PERHAPS it’s apocryphal, but Richmond football club’s Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer is said to have hated local rivals Collingwood so much that he refused to watch black and white television. I’m guessing the man who broke the collarbones of 64 opponents probably wouldn’t have approved of the colour scheme of the newest resident of the Wheels garage, a Range Rover Velar P300 R-Dynamic SE.
Nicknamed ‘The Stormtrooper’ by the Land Rover press office, this particular example seemed like the departing Nathan Ponchard’s idea of a horrible joke. “Yeah, it’s white with 20-inch black alloys and a blue interior,” he enthused. I didn’t want to sound unappreciative of his efforts in securing my next long termer but, frankly, it sounded hideous. When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. I’d toyed with the idea of asking for smaller wheels and beefier mud and snow tyres, but I’ve since seen a Velar on 18s and they look ridiculous.
Car of the Year: Range Rover Velar: 2018 Car of the Year review
I’d also envisaged the blue interior being something like the shiny, overstuffed lounge in royal blue that I used to sit on while visiting my aunt, miserably pretending that I wasn’t repulsed by her inept baking. Instead it’s a technical finish on the dash and perforated leather with black suede and neutral stitching on the seats, nicely counterpointing the brutalist monochrome of the exterior. Chapeau, Ponch.
Most intriguing of all is the engine choice. That P300 designation means it’s a petrol engine that makes an honest 300PS (221kW) driving all four wheels, so if you’re that way inclined – and I am – it’s easy to imagine there’s something akin to a Lancer Evo or an Impreza STI lurking beneath, only driving through an auto ’box and lugging a bunch more weight. All of which sounds like a recipe for utterly catastrophic fuel economy, but the initial signs are good. Returning a little over 10 litres per 100km isn’t at all bad, and one of the very first trips I took in the Velar was a 150km shakedown on some of Victoria’s most horrific dirt roads, out through the snow to Woods Point, a community that seems to largely consist of people who never want to come under public scrutiny.
With the drive mode set to Grass/Gravel/Snow, the Velar softens the throttle response, speeds up gearshifts and sharpens the traction control to prevent tyre slip. This car also has the $940 Configurable Dynamics option which is a boon on road – this allows you to mix and match the steering, suspension, gearshift and engine characteristics between sporty and soft, something we’ll touch on next month.
It’s part of a fairly hefty sweep at the Land Rover options list that tacks just over $15,000 onto the asking price of $104,750. The fixed glass panoramic roof is the big ticket item at $3550, but it also seems a little rich to have to option adaptive cruise and AEB ($2850) onto a $100K+ car. Likewise paying an extra $850 will net you heated seats, albeit with 10-way adjustment and driver memory function. The excellent head-up display adds $2420, the black contrast roof sets you back $1260, the waterproof Activity Key that you can wear on your wrist is another $960, while a DAB+ radio costs $940. All Terrain Progress Control – almost like a low-speed off-road cruise control – is $850, the solar attenuating windscreen $560, and a pair of levers to flip down the rear seats from the luggage bay is $300.
The Velar’s in the garage for four months, during which time I’ll be able to get a handle on what’s worthwhile and what’s just window dressing. First impressions are good. I just need to figure out how to get those bright central screens to dim when – to use a Dyerism – “it’s as dark out there as the Black Hole of Dakota”. Any tips most welcomed.