There aren’t many Range Rover owners who would ever consider doing what we did with a Velar, but someone had to do it. Blame Cyril Klopper.
During the launch of the Velar, Land Rover’s marketing people claimed that it was just as capable as any other Range Rover. The motoring journos present on that day politely nodded their heads but they sniggered sceptically amongst one another. We recently tackled three 4x4 routes near Montagu, in the Cape (read all about it on p.44), to see if there was any merit to this assertion. Our test vehicle boasted a red metallic paint job and was kitted out with 20” Pirelli Scorpion Verde allseason tyres – not exactly perfect for off-roading. Fortunately the Velar’s air suspension afforded good ground clearance because we would need every millimetre of it... >
If you like the look of the Range Rover Velar, you’re in good company because the judges at the Festival Automobile International in Paris, France, awarded the Velar’s designer, Gerry McGowan, its highest honour: the Grand Prix du Design trophy. We’ve already praised the Velar’s appearance, both inside and out, in go! Drive & Camp #6, so we’re shifting our focus elsewhere.
Under the bonnet
Our test vehicle was powered by a 3 ℓ 90° V6 petrol engine with variable valve timing and twin superchargers. When you put pedal to the metal the exhaust roars like a Kgalagadi lion and the Velar takes off with a helluva speed. According to our own stopwatch it goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds (0.2 seconds faster than the official figure. You’re welcome, Land Rover) and the G-force display on the info screen shows that your body weighs twice as much under fast acceleration. The brochure claimed that our Velar topped out at 250 km/h, but we didn’t try it. (Just as well. You wouldn’t have been able to claim back your fine as a business expense. – Ed) This V6, the same engine found in a Jaguar F-Type, sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive employs software called Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) that can send 100% of the engine power to the front or rear axle or divide it into any percentage between the two axles.
How it drives
The Velar’s standard ride height of 213 mm is okay, but thanks to the air suspension you can hoist it up to 251 mm. It’s not as tall as a Patrol or a Cruiser, but it is sufficient for most 4x4 trails.
You can turn the traction control off if you want, but we highly recommend that you leave the Velar to its own devices.
Range Rover’s Terrain Response 2 is an improvement on the previous system and there are now sensors that monitor road conditions and automatically adjusts traction control, suspension, and power distribution. You can switch the traction control off if you like, but we highly recommend that you leave the Velar to its own devices. The software is truly excellent, and on the Tafelkop 4x4 trail (one of the routes where we tested the Velar) we could easily have lost one or more tyres if it wasn’t for the level-headed traction control that stubbornly refused to allow a single wheel to spin, even when we paused on a steep incline with jagged shale and then pulled off again.
Our Velar also came equipped with sensors in the wing mirrors that can apparently measure the depth of a river (there were no serious river crossings on our trip in which to test it). If the water ahead is deeper than the Velar’s fording depth of 650 mm, an alarm in the cabin will sound to warn you.
Another cool gadget is the heads-up display (HUD) projected on the inside of the windshield which shows the steering angle of the Velar’s front wheels. A video camera in the nose is angled downwards and reveals hidden obstacles on a touch screen display that you may not otherwise be able to see from behind the steering wheel. With the combined assistance of the HUD and the video camera you won’t require a buddy to stand in front of you and holler: “A little bit to the left, more to the left. Whoa, too far”.
We’re impressed. The Velar conquered every obstacle we attempted on the first try. Unfortunately the Velar didn’t return unscathed from the battlefield. As you may have guessed, the 20” all-season tyres bore the brunt of the damage. Sharp rocks rendered ugly gashes on the sidewalls, but thanks to the traction control they survived and it wasn’t necessary to haul the full-size spare wheel from the boot. The alloy rims of the Velar on test were not sunken below the sidewalls as you’d get on proper off-road wheels. They actually extend slightly beyond the rubber, which is why the spokes were also marred. We won’t even mention the formerly splendid paintwork...
To be fair: The Velar is not to blame for the hiccups. Gerry McGowan probably never imagined that anyone would use a Velar as a pukka off-roader. The Velar is mechanically capable of taking on rough conditions – it can go where you want it to, but should it?
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THE LAY OF THE LAND. The Velar’s touchscreens aren’t just there for your amusement. The information displayed on them is actually of value. The difference between the six driving modes is noticeable and you can feel it in the Velar’s performance and...
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PRICE P380 R-Dynamic HSE............R1 356 900