Richard Dredge of Autocar magazine has an excellent, comprehensive article on the first model produced by every key car manufacturer still in existence today. I especially like the streamlined design of the Saab 92, which remains elegant today.
Gerry McGovern is the chief designer of the Range Rover Velar, which in the opinion of yours truly is the most beautiful SUV in production today. His interview with Autocar offers some fascinating insights into the design process:
“Some people still think our job is to apply styling to an existing set of hard points. It was like that back in 2004, when I came back to Land Rover after my time with Lincoln in the US. Go away and make it look good, they’d say. But if you’re forced to do it that way, the horse has already bolted. Hard points define volumes and proportions, and together they’re the number one requisite for a great-looking vehicle. Get them wrong and it’ll never look any good, however good your details and surfaces. That’s why designers need to be involved in these decisions.” Everything changed, says McGovern, with Tata’s acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover for £1.3 billion in 2008. “There was lots of mumbling, both in Europe and India, about Tata buying us. Everyone asked the same question: what do they know? But then Mr [Ratan] Tata arrived and asked the killer question: why does design report to engineering? He’d trained as an architect, he loved cars and knew exactly what our job entailed. I won’t interfere, he told us, and no on else will. It’s your destiny and you control it.”
There's still a common misconception that design simply relates to how a car 'looks' on the inside and out. Design is a lot more thorough than that. It focuses on how a user interacts with their car. Everything from their reaction to the styling when they see the car at a first glance, to how they operate the air-conditioning controls, or to the feel of interior materials, are all interactive experiences that need to be designed. Design is a very holistic concept, and for a vehicle to have great design, close collaboration with engineers that will put the designer's vision on the road is key.
Steve Cropley, reporting for Autocar:
"Standing next to the new Stinger, the key facets of the layout become obvious: the long bonnet, the short front overhang, the low roof of a cabin pushed to the rear and, above all, the generous dash-to-axle dimension that clearly advertises the fact that there’s a potent north-south engine in there, driving either the rear wheels or, in some cases, all of them.
Even for this emotional car, Guillaume says, there were numerous areas where design restraint was needed, such as leaving out a rear hatch. “We wanted the fastback look,” he explains, “but not the extra structure and weight of a hatch”. Likewise, they decided against an active rear spoiler because of weight, complexity and the fact that it would have introduced an extra rear shutline. But the original concept’s vents behind the front wheels were kept (Guillaume calls them “breathers”), because they have a genuine function in reducing aero pressure in the wheel housings."
Excellent interview with Gregory Guillaume, Kia's European design chief.
Design is as much about choosing what to leave out as what to put in. The Kia Stinger is the most elegant Korean car ever made. I'm glad Kia left that gaudy gold interior on the drawing board, though.