MOTORING

Jez Spinks FINDS THE NEW VE­LAR TO BE AN IM­PRES­SIVELY STYLISH AD­DI­TION TO THE SMALL RANGE ROVER FAM­ILY.

Men's Style (Australia) - - Contents -

Range Rover Ve­lar, Kia Stinger and the fastest SUV in the world, the Jeep Track­hawk

Ve­lar – de­rived from the Latin word for ‘cover’ – was the name given to the 1969 pro­to­types that aimed to con­ceal de­vel­op­ment of the orig­i­nal Range Rover, though there’s no dis­guis­ing Land Rover’s 21st-cen­tury am­bi­tions.

Just one ‘Rangie’ ex­isted for 33 years un­til 2003; Ve­lar be­comes the fourth – slot­ting in be­tween the Evoque and Range Rover Sport that emerged, re­spec­tively, in 2011 and 2004.

It’s priced accordingly, start­ing from $71,550, where the Evoque kicks off in the $50K bracket and the Sport from $91,000.

Dither­ers beware, though: there’s a stag­ger­ing 40-odd vari­ants from which to choose, and your ac­count can be de­pleted by up to $135,562 (or $168,862 for the lim­ited-run P380 First Edi­tion we drove).

Like the Evoque, the Ve­lar – pro­nounced with the em­pha­sis on the sec­ond syl­la­ble – looks like a con­cept ve­hi­cle that’s mis­tak­enly been ap­proved for real-world use. Our First Edi­tion model even came with show­car-style, whee­larch-en­gulf­ing 22-inch wheels.

With its ris­ing waist­line and ta­per­ing glass area sand­wiched by over­hangs that are short up front but long at the rear, plus ul­tra-slim head­lights and tail-lights, the Ve­lar is pure vis­ual drama.

As is ac­cess. Press the key fob on ap­proach, and chunky, mo­torised doorhan­dles that were flush with the body­work de­ploy out­wards.

Climb into the First Edi­tion’s gor­geously sup­ple, per­fo­rated Wind­sor leather seats with ev­ery-which-way power ad­just­ment, com­plete with elec­tri­cally un­furl­ing un­der-thigh cush­ion, and the view isn’t as el­e­vated or as ex­pan­sive as you get in the taller-rid­ing, taller-win­dowed flag­ship Range Rover. Yet while you don’t get the same king-of-the-road sen­sa­tion, you are treated to an in­te­rior ooz­ing regal cool­ness.

Im­me­di­ately dis­tract­ing you from oo­dles of lush leather, squidgy plas­tics and soft ‘suede­cloth’ head­lin­ing is Land Rover’s new Touch Pro Duo sys­tem. Pos­si­bly the finest twin-screen ex­e­cu­tion we’ve en­coun­tered yet and stan­dard on all Ve­lars, it com­prises two, stacked 10-inch touch­screens that could eas­ily wear the fa­mous bit­ten-ap­ple logo. Like an iphone, the screens fea­ture swipe and pinch func­tion­al­ity, and re­spond suf­fi­ciently quickly like press­ing a smart­phone icon. The up­per screen – which tilts for­ward upon start-up – fo­cuses on in­fo­tain­ment, with the lower dis­play host­ing func­tions for cli­mate, seat heat­ing/ ven­ti­lat­ing/mas­sage (where in­cluded), Ter­rain Re­sponse ve­hi­cle modes, and other set­tings. Clev­erly, two phys­i­cal di­als on the lower con­sole sec­tion al­ter their graphic dis­plays in ac­cor­dance with the func­tions you’ve se­lected. Cli­mate fea­tures tra­di­tional temps, for ex­am­ple, or choose Ter­rain Re­sponse and you can cy­cle through var­i­ous driv­ing modes such as Dy­namic, Com­fort, and Gravel/mud/snow – de­pend­ing on your mood or the sur­face.

The Ve­lar has both the elec­tronic smarts and the ride height to han­dle some off-road ex­cur­sions, thereby ful­fill­ing the brief of any Land Rover de­spite its ob­vi­ous de­sign pri­or­i­ties – though this is a Range Rover that is more about driv­ing on coun­try roads than across coun­try es­tates.

This is the first Land Rover to be based on the ar­chi­tec­ture from sis­ter com­pany Jaguar, and it also shares driv­e­trains with its F-pace

The Ve­lar is pure vis­ual drama.

SUV twin – in­clud­ing an on-de­mand all-wheeldrive sys­tem rather than a full-time set-up, for which the com­pany is more renowned. Most of the en­gine’s torque is de­liv­ered to the rear wheels, with the front tyres given a greater share when­ever the ve­hi­cle’s com­puter de­ter­mines, within mil­lisec­onds, that trac­tion is about to wave the white flag.

De­spite engi­neer­ing com­mon­al­i­ties, the Ve­lar doesn’t feel as ag­ile or play­ful as its Bri­tish cousin, yet it knows how to nav­i­gate cor­ners with com­po­sure and grip. The but­tery smooth steer­ing also al­lows you to guide the mid-sized Rangie with ab­so­lute ac­cu­racy and plea­sure. And while you tend to be aware you’re pi­lot­ing a ve­hi­cle weigh­ing about 1,900 ki­los, strong, easyto-mod­u­late brakes pro­vide am­ple con­fi­dence.

That mass also ex­plains why the P380’s su­per­charged V6 needs some revs on board be­fore progress can be called “ef­fort­less”. The D300 twin-turbo V6 diesel with its su­pe­rior torque – 700Nm ver­sus the petrol’s 450Nm – would be tempt­ing for its greater low-rev pulling power and re­duced en­thu­si­asm for emp­ty­ing the Ve­lar’s tank as if fuel was go­ing out of fash­ion.

The P380 – part of a new range of Land Rover en­gine badges – suits the Ve­lar’s char­ac­ter, how­ever, and it’s quite the all-rounder with its abil­ity to pro­vide both mid-range grunt and some high-rev per­for­mance. An abil­ity to cover the 0-100km/h ground in 5.7 sec­onds isn’t mess­ing around. A broader rev range also makes more sense of the pad­dleshift levers, even if it’s a shame they’re the same plas­tic flip­pers from the F-pace rather than a tac­tile-feel­ing metal more be­fit­ting of the in­te­rior.

Or just leave the ex­cel­lent eight-speed au­to­matic to fig­ure things out it­self, as the gear­box pro­vides fluid and well-judged shifts whether driv­ing is spir­ited or relaxed.

Six-cylin­der Ve­lars come stan­dard with air sus­pen­sion where four-cylin­ders rest upon con­ven­tional steel springs. You could sense its un­der­ly­ing sup­ple­ness in our P380, though our First Edi­tion’s huge 22-inch wheels strug­gle to main­tain ride com­fort. There’s enough pro­tec­tion from pot­holes, though you ex­pect a Range Rover to be cos­set­ing. It’s likely smaller wheels, rang­ing from 19-inch to 21-inch across the S, SE and HSE trim grades, would help.

Pas­sen­gers who’ve also sat in an F-pace, though, will no­tice the Ve­lar’s de­sign has re­duced rear-seat legroom.

Yet if the Range Rover Ve­lar isn’t as hand­somely ex­e­cuted in ev­ery mea­sure, there’s enough sub­stance to show those stun­ning con­cep­tual looks are no friv­o­lous façade.

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