Range Rover Velar
Driving a piece of modern art
Veil. Hide. Keep a secret. That’s what the Velar’s name means, derived from the latin word ‘velare’. It’s also what Land Rover engineers called their top secret Range Rover prototype, back in 1969. That two-door off-roader, a big departure from the boxy Land Rover Series 2, simply bore a ‘VELAR’ badge to throw people off its scent. The next year the Range Rover brand was officially revealed.
Now, almost 50 years later the Velar takes another leap of design for the company. Land Rover’s design chief, Gerry McGovern, calls it reductionism. Looking at the Velar, you notice that there isn’t a line or crease or curve that doesn’t absolutely have to be there. And as a result, the design is pure, clean and all the better for it. Like several cars these days, the Velar has a rising belt line. But there’s nothing else that gets it so right. The roof drops down towards the rear
of the car to create a glasshouse of decreasing visual weight. The designers have also, quite cleverly, made the bottoms of the doors fall away inwards. The plastic running boards also contribute towards making the doors seem less substantive. The doors themselves have flush door handles that pop out when you unlock the car. Something as simple as the rear wiper is hidden away under a functional roof spoiler, the first time we’ve ever seen one on an SUV.
The Standard Velar comes with 19-inch wheels wearing high profile rubber. Up to 20-inch wheels are available from the show- room. We would gladly trade some of the off-road ability for the better looks of larger wheels. As such, the standard Velar has 213mm of ground clearance and can safely wade through water almost 2-feet deep, or a pond that’s perhaps a little over knee-deep for most people.
Overall, the design is deeply glamorous and sophisticated. When you see one stop by the side of the road, you almost expect a celebrity to walk out. It’s got that much drama to it. That drama continues inside. The cabin is minimalistic, the leather is textured and the wood has real grain to it. Two 10-inch touchscreens, called Touch Pro Duo, take centre stage replacing a traditional central tunnel and instrumentation. Between these and the IP screen behind the steering wheel, you can customise exactly what information you want and where. While Bluetooth is standard, it doesn’t feature Apple/Android connectivity and this is a big foresight. We do, however, like the fact that knobs can be set to control vital functions. This means you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to set the climate control, for example. Everything looks and feels expensive, with classy touches abound. Even the patterns on the speaker grilles replicate the Union Jack.
Speaking of which, the Meridian sound system is excellent and immersive. The SE variant we had came with 17 speakers and an expansive panoramic sunroof that gives the feeling of more space. This is important since the Velar is pretty much a four-seater. And knee room at the back is either adequate or could perhaps be uncomfortable for those who are over 6 feet tall.
The Velar is available in India with a 2-litre diesel, a 3-litre V6 diesel and a 2-litre petrol in two states of tune. We’re driving the P250, the one with lower power figures. As such with 247bhp and 365Nm torque, Range Rover claims a 0-100kmph time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 230kmph. This 1.8 ton SUV certainly feels as quick as that when you really put your foot down. Even under normal driving, there’s a great amount of torque available from down low, peaking at an almost-just-off-idle 1,500rpm in fact. The eight-speed automatic might be a regular torque converter but it only feels like one when it displays reluctance to give you the multiple downshifts you asked for.
If you want manual control via the paddleshifters, you will have to lock the gearbox into S mode, which also holds gears for longer than I would like. Left to its own devices in the normal D mode, it does a pretty good job. That being said, for spirited driving, the Dynamic driving mode does help. It sharpens the steering, quickens gearshifts and
firms up damping of the active suspension.
The model with the diesel V6 engine gets air suspension as standard, while other models make do with steel springs and variable damping. The steel springs do a great job of ironing out road imperfections, though there is some amount of lateral movement, when executing overtakes for example. Land Rover’s Terrain Response system also offers tailored driving modes for off-roading. For example, in the Sand mode, the car softens throttle response so that the tyres don’t spin excessively on the loose surface. We did get a chance to try it out and for a SUV without a dedicated low-range gearbox, the Velar managed fine, loose sand very well.
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1. 558 litres of space with seats up, or 1,731l with them folded. 2. Slots in spoiler said to reduce how dirty the rear windscreen gets, in addition to providing downforce. 3. More drama, with door handles that pop out when car is unlocked