Good off road, bet­ter on road


Cell phone ser­vice is a dis­tant me­mory as we’re cov­er­ing the rear win­dow of the 2018 Range Rover Ve­lar with sand.

The road is a dusty trail carved into the hills near Pi­o­neer Town, Calif., and we have to ne­go­ti­ate rocks, ruts, sand, up­hills and down­hills.

Mean­while, Sir­ius XM’S Clas­sic Rewind is play­ing some­thing by The Who over the umpteen­speaker sound sys­tem while we get a hot stone mas­sage from the leather seats.

Con­tra­dic­tion? Just a lit­tle.

The Ve­lar is the cul­mi­na­tion of a con­cept in­tro­duced about five years ago, and it is, ac­cord­ing to ve­hi­cle engi­neer Mark Bur­niston, an en­try into some white space Land Rover iden­ti­fied in the mar­ket.

Land Rover, of course, is known for the ul­tra-lux­u­ri­ous, ul­tra-ca­pa­ble Range Rover and its si­b­ling Dis­cov­ery, two SUVS that can do more than their own­ers will ever ask them to. In short or­der, you can ex­pect to see the re­turn of the De­fender line, which is geared more to off road than lux­ury.

In the case of Ve­lar, it’s de­signed to ap­peal to those at­tracted to the Land Rover es­thetic but don’t want the size and don’t need quite the ca­pa­bil­ity of Disco or Range Rover. It fol­lows on the heels of the Evoque, it­self a Land Rover that’s more car than off-road beast, but Ve­lar is a bit larger, of­fer­ing in­creased cargo ca­pac­ity and in­creased pas­sen­ger space. All that said, how­ever, the Ve­lar is hardly a slouch on this at-times chal­leng­ing three-hour off-road ad­ven­ture about an hour north of Palm Springs.

Ter­rain Re­sponse, as in Disco and Range Rover, man­ages ve­hi­cle pa­ram­e­ters for a va­ri­ety of off-road sit­u­a­tions, from sand mode that lim­its wheel­spin on startup but al­lows it freely once mov­ing, to rock mode that locks the cen­tre and rear dif­fer­en­tials and rolls back the throt­tle re­sponse to make crawl­ing eas­ier.

Mean­while, the All-ter­rain Progress Con­trol — es­sen­tially cruise con­trol for off-road­ing — is keep­ing the car at a re­spon­si­ble pace: we don’t have to touch the throt­tle or brake, we only need to ad­just the speed up or down, in 1 / 10th of a mile-per-hour in­cre­ments, us­ing the cruise con­trol’s plus and mi­nus speed but­tons. It au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages the brakes when needed for go­ing down­hill.

When we need to slow down, two taps on the mi­nus but­ton — scrub­bing 2 / 10ths of a mileper-hour — feels like drop­ping an­chor. The tiny in­cre­ments seem in­signif­i­cant at first glance, but us­ing them shows the 1 / 10th in­cre­ment was care­fully cho­sen.

The op­tional air sus­pen­sion, when needed, adds two inches of ground clear­ance — to nearly 10 inches — though we did most of this road at the nor­mal height.

Yet, as good as the Ve­lar is of­froad, it’s even bet­ter on the road. Rare is the SUV pro­gram that takes you down twisty moun­tain roads more suited for sports cars than sport util­i­ties, but on the way to and from the off-road por­tion, we’re carv­ing through switch­backs as though we were in a Jaguar in­stead of a Land Rover.

The San Bernardino Na­tional For­est and Mount San Jac­into Na­tional Park of­fer some amaz­ing, twisty tar­mac.

The han­dling was out­stand­ing, with nicely weighted steer­ing, good feed­back, in­stant steer­ing re­sponse and min­i­mal body roll.

There is lit­tle co­in­ci­dence on the choice of our base camp for this jour­ney, the L’hori­zon Re­sort and Spa in Palm Springs. Land Rover de­sign chief Gerry Mcgovern draws on the ar­chi­tec­ture of this So­cal hotspot for his de­signs, which he calls mod­ern, re­duc­tive and lack­ing or­na­men­ta­tion.

Many of the homes around here fol­low that mantra, us­ing crisp lines, sim­ple colour pal­ettes, scale and pro­por­tion to cre­ate sim­ple el­e­gance. Mcgovern car­ried that over to Ve­lar, with a long pro­file, low roofline and sim­ple lines.

Pro­por­tion does the heavy lift­ing here, with short over­hangs, a long wheel­base and a green­house sized just right for the body be­low.

The name Ve­lar has an in­ter­est­ing tale. Mcgovern showed us a slide of an orig­i­nal Land Rover pro­to­type from 1969, when the com­pany was start­ing its jour­ney from merely pro­duc­ing of­froad ve­hi­cles to pro­duc­ing lux­ury sport util­i­ties.

En­gi­neers didn’t feel a need to dis­guise the pro­to­type for on­road test­ing, but had to give it a name that didn’t iden­tify it as a Land Rover. They chose Ve­lar.

One story con­cocted about the name holds that ve­lar is from Latin and means to cover, as with a veil.

“But the re­al­ity is these were the only let­ters the en­gi­neers had on hand,” Mcgovern said.

Three en­gines will be avail­able in the Ve­lar glob­ally, but for the first year at least, Canada will get only two: a 3.0-litre su­per­charged V-6 and a 2.0-litre tur­bocharged diesel. Steve Larocque, prod­uct plan­ning man­ager for Land Rover Canada, said he es­ti­mates the V-6 to be the vol­ume seller and the diesel to be pop­u­lar for its fuel econ­omy. A 2.0-litre turbo gas eng­ine is ex­pected to be of­fered for the 2019 model year.

The diesel at $62,000 is the en­try price for now.


The 2018 Range Rover Ve­lar is de­signed to ap­peal to those at­tracted to the Land Rover es­thetic but don’t want the size and don’t need quite the ca­pa­bil­ity of Disco or Range Rover.

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