Good for rugged and sophisticated terrain
Monday, 21 de November de 2016
While in Brazil, designer Ralph Gilles explains the creation of the Jeep Compass and the DNA behind the “rustic yet modern ” vehicle
Certainly little Ralph Gilles (pronounced “Jí-e”, from the French) did not believe his aunt when she promised him to send his passionate childhood drawings of cars to the legendary Lee Iacocca, the then director of Chrysler. But she also didn’t expect to get an answer: a letter praising the boy’s talents and the recommendation to four design schools.
Many years later, many courses later and an engineering degree under his belt, Gilles was hired by the same Chrysler Company in 1992, where he would work with the successful team that developed the 300C. An MBA from Michigan State University and several awards later, in 2015, he took over as head of global design for FCA.
A New Yorker, son of Haitian immigrants and raised in Canada, Gilles was in Brazil for the launching events of the Jeep Compass. We selected below some of the best moments of his speech – which reveal both the personality of the designer and the car he created. Note that the level of affinity between father and son is so evident that Gilles refers to the car as if it were about a person; and by the way, beautiful person.
The muscles of the Jeep Compass
“When you look at the timeless beauty of something like the SR-71, the famous Blackbird airplane, this is the idea of muscular shapes, elongated and tensed, right? But we did not want the car to be innocuous, just another car. So we decided to give it some very different modern touches”.
Brazil: rugged and sophisticated
“Every new designer entering the Jeep world must go through a special adventure in the ruggedest part of North America, Moab. On the other hand, we should not always be so obsessed with rough terrain. I would say that Brazil, even more so than the United States, has a phenomenal contrast from the rough to the sophisticated, from the rustic country to the sophisticated city. I saw this with my own eyes when visiting Rio de Janeiro and other parts of the country. And it’s exactly this duality that the Jeep has discovered in recent years”.
“Just as the Wrangler is the Renegade’s uncle, the Grand Cherokee is the father of the Compass. We looked at the sketches, while trying to find the personality of the new SUV and tested several things. We tried to find ways to combine the rustic, the futuristic and the glamorous and, from time to time, our attempts were completely wrong. There were drafts that even my boss Sergio Marchionne called ‘confusing’. And that’s certainly not something we could do to a Jeep. So, we went back to the drawing board and kept trying and trying until we arrived at the final design, the one I believe incorporates some very important DNA traces of the Jeep while reaching something new. And while developing this car we also began to see a very strong personality emerge, which is unique in itself.”
The most aerodynamic of all times
“Take for instance the roof. It’s the thinnest and the boldest roof we’ve ever made in a Jeep. This, together with the floor and shoulders of the vehicle, accentuates the car’s posture. In doing so, we ended up stumbling upon something interesting: we’ve created the most aerodynamic Jeep ever. It is the best in the CSUV category in the segment.”
“And one thing I noticed in the CSUV segment is that there are a lot of them out there. So we tried to give the Compass a sophisticated look, something special that would make it distinguishable. You already know what it is capable of doing, but you have never seen anything like it before. We arrived at it in a slightly different way, thinking of it as something that needed tailoring, as with fashion design. How could we give it a simple but a live and lasting look? We began with a high contrast look. The Renegade has a black roof and high contrasting body. We continued with this same idea in the Compass, but in ‘haute couture’ mode. There is a chrome stainless steel line that goes around the entire vehicle and ties the elements in a very beautiful way, making heads turn to contemplate it and think ‘wow, this is really cool!’. It is a beautiful element that works well either with the black roof or the monochromatic bodywork. We also dressed up the wheels, with a look of high contrast that matches the roof in a very sophisticated way.”
“We wanted to celebrate the eyes. This is the first time we have LED lights in this segment. We wanted to celebrate them because we felt that the eyes are an important part of the Compass’ personality. It has predator eyes. You know, those dark eyes. We spent extra time working on that bright black headlight to give the vehicle a rather determined look. Again, like no other out there. And we balanced that with LED taillights so that it would give it a nice homogenous feeling, front and back. And in general, even the reverse lights have many layers of detail. Most of the rear lights are somewhat flat and boring. But when you look at the compartments inside our lights, it just keeps getting deeper and deeper, making you look at it for a longer time, I hope.”
Beautiful inside and out
“The interior has the same duality as the exterior. On the left side we have the Wrangler/Renegade DNA, which gives it that rather rustic look. And then on the other side you see the sophistication of the Grand Cherokee and the Cherokee. When we drew the interior of the Compass, we decided to be right in the ‘middle of the road’. We wanted to balance this idea of functionality and luxury at the same time. On the gear shift we have the off-road controls, which are there to always remind you of what that car is capable of doing. At the bottom of the car we were able to get 770L of space! And that is before you recline the seats, which gives you the usefulness you expect in this segment. We also designed the interior and exterior to have as much flexibility as possible. In the end, we expect the result to be, I would say, a very attractive and comfortable place to do business as well as spend long hours. “
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