Dynamic Elegance: 2018 Range Rover Velar
The Velar is a stylish entry in the overcrowded mid-size luxury SUV segment. Does it have what it takes to compete?
The new Range Rover Velar is an impressive vehicle.
Sitting in its very comfortable leather seats and taking in the classy cabin environs, one can truly appreciate the thought and vision the designers had when they were tasked with its creation.
It’s fresh and thoroughly modern and there’s not much else like it on the market.
It feels like a concept car interior that managed to make it into production before the bean counters were able to get their paws on it.
The floating centre console is dominated by two 10-inch screens that fade away when not in use; leaving behind a sleek and shiny monolithic panel. There are no knobs, switches or buttons of any kind; just two circular dials, that can switch between different functions, and a volume knob.
There is a religious approach to minimalism here that is seldom pulled off as well as Land Rover has managed. The ambience is luxurious and relaxing.
Small details delight throughout; the front cup holder is hidden under a black panel that swings open when you push the adjacent Land Rover Symbol. The seat leather perforations form the union jack and the ambient lighting is subtle and not garish as in some other cars. The metal, wood and leather come together gracefully. It’s all very elegant and very British.
The top screen tilts forward out of the dash and controls the audio, navigation and vehicle settings amongst other things. The bottom screen controls the climate, seat heating and massage and is also the command center for the standard Terrain Response system.
It can go anywhere, but will it?
If you’re at all familiar with current Land Rover products, Terrain Response is their nomenclature for the various driving modes that adapt the chassis, drivetrain and differentials in order to take on any type of terra firma that might come its way.
Apart from the comfort, dynamic and eco modes that work best on-road, there are mud/ruts, grass/gravel/snow and sand. Each selection adjusts the vehicle’s transmission, differentials, traction control systems, engine response and even ride height to aid forward progress.
There’s not much that can stand in the Velar’s way, but the biggest challenge it will likely face is finding a parking spot at Wal-Mart on Boxing Day.
Just the thought of knowing how capable it really is, is probably good enough for most of its intended demographic.
The visual feast continues on the outside; from its clamshell hood to the narrow headlights and recessed door handles that pop out at the touch of a button, this is a master class in design.
That same minimalist mantra from the inside applies here. Land Rover calls it reductionism.
Whatever it’s called, the look is spectacular. The angled A and D pillars give it that highly desired coupe-like profile. Think Range Rover with a squished down green house; but it actually doesn’t cut into the headroom like the BMW X6. I’m 6 feet tall and I found it quite comfortable behind the drivers seat, which was adjusted for me, so two 6 footers should have no problems sitting in tandem.
Where does Velar fit?
The Velar sits in between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport and has quite a large price spread depending on the engine and trim choices. Base models come with the frugal Ingenium 2 litre diesel and start at 62 grand while the top of the line R-Dynamic HSE P380, like our tester, with its 3 litre supercharged V6 tops the list at a lofty $82,600—and that’s before you add any options.
The one I was driving had nearly everything on it including massive 22” black wheels and the R-Dynamic Black Pack which has blacked out trim, mirror caps, vents and lettering; pretty much everything on it is painted a glossy black, making for a very sinister appearance. With all these options our tester came to a grand total of $96,000—so it helps if your pockets are deep.
The main competition will come from vehicles like the BMW X4 and Porsche Macan but with that large price range it can easily be cross-shopped with more expensive vehicles like BMW’s X5 and X6 and even the base Porsche Cayenne. Size wise it falls somewhere in between the X3 and X5
How does it drive?
If I had to sum it up in one word—spectacular. The Velar feels sporty but not overly so, like many products out there that favour Nurburgring lap times over ride quality.
There is a balance and poise to the way it moves and steers that can only come from an extensive knowledge of chassis tuning. The British are very good at this as their roads are twisty, bumpy and narrow and the Velar benefits from this greatly.
It handled the pock marked roads of downtown Toronto with ease. Only the sharpest of bumps filtered through and I can thank the enormous 22” wheels for that.
Stick with the 20 or 21-inch rims for an even better ride and, as an added bonus, some significant savings when it comes time for tire replacements.
The steering is always light but it’s accurate and transmits a nice amount of feel. The height adjustable air suspension can raise or lower the vehicle at the touch of a (virtual) button.
This is a vehicle that can wade in 2 feet of water but looks like it belongs on the Vegas strip.
The engine is a smooth operator with a hint of supercharger whine that makes it into the cabin when giving it some welly. It’s a nice noise but not something that will beg you to prod the go-pedal either. The supercharged 6 develops 380 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque and every bit of that power is needed to move this truck.
The Velar can get out of its own way pretty well but it does feel underpowered especially when compared to some of the competition. Even though this chassis is aluminum (shared with the F-Pace) it still tips the scales at a portly 4500lbs, a bit lighter than the 6 cylinder X5.
What are all those screens like?
To be clear there are three of them as this Velar was equipped with a virtual instrument cluster that works in conjunction with the other two screens.
They look brilliant, with sharp graphics and animations. JLR has had some responsiveness issues in the past and thankfully that’s no longer the case. The screens move between functions quickly and it’s all laid out in a logical manner, making things easy to find.
I didn’t need to resort to an instruction manual to figure anything out. The two dials, mainly used to control the cabin temperature, can also control the seat functions or switch between different terrain settings depending on the mode that it’s in.
You can have it configured to display everything you like on whichever screen you want at any time.
It’s all very cool but like most of these new infotainment systems today, they come with a layer of distracted driving, and the ones that are fully touchscreen like the system in the Velar tend to be bigger offenders than ones with mouse or rotary type controllers.
You have to take your eyes of the road to operate the rear window defroster or even the A/C, or pretty much any other function and it’s near impossible to do this without taking your attention away from the traffic around you, where it should be.
I did find myself missing a physical interface, but compared to some of the other touch screen systems on the market this is definitely one of the best.
What’s not so good?
This is not a very fuel-efficient SUV. The indicated 15 L per 100 km that I got during my week of testing was higher than I’ve seen in similar vehicles with more power.
There are some plastic-ky vents on the hood that really serve no purpose and detract from the otherwise flawless design.
The fully murdered look courtesy of the Santorini black paint, blacked out trim and black wheels might work on some vehicles but I found that it hid the lines of the Velar. A shame in my books.
One of the lighter shades with the black contrast roof would have made for a much stronger visual statement. This one is not really the car’s fault but more a product of my pickiness.
Would I buy it?
The Velar was one of those few vehicles that really left an impression on me. SUV’s aren’t really my jam, but there’s always a few that transcend the vehicle segment they are in.
For once I didn’t find myself missing a sportier drive or in need for better ride quality. Walking up to the car and retracting the hidden door handles provided a bit of theatre that I looked forward to every time.
The balance of the chassis, the feel of the steering, the way the suspension dropped to make getting in and out easier and that futuristic interior; all this added up to an experience that totally felt worth the lofty sticker price. So, yes, if it were my money (which doesn’t exist) I would most definitely sign on that dotted line.
2018 Range Rover Velar P380 R-Dynamic HSE
BODY STYLE: Mid-Size Luxury SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.0 Litre Supercharged V6; Power: 380hp @ 6500 rpm; Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 3500-5000
TRANSMISSION: ZF 8-speed Automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 558 litres (rear seats up) 1985 litres (rear seats folded)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 13.0/10.0/11.6 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $82,600(base) as tested $96,040
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