As groundbreaking as that original Velar proved to be, or a cynical attempt to get more people into SUVs?
You’ll likely have read about the Range Rover Velar already; it’s been hard not to given the amount of British press coverage. So you may already know what you need to – rendering this review obsolete – but, just in case you don’t, we’d still like to contribute something to the simmering stew of stories. If only because you’re likely to be seeing a great deal more of this car.
Land Rover describes the Velar as occupying the ‘white space’ between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. The Land Rover Discovery, you say? Clearly that doesn’t count. Probably too practical. So while there may be a gap between the Evoque and Sport, the unspoken message still seems clear: the buying public cannot get enough SUVs, and Land Rover is going to provide as many as possible.
Therefore, on top of the seven trim levels, buyers can choose between a four-cylinder petrol, two four-cylinder diesels, a V6 diesel and two V6 petrol engines. Yes, there are 32 different Velar models to buy right now, plus the usual host of options. If you want a Velar (short of a V8, of course), then Range Rover probably has it available.
No business like showroom business.
Thing is, you can’t imagine prospective buyers taking much convincing once they’re in the dealership. Claims like ‘compelling, stand-out design’, ‘powerful, taut surfaces’ and ‘stunning silhouette’ should always be treated with a degree of cynicism, but the Velar really is quite an attractive car. There’s a hint of Peugeot 3008 to the rear lights, yes, and it’s hardly radically different from existing Range Rover products. But with a very short front overhang, long wheelbase and some nice details, there’s no denying the Velar’s presence. This look has worked very well for quite a while now – why mess with it?
The inside is even better. ‘Touch Pro Duo’ makes its debut in the Velar, consigning nearly all features previously operated by buttons to a pair of 10-inch touchscreens. And you know what? It appears to work really, really well. It’s quick, intuitive and responds swiftly to touch gestures – it’s just the kind of selling point to bring more people in. There’s substance to back up the style basically, at least on this experience.
Once out of the showroom however, the Velar isn’t initially all that impressive to be honest. Partly this will be due to Norway’s fairly ordinary roads (with extraordinary views), but partly it will be spec dependent too.
The first model driven is an £85K, supercharged V6 First Edition and, well, let’s say it’s not the pick of the range. That 3.0-litre engine is fine, though neither particularly torquey or especially fast. With peak power coming at 6,500rpm you need to push it for performance, and perhaps even use the Dynamic mode, where the Velar doesn’t feel especially comfortable, for the full effect.
That’s both figurative and literal too, as the Velar Launch Edition doesn’t really deliver on the “outstanding ride comfort and refinement’ claim. Why? 22-inch wheels. It’s just too agitated for a Range Rover, not quite harsh over bumps but not as isolated as you might want either. There’s more compliance at speed, yes, though low-speed driving – such as you might do around town – becomes irksome.
Fortunately the situation improves markedly with the diesel Velar. Its easily accessible torque suits the car’s more relaxed gait better, as does the fitment of 21-inch wheels. The diesel feels to have more of that Jaguar Land Rover flow that has proved so appealing over the past few years, despite the heavier mass up front. Bumps are absorbed and smothered better than in the petrol, progress is more serene and the whole experience more enjoyable. The steering is nicely geared – the Range Rover Sport is probably still better though – the gearbox intelligent and the refinement fantastic.
For a car to cover great distance in, on any kind of road, a diesel Velar would surely be very nice indeed. Well, mostly. See if you’re covering a large distance you’re probably going to have a lot of stuff, perhaps even a couple of other people too if you’re lucky. And a Velar simply isn’t all that big. Those over six foot will struggle to sit behind front seat occupants of a similar height, which seems bizarre in a car so large. The boot is big at 632 litres (or 558 with a spare wheel), but why not give the humans a bit more space?
What might impress your slightly squashed passengers though is the Velar’s off-road ability, because it really is very impressive if you dare risk your 21s (or 22s) away from tarmac. Terrain Response is standard – Terrain Response 2, with the ‘auto’ setting, is standard on Launch Editions and optional on all others – so the driver has very little to worry about. With All-Surface Progress Control as well, they only really have to steer. What’s surprising are the inclines, declines and terrains that something so ostensibly road focused can deal with. Land Rover had of course recce’d the route, though at no point during some mildly arduous off-roading did the Velar even appear to be struggling.
It’s intended as a compliment to the rest of the Range Rover line-up that the Velar feels merely quite good rather than truly groundbreaking.
Cars like the Evoque and second generation Range Rover Sport genuinely felt like new and original takes on the SUV format. Whereas the Velar feels more like a combination of their existing – though very desirable – traits, rather than something really innovative and fresh. This makes it an accomplished and likeable vehicle, if seemingly less significant in the Range Rover story than that name suggested it might be. You’ll see plenty of them, and it deserves to succeed, but the Velar doesn’t immediately feel like the class leader it might have been.
RANGE ROVER VELAR D300 R-DYNAMIC HSE
Engine: 2,993cc, twin-turbo V6 diesel
Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@1,500-1,750rpm
Top speed: 150mph
MPG: 44.1 (NEDC combined)
Price: £70,530 (Velar S £57,670, SE £61,610, HSE £68,110, R-Dynamic S £60,090, R-Dynamic SE £64,030, R-Dynamic HSE £70,530 and First Edition £83,350)
RANGE ROVER VELAR P380 FIRST EDITION
Engine: 2,995cc, twin-turbo V6 petrol
Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 380@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@3,500-5,000rpm
Top speed: 155mph
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
Price: £85,450 (HSE £70,210, R-Dynamic HSE £72,630 and First Edition £85,450)