I DIDN’T really get a firm date to return the Velar to Land Rover, but the guilt of just keeping hold of it hoping the press office wouldn’t notice got to me surprisingly quickly.
After sending a breezy email asking if I could keep it over Christmas, my plans were shot down in flames by the somewhat brutal response that it was due at a car auction in four days. That didn’t leave a whole lot of negotiating room. Still, my loss is set to be some bidder’s gain, because its first 10,000km have run it in rather nicely.
As much as I admired the Velar, the relationship never really blossomed any further. Perhaps it was the constant niggling screen freezes or the minor annoyances like having to wait for the screens to wake up before being able to select my custom drive mode, kill the idle stop and then navigate to the climate display every time I started the car. As the weather’s warmed up here in Melbourne, the gauzy sun blind feels a little superficial and the air conditioning can be a bit slow on the uptake. Couple that with a chrome bezel that runs around the rim of the steering wheel that has you wishing you’d packed oven gloves at times.
Much of these grumbles get burnished away to background chatter when you pause to look at the Velar. It’s undeniably got presence and enough character to allow you to forgive it its quirks. It was the perfect companion to indulge my wildlife photography hobby, taking me on plenty of dirt roads into the wilder parts of Victoria. Although the ride quality of the Velar is never quite as syrupy as you’d expect from a big SUV on air springs, it earns a lot of credit on account of its off-road ability.
Car of the Year: Range Rover Velar: 2018 Car of the Year review
The Velar has negotiated soft sand in the Little Desert, deep snow up on Mt Matlock and axle-deep flood water. The most satisfying part of these trips was when the inevitable bearded sprout in a high-lift, balloon-tyred LandCruiser gesticulated wildly to indicate that your vehicle was inadequate for what was ahead. It wasn’t. Ever.
The positive side of the ledger nevertheless outranked the niggles. I loved the sat-nav’s uncanny ability to know your destination (no matter how obscure), the concise and clear head-up display, and the indestructible feel of the cabin materials. The Ingenium four-cylinder engine delivered a surprising turn of pace when prodded, the powerplant loosening up and returning better economy with every tankful.
Over four months, I averaged 9.5L/100km in the 221kW Velar, which is exactly the same as we managed in a 121kW Peugeot 3008 weighing half a tonne less. True, I did more freeway miles, but that’s still a credible showing.
Having run it for four months, I’m a little torn as to whether I’d recommend the Velar to a friend. It’s undoubtedly striking and delivers a sense of occasion that, in some ways, justifies that price tag. Until sales in China recently nose-dived, the Velar’s global popularity spoke volumes. But what separates a great car from a merely good one is the last couple of percent of polish, and that’s where the Velar sometimes came up a little short. As enjoyable as the past four months have been, I won’t be wielding a bidding paddle when DXM-51B rolls onto the auction block.