WHAT IS IT?
Another premium-medium SUV slayer from the same crew responsible for last year’s Jaguar F-Pace. What that means is a shared D7A platform, aluminium panels, the same 2874mm wheelbase as an F-Pace and a near-identical drivetrain line-up to its Jag cousin. Except that the Velar errs more towards luxury than sports.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Having not attended the Velar’s northern-hemisphere launch, this is our first taste of the latest (and, in some areas, greatest) Range Rover, both on- and off-road. But it’s the Velar’s clean-edged styling and high-end interior that take precedence here.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Concept-car in look and almost hand-crafted in cabin feel, the vaunted Velar raises the game for a Range Rover model in terms of luxury and personalisation. It’s a very pleasant drive, too, proving easy to place, keen to hug corners, and reasonably comfortable to ride in if the air suspension’s set-up screen reads ‘Comfort’. It’s not as sporty as an F-Pace but the Velar blows its relative away in all the areas that will impact most in Double Bay and Toorak.
PLUS: Striking appearance; super-slick interior; highly configurable model range; strong drivetrains; capable handling
MINUS: Steering has accuracy, not feel; air-suspension ride a bit lumpy when not in Comfort mode; you need to love touchscreens
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IF THE hugely successful Evoque prepared a brand-obsessed world for a bitumen-based Range Rover, then no one will have a problem with the Velar. Styled just like a concept car and finished to an even higher standard than its larger, more expensive siblings, the Rangie Velar could be just what the Doctor orders in Australia’s blue-ribbon locales.
Sharing the Jaguar F-Pace’s D7A architecture and even its 2874mm wheelbase, the Velar delivers a counterpoint to its more overtly sporting British brother. Built alongside the F-Pace in Land Rover’s freshly fitted-out factory in Solihull, at 4803mm long, the Velar out-measures every SUV in its premium-medium category (and even has the biggest boot, at 558 litres), thereby delivering serious driveway presence for what appears to be a relatively modest $70,662 starting price.
That wad will buy you a base Velar P250 on 18-inch multi-spoke alloys wheels, packing JLR’s new 184kW/365Nm ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four. Head to the opposite end and you’ll need to stump up $168K for a ‘First Edition’ Velar wearing guard-filling 22s with either a 221kW/700Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel V6 (the D300) or a supercharged 280kW/450Nm 3.0-litre petrol V6 (the P380).
In between sits a refreshingly democratic, but ultimately fairly complex model line-up. Essentially, you start with either a Velar or a Velar R-Dynamic (with a more aggressive front bumper, bonnet scoops and in-vogue copper detailing), then move up the ladder. There’s familiar S, SE and HSE equipment levels, but the beauty with the Velar is, you could potentially have the full 5.7sec-to-100 snot of a P380 blown V6 in a boggo white Velar on standard standard-issue state plates ($93,462), or one of the four-pot diesels or petrols in fancy HSE guise with 21-inch wheels and the full glamour interior ($106,962 to $117,250).
Additional options are grouped in a series of packs – three for the standard Velar and a single Black Pack for the R-Dynamic ($2180) – yet there’s a bewildering (and also wonderful) 17 different wheel choices, including four 21- and four 22-inch options. That’s a veritable cache of concept-car-esque choices and not one of them is a munter.
Ditto Velar’s drivetrain line-up. We drove the D240 (with JLR’s new 177kW/500Nm twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel four), a D300 diesel V6 and a P380 supercharged petrol V6, though still to come is the base single-turbo-diesel D180 with 132kW/430Nm and both turbo-petrols, the gruntiest of which (the 221kW/400Nm P300) won’t get here until December.
Even the four-pot diesel is smooth and incredibly tractable, as happy lugging along at 1200rpm as it is kissing the four-five upshift point decisively selecting the next of eight ratios. There’s noticeable lag if you simply flatten the throttle off the line, though the D240 Velar is pleasantly responsive in general driving, as its claimed 7.3sec 0-100km/h time would suggest.
The twin-turbo D300 drops that time to 6.5sec and adds a considerable amount of additional urge. It has greater swagger to its fuller induction sound, too, though the performance honours obviously go to the supercharged petrol. With snappy gearing and an elastic power delivery, the P380 puts the Velar’s air-suspended chassis to best use, despite having to lug 1884kg.
Point the Velar P380’s quick and accurate, if rather feel-free, steering into a tight corner and its chassis instantly rises to the occasion. You can feel the added benefit of torque vectoring pivoting the Velar’s nose into a tighter arc, and there’s strong grip to be had, especially on the Pirelli Scorpion 265/40R22s of the largest wheel option.
Indeed, get the nose in, then give the Velar P380 some gas and, like its F-Pace relative, the blown Velar will drift its back end slightly, as a demonstration of this platform’s rear-drive bias. It’s a fun thing to hustle, which bodes well for the inevitable SVR version rumoured to follow in 2018, complete with a bent-eight under the bonnet.
Pity the Velar’s ride isn’t quite as accomplished. Only with the air suspension set to Comfort does it begin to cosset passengers properly (even wearing 22s). In Auto or Dynamic, the Velar rides much more firmly, though to the ultimate benefit of its overall agility. And with the air-sprung set-up, you can raise the Velar to offer 251mm of ground clearance, plus a 650mm wading depth. The coil-sprung four-cylinder versions offer 213mm and 600mm respectively.
There’s decent off-road ability here – certainly way more than the transverse-engined Evoque – though the Velar is no match for the big-daddy Range Rover when mountain climbing. But it does feature just about every trick in Land Rover’s off-roading goody bag, and should easily exceed almost every buyer’s expectation of it off road.
They’ll be more concerned with its beautiful interior, and 10 inches layer-upon-layer ‘Touch Pro Duo’ which fulfil multimedia requirements in the upper section and stuff like climate control in the gorgeous lower screen. It’s a high-end look for this screen-savvy era, prefiguring a look that is bound to permeate pricier Range Rovers in the not-too-distant future.
Despite being the lowest Range Rover to date, the Velar offers a pretty commanding driving position on comfortable and beautifully trimmed buckets, and while the rear bench is only really suitable for two adults, legroom (if not toe room) is competitive and vision ain’t bad. On some Velars we drove, the rear backrests could be electrically adjusted for rake.
So while the Velar may not have the most supportive rear seat in its class, or the strongest performance, or even the best ride, there’s something about this SUV that feels special. From door handles that pop out of the bodywork as you approach with a sensor key to aggressively slim Matrix Laser LED headlights on upper variants, the Velar has a level of high design that perfectly complements the sort of designer lifestyle to which so many people aspire.
That said, a white P380 on 18s has a taxi-pack appeal that could beautifully subvert the almost fanatical level of features and finish that the Range Rover Velar delivers.
Model: Range Rover Velar P380 First Edition
Engine: 2995cc V6, dohc, 24v, S/C
Max power: 280kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 450Nm @ 4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.7sec (claimed)
On sale: Now