Up­stag­ing rest of the fam­ily

FIRST DRIVE/ Mo­tor News was one of the first pub­li­ca­tions to drive the im­mi­nent Range Rover Ve­lar on lo­cal soil, writes Lerato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

We have up to now shared var­i­ous nuggets of in­for­ma­tion as well as im­ages of the forth­com­ing Range Rover Ve­lar. We were also for­tu­nate in that one of our in­ter­na­tional cor­re­spon­dents, Damien Reid, gave you his first driv­ing im­pres­sion of the model at its in­ter­na­tional launch in Nor­way a few weeks ago.

How­ever, we are now happy to re­port that we have driven the model in SA prior to its of­fi­cial lo­cal in­tro­duc­tion touted for Oc­to­ber. Jaguar Land Rover SA (JLR SA) was, for the most part, clan­des­tine about what we were go­ing to drive at the SA Mo­tor­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence event, which took place at the Kyalami race­track this past week­end.

When we ar­rived at the event, we were told that there would be a sur­prise drive, but I never fath­omed that it would be the new Range Rover Ve­lar, par­tic­u­larly so soon af­ter its in­ter­na­tional in­tro­duc­tion.

When the veil came off the red spec­i­men I was ex­pect­ing the car to look good, but blimey, it’s gor­geous, par­tic­u­larly the in­te­rior, which shifts what we have come to know of the brand to the next level. More about that later, though, as I want to first re­cap the Range Rover hi­er­ar­chy and where the new Ve­lar fits into the grand scheme of things.

Kick­ing off the model range is the suc­cess­ful Range Rover Evoque, which has done won­ders for the brand and has made the pres­ti­gious Range Rover nomen­cla­ture more ac­ces­si­ble to a wider au­di­ence. Next in line is what you see here, the Ve­lar, which is said to plug the gap be­tween the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. At the top of the totem pole is the Range Rover big body, which still re­mains the king of the hill.

Ac­cord­ing to JLR SA, the ra­tio­nale to in­tro­duce the Ve­lar is to en­tice Evoque own­ers who are look­ing at some­thing slightly big­ger, but per­haps do not have the where­withal to ac­quire the Range Rover Sport. With a start­ing price of a R947,700, it man­ages to un­der­cut the re­cently launched Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, if only just.

At some 4,803mm in length and with a 2,874mm wheel­base and a 1,665mm height, the Ve­lar is quite a size­able car length­wise and has a roomier cabin than its model peck­ing or­der sug­gests.

It also shares much with its si­b­ling, the Jaguar F-Pace, in­clud­ing the plat­form and en­gines. The dif­fer­ences are in the small nu­ances. For in­stance, while the F-Pace is more road bi­ased and has sig­nif­i­cantly stiffer roll bars than the Ve­lar, the lat­ter shares its off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties with the rest of its Range Rover sib­lings, which means the Ter­rain Re­sponse 2 sys­tem, al­though it is a R16,700 op­tion.

While the range will be avail­able with both 2.0l turbo petrol and 2.0l turbo diesel vari­ants from its In­ge­nium en­gine fam­ily, we got to drive in the flag­ship 3.0l V6 su­per­charged (280kW and 460Nm) in R-Dy­namic HSE guise around the iconic race­track. Granted, while this may have been a bit of a mis­nomer to test a pre­mium SUV of this dis­po­si­tion, it none­the­less gave us a taste of what the model of­fers.

While the per­for­mance is great it is per­haps not its jewel in the crown nor its draw card. No, that ac­co­lade has to go to the way the thing looks — in­sert drop-dead gor­geous or any other su­perla­tive ad­jec­tive here and you’ll be on the money — and the cabin. The lat­ter takes what we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to and moves it up­wards. There are fewer but­tons adorn­ing the drop-down sec­tion of the fas­cia where a touch­screen now re­sides. It con­trols ev­ery­thing from the cli­mate con­trol to seat warm­ers. It gives the cabin a clean yet el­e­gant am­biance.

The in­fo­tain­ment screen as seen on the Dis­cov­ery and FPace still re­sides, but has been taken a step fur­ther in the Ve­lar as it comes with tilt func­tion to change the an­gle to suit var­i­ous driv­ing po­si­tions and com­pen­sate for am­bi­ent light­ing.

While driv­ing the model around the track was not ideal, it showed a vehicle with fairly long legs when asked to gal­lop, al­though there was some body lean in corners where the equiv­a­lent F-Pace feels more planted. Other than that, there is a com­men­su­rate feel of panache and tac­til­ity that would not be out of place in its big­ger Range Rover sib­lings. In fact, the Ve­lar cur­rently trumps the en­tire Range Rover port­fo­lio in terms of cabin ap­point­ments, but I have it on good ac­count the rest of the Range Rover of­fer­ings will also get the lat­est cabin lay­out.

Or­der books for the Ve­lar have been open since May with the first cus­tomers sched­uled to re­ceive their ve­hi­cles in midOc­to­ber. If you were plan­ning on or­der­ing the lat­est Dis­cov­ery, then you would do well to first take a look at the Ve­lar be­fore tak­ing the plunge.

If I were vot­ing with my wal­let be­tween the two Landys, the Ve­lar would win mine ev­ery time. A game-changer then? If first im­pres­sions are any­thing to go by, then I have no grounds to think other­wise.

IN FACT, THE VE­LAR CUR­RENTLY TRUMPS THE EN­TIRE RANGE ROVER PORT­FO­LIO IN TERMS OF CABIN AP­POINT­MENTS

The Range Rover Ve­lar is ex­tremely strong in the looks depart­ment. Above: The dual touch­screen for­mat alone puts the Ve­lar above any of its sib­lings.

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