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