IT’S BEEN almost seven years since Land Rover last introduced a fresh model line, with 2011’s Range Rover Evoque.
And much like that fashion-forward trendsetter, the arrival of the Range Rover Velar, which sits elegantly above the Evoque and below the iconic Range Rover Sport, ushers in a new era of glamour to the JLR line-up.
The Velar smugly side-eyes the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Jaguar F-Pace (while sitting on the latter’s aluminium-intensive D7A platform, and even sharing its wheelbase) and, wow, does this Brit do it with style.
Cue a futuristic, concept-like cabin featuring multi-hued and textured leathers, a clean and minimalist infotainment interface and supple seats that match the refinement of a ride you hear more than you feel. Flush, pop-out exterior door handles, jewellery-like garnishes of rose gold, and ethereal paint finishes continue the Velar’s upmarket impression on the outside.
But dig deeper, beneath the interior’s layers of leather and sparkling piano-black, and some dinky plastics await. This isn’t the holistic level of quality detail of a certain winning Swedish SUV.
The Velar’s back seats are roomy, can be flipped to turn it into a capacious cargo-hauler and it boasts the largest boot in its class, yet it hides its size well. But the question kept emerging: is the Velar’s splendour merely skin deep?
In the right spec, the Velar is dynamic and quick, namely the hyper-responsive P380 R-Dynamic with its thrusty supercharged petrol V6, but also the D300 twin-turbo diesel V6, which is 0.8sec adrift of the blown V6’s 5.7sec 0-100km/h claim.
When whipped around the challenging Lang Lang course, the Velar and its intuitive eight-speed automatic soared effortlessly; sailing over the cattle grid with poise, flexing its ability to deliver a well-controlled ride on standard adaptive dampers and air suspension (V6 versions) while performing capably in the emergency braking disciplines. But the Velar’s weight was exposed in the lane-change exercise as it was often unable to make the second turn without clipping cones, removing some sheen.
Starting with a bunch of core variants – base Velar, Velar S, SE and HSE – the line-up then forks into either sports or luxe lines, before expanding again with six drivetrain choices. Confused? Strap in. The base Velar starts at $70,662 and then begins burrowing into your wallet, depending on the options you desire. Ultimately, despite the admirable democracy in offering the blown V6 in entry-level spec, Land Rover’s beauty queen rejected COTY’s fine-toothed value comb – at least in comparison with Volvo’s rival XC60.
Land Rover is known for its extensive and costly extras, and the Velar takes that to 11. Need a parking pack? There are two. How about remote control for your Apple iWatch? Of course. Heated seats? Sure. And do you want driver memory with that? Ka-ching. Seat cooling costs extra, too. Does one need All-Terrain Progress Control and Terrain Response 2? Indeed, options even run to safety features such as blind-spot monitoring that are standard on many far more affordable cars.
The showroom X-factor of the Velar is out of this world, as is the power-boat driver appeal of both the supercharged P380 and the P300 diesel. There’s no doubt this new stunner is a glamorous, dynamic performer, but the glitzy aesthetic sheen can only keep the conversation away from its opportunist pricing for so long.
That fat bottom line proved enough to curtail the Velar’s COTY quest.
The Velar’s off-road credentials are essential, regardless of the fact that few buyers will ever test them, according to Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern.
The 61-year-old Brit likens it to a high-end waterproof watch.
“My phone tells the time perfectly,” McGovern explains. “But I still love wearing a watch that is waterproof to a depth of 200 metres. I’m never going to swim deeper than a metre or two, but the fact that it can do that is part of its credentials. It’s its story.”