Range Rover Velar: the sweet spot

Photo credits: Francesco Carlo for Lovecars © 2018

The Range Rover Velar has been rumoured for years, I remember one of my clients referring to it as the Grand Evoque every time a new international auto show was coming up.

Last spring, the car was finally introduced to the public with its final name: Velar, just like the late 1960s car, a very elusive one.

Exterior

The Velar looks amazingly futuristic, it seems it has stepped off of a motor show stand.

My test car came in R-Dynamic HSE trim bringing 21-inch diamond-cut wheels, Santorini Black exterior paint, and full black accent pack.

The car is very menacing and imposing from the front thanks to the sport pack and the thin matrix LED headlights’ design; the silhouette is quite fast: the high beltline, the steeply-raked windscreen and the top-mounted rear spoiler make the car look more like a jacked-up 5-door sportscar than an SUV. The rear headlights extend horizontally and give the back a wider and lower appearance.

Surfaces are clean and levigated just like the finest of gems, and the magic door handles are a distinctive trait. Park the car close to any other current SUV and it would make those look like they belong to the 19th century.

Interior

If the concept-like exterior has already caught you, wait till you see what’s in store for the interior. Velar’s cabin is what really left people speechless, myself included, when they stepped in for the first time.

We still find Range Rover’s exquisite attention to details, the highest quality materials and refinement but enhanced by a state-of-the-art design and technology. The steering wheel is shaped beautifully and finished in suedecloth with a metal frame that goes all around it. It hosts most of the media controls, which are touch-sensitive and context-dependent. The dashboard is modern, clean and fully digital; drivers can customise it to their likings just like the head-up display. Top-mounted  air vents are slim and perfectly integrated in the piano black trim and 3D-textured fascia.

The center waterfall-styled console though is where you feel like you’re piloting something closely related to the Millennium Falcon. Up top there’s a massive 10-inch screen, which hosts the infotainment, many car settings like the ambient lighting, and the 360° parking camera and sensors. The lower one hosts the climate and massaging/heated/cooled seat controls (paired with two twist-and-push knobs) as well as all the different driving programs. When ignition’s turned off both screens are apparently edgeless and glossy-black; switch on and they come alive (tilt angle of the upper one can be adjusted).

Information’s offered by the screens can sometimes be redundant but when wisely configured displays present anything you’d want at a glance. Graphic is well executed, menus are easy to navigate, response times are quick and touchscreens are sensitive but not fidgety.  The only downside is that they show up finger-marks like crazy when turned off or the sun hits them with a certain angle.

Despite the raked windscreen and high beltline, there’s plenty of natural light coming into the cabin, when that isn’t enough the massive sunroof makes up for it.

Front seats are bulky but plush and exquisitely upholstered in suedecloth with perforated Union Jack pattern, they’re super comfortable, air-conditioned and offer 5-way massage.

Rear space is ok, maybe there isn’t the legroom you’d hope for but most adults sit comfortably, they also get ports, lights and climate controls. Storage is good with two cupholders behind the gearbox knob and one hidden by the Land Rover button. Space under the armrests is quite shallow but hosts many different types of ports; glovebox and door bins are reasonable.

Special mention goes to the awesome Meridian Surround System, the fact that both Jaguar and Land Rover use systems made by the English firm doesn’t come by surprise.

Specs

Under the bonnet, as the D240 badge suggests, there’s a 2.0L twin-turbo 4-cyinder diesel engine putting out 240hp and 500NM of torque. If performance is what interests you, those numbers are good for a 0-100 time in 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 217km/h. Like all the Ingenium engines, this 2-liter unit boasts advanced technology like sequential turbochargers and a high-pressure injection system that operates at 2.200 bar. The engine is mated to the highly-praised ZF 8-speed gearbox which guarantees low fuel consumption, seamless and intelligent gearshifts.

All of these mechanical goodies are combined with All Wheel Drive traction and the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD).

The IDD system defines the required distribution of torque by constantly monitoring the vehicle and its interaction with the road. Usually, distribution is 50:50 between the front and rear axle to offer maximum stability since the first turn of the wheels, however, the system can send up to 100% of the torque to the rear wheels – dry surfaces, maximum driving efficiency and agility – or the front wheels. There’s also Torque Vectoring by Braking which reduces understeer by applying braking forces to the inner wheels.

Driving Impressions

I’ve covered more than 6000km in the Velar. With everything set to normal/eco the car drives smoothly and comfortably; potholes and alike are swallowed by the adaptive suspension; the 21in wheels don’t affect the ride negatively. Road and wind noise are kept down, the gearbox knows exactly which gear is needed and the seats are so comfortable you realize you’ve come to destination only because the sat-nav reminds you that. Steering wheel is super light and accurate.

The engine offers enough thrust to pull the car out of any situation and in 8th gear at 130km/h stays below 1900rpms. It’s quite efficient too: with a full 60L tank I managed to cover almost 700km with an average of 6,6 litres per 100km; not bad for a car that despite the vast use of aluminium still weighs almost 2 tons.

If you are in a hurry, Dynamic mode tightens the dampers, sharpens the throttle, lowers the body, changes the dials to a more aggressive graphic and sets ambient lighting to red. Consequently, the car feels a bit more alive and responsive allowing the driver to tackle corners a tad more spiritedly; but bear in mind the Velar is no Porsche Macan, it still is an SUV voted to comfort.

Besides the normal and sporty modes, via the massive lower touchscreen you can choose various off-road programs that change ride height, powertrain calibration, and traction thresholds of intervention depending on the type of ground you’re on.

Verdict

As anticipated in the title of this review, I think the Range Rover Velar is the sweet spot in the English manufacturer’s lineup. It’s roomy enough for a family, not so big to feel out of place in cities and capable of some off-road digressions. It is one of the coolest SUV’s on the market and one of the most comfortable too, with a beautifully executed interior that won’t feel outdated anytime soon. At the wheel it’s all about wafting along with serenity, pampered by all the gimmicky features, enjoying the journey.

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Francesco Carlo

Automotive photographer based in Florence. If he's not behind the camera, you'll find him on a roadtrip at the wheel of a supercar or reviewing the next one.