..

    2. Hi Daniel, I had an amateurish crack as well, re-using the existing components to give it a simpler look and evoke the original’s headlamps-inside-the-grille look. I basically enlarged the new car’s grille and positioned simplified headlamps inside. The overall look seems a little less fussy, but the detailing would need a lot of work. As would the lower grille, probably.

    3. Your effort puts mine to shame, Tom. That’s much more plausible, and would work with the new tail too. Nice work!

  12. The new RR is a very large shopping centre on wheels. Loads of choice and lots of glitz, but you enjoy nothing about it.

  13. Hmmmm… I don’t know. For some reason, this car’s design – inside and out – doesn’t make me feel like selecting Rainbow’s “Tarot Woman”, turning it up and enjoying a spirited drive on a twisty mountain road. Instead, it makes me think it’d offer me a rich selection of royalty-free stock music in the “corporate” genre; music you typically find in PR videos that tell us how much Exxon cares about the environment, or Lockheed-Martin about world peace.

    For those unfamiliar with the genre, I’ll let Tantacrul explain:

    1. Very good video. It illustrates our ability to produce things without a creative process of any significance being involved; I suppose that’s justified to the extent that there’s equally no real reason for the objects in question to exist in the first place. It reminds me of the discussion about Lamborghini a few articles ago.

  14. Hello Daniel, your front-end changes bring the second and third generations of Range Rover to mind, for better or worse! Rendered in glass, your lights would probably give it better presence than your image suggests. Is your bumper from a different model? The insert of the one in the main article image reminds me of something, but I cannot think what. Perhaps a mix of Peugeot x07 styling and a VW T25 chrome-insert bumper?

    I had a quick look on the LR configurator and the entry colour seems to be solid white, by the way – at least on the cheapest versions. Although seven metallic colours are a no-cost option, including white. Or perhaps sir would prefer pearlescent white SV Bespoke Special Effect Paint for +£6240? You like that shade but prefer satin rather than gloss finish? Of course, that is +£8790.

    Light-colour interior fans will be pleased to know that there is a pale option in the UK. In fact the base car has five different colour schemes, all no-cost options. As with the paint, the interior can be had in brown.

    1. Good morning Tom. I actually cheated with this one and used someone else’s speculative rendering of the new RR (which already had the dummy vent on the door deleted) and grafted on new front and rear lights. To be honest, my heart wasn’t in this effort, hence the rather crude detailing on the front end. It won’t go down as one of my better efforts!

  15. There´s no question that McGovern has a very clear idea of what good design is. While a lot of interest is focused on the exterior, the interior deserves as much praise. The general consistency of the detailing and overall theme is remarkable. I´m not in the market for this kind of thing so I wish someone else might take note and strip out the fuss that is endemic in modern car interiors. Regarding the exterior, I find it striking, elegant and very well detailed. It carries over brand signifiers and also does something new – a very good approach for this class of vehicle. It´ll look good indefinitely. I might wonder what they´ll do next, it´s that good.

  16. I guess I’m missing the point, this new Range Rover is a absolutely stunning design in a class in which pompous ugliness seems the norm. (I like the Volvo XC90 though)

    1. You aren´t missing the point. It is an excellent bit of work. Please can we see this kind of rigour applied to more passenger cars.

    2. Dear Dustin

      I couldn’t agree more to your statement. And that is exactly why this will be my next automotive purchase.

      Whereby I would approach my view of Range Rover with caution. Because I have been what you would probably call a permanent addict since 1990.

      Much worse, not only have I always driven Range Rovers all these years, I’ve even kept a few of them to this day. This includes a 1999 P38a, probably the only one of its kind, which has just undergone an extensive restoration.

      Here, at the latest, you will probably remark, quite rightly, that this definitely no longer has anything to do with healthy mindedness.

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