Range Rover Ve­lar

Driv­ing a piece of mod­ern art

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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.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 EN­GINE TORQUE POWER PRICE 2-litre 370Nm 241bhp 52.1 lakh

Audi Q7 40 TFSI EN­GINE TORQUE POWER PRICE 2-litre 370Nm 248bhp 78.1 lakh

Sim­ran Ras­togi Se­nior Cor­re­spon­dent sim­ran.ras­togi@in­to­day.com @run­sim­run

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

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