Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

Thundering luxury SUV escapes the razor gang

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

The Range Rover Velar almost didn’t make it. With Jaguar-Land Rover haemorrhaging money, it took a hatchet to its Special Vehicle Operations, canning the mega-bucks Range Rover SV Coupe and brutish Land Rover Discovery SVX. Whether because of greater volumes or simply its development had reached the point of no return, the hot Velar escaped the purge, and we’re glad it did.

It’s difficult to think of a mechanical contraption that JLR’s thumping 405kW/680Nm 5.0-litre supercharged V8 wouldn’t improve, and in general the Velar is no exception.

It’s a thirsty beast, though. Range Rover’s press release boasts: “The 82-litre fuel tank promises a genuine range in excess of 483km”; when you’re spruiking fuel consumption of 17L/100km you know it likes a drink, but at least that’s more realistic than the official claim of 11.8L/100km.

It’s not an engine that lends itself to economical driving, as each depression of the accelerator dips into the deep, syrupy well of torque to lift the nose and unleash a noise like a bear having a prostate examination. Every gap in traffic becomes an opportunity to create a din, and out on the open road the rate of sustained acceleration is borderline unsettling.

To be honest, the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography’s engine vastly overpowers its chassis. Pirelli Scorpion all-season tyres measuring 265/45 at both ends will be worth their weight in gold when you hit the ski slopes, but struggle to contain 550 raging horses. They begin to protest early, and if you’re driving the Velar SV with enthusiasm it’s important that your first input is the correct one, as there is rarely enough control for you to change your mind.

The soft suspension results in significant pitch and roll, despite our test car being optioned with Dynamic Mode – a snip at $430. Trail-braking promotes entry oversteer, which the rear-biased all-wheel drive system (with electronically controlled rear limited-slip diff) exacerbates once the throttle is applied. No such shenanigans are possible with the conservative ESP engaged, but while it can’t be switched off completely, it does tend to go all Scott Morrison, heading on vacation in a crisis until the you-know-what really hits the fan. The brakes struggle too, feeling the strain of arresting 2160kg.

It’s a wild ride on tarmac, yet venture onto an unsealed surface – this is a Range Rover after all and still possesses the full gamut of off-road technology – and it morphs into a giant. The adjustable chassis and clever all-wheel drive system allow the Velar SV to essentially be steered with the pedals alone, while those all-season tyres start to make sense.

In Range Rover’s defence, despite fitment of the monster engine, the Velar is intended to prioritise luxury over performance, which is the preserve of the more focused SVR models. Plusher ride quality than most of its rivals improves the Velar’s case as a day-to-day proposition and a special effort has been made on the interior. The 20-way adjustable front seats have heating, cooling and massage functions and are covered in fancy leather.

On the outside the Range Rover badging has been enhanced, there’s a new bumper to improve airflow, bespoke grille and gaping quad trapezoidal exhausts. The all-black spec of our test car doesn’t flatter the Velar; “the world’s most beautiful mid-size SUV” (Range Rover’s words, not ours) benefits from a lighter colour and perhaps the optional 22-inch rims for maximum wow factor.

At $176,312 the SVAutobiography sits almost $50K clear of the next rung on the Velar ladder, the P380 R-Dynamic, but the last P380 we drove cost more than $160K as-tested. In contrast, our lightly optioned Velar SV is priced at $181,325 as-tested and didn’t lack anything obvious.

If this all sounds rather appealing, you’ll have to be quick – Australian orders close in April, as the Velar SVAutobiography is only being produced for 12 months. Then again, we’re lucky it made it at all.

Engine: 5000cc V8, DOHV, 32v, supercharged
Power: 405kW @ 6000-6500rpm   
Torque: 680Nm @ 2500-5500rpm
Weight: 2175kg    
0-100km/h:  4.5sec
Price: $176,412 ($181,325 as tested)

Likes:  Swish interior; decent ride; a riot on loose surfaces; monster grunt
Dislikes: Lacks handling precision; brakes and tyres underdone; hugely thirsty

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Second Opinion: Wheels review

A Velar for those who want their SUV with space, pace and bass

By Trent Giunco

Overall Rating

5 0 5

Plus & Minus

  1. Plus Epic straight-line pace; addictive soundtrack; plush cabin

  2. Minus Fuel economy when pushed; soft dynamics; soon to be decommissioned

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

The Wheels Verdict: Performance-orientated SUVs are fickle. Some are better than others, but just about all of them are inherently flawed because of their weight and high centre of gravity. The Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography isn’t immune to this. However, its hulking V8 is endowed with so much power it almost has its own gravitational pull. Matched with a high-class interior, it’s hard not to adore the brash Rangie when reason tells you that you probably shouldn’t.

What is the Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition?

In layman’s terms, the SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition is the really fast one. The 5000cc supercharged V8 backs up this assertion with 405kW/680Nm, channelled to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto. The starting price is $176,412 but our as-tested price comes to $181,325. That’s thanks to the inclusion of the $2223 Driver Assist Pack (360-degree camera and adaptive cruise with steering assist), privacy glass ($890), ambient interior lighting ($540), grand black veneer ($530), Terrain Response 2 with Dynamic Program ($430) and remote release rear seats ($300).

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

Why we’re testing it

You don’t need 405kW in a two-tonne-plus SUV, much as you don’t ever really need a 15-course degustation meal. However, sometimes it’s nice to indulge in a little excess. And the Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition is just that – a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 serving of prime beef and caviar. It’d be a shame not to tell you what it’s like.

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Review

I’m being forced into the back of the seat and all I can see is sky. Luckily the steering wheel offers a point of purchase as all four tyres savage the tarmac, delivering unrelenting traction. There is a maniacal sound permeating the cabin as the road ahead is fast becoming fodder for the rear-vision mirror. Launching the Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography isn’t just a feast for the senses – it’s physical. That’s what an angry 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 405kW and 680Nm can do to a luxury SUV.

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

There’s something rather naughty about liking the go-fast Velar. After all, it’s a two-tonne-plus luxury SUV with a price tag pushing north of $175K. Consider the fact its inner sanctum is also coated in cow hide while the bent eight has an almost unquenchable thirst, and you start to uncover a theme of excess. However, who doesn’t like to indulge?

It’s hard not to be taken by the sheer grunt underfoot. The claimed 0-100km/h time is 4.5 seconds, but it almost feels faster than that. Once in its stride, the Velar gains momentum at a rapid rate. Keep your right foot buried too long and some very un-SUV figures easily crop up onto the digital instrument cluster. Land Rover’s quoted top speed of 276km/h is proof that the Velar doesn’t lose its head of steam easily. Although don’t expect to get anywhere near its 12.3L/100km economy claim while doing so. It sounds the business, too, with a burly and boisterous soundtrack that has enough theatrics to satisfy the most hardened V8 fan. Aural character is not left wanting.

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

The SV Autobiography doesn’t waste any of the grunt, either. With 21-inch alloys wrapped in 265/45 Pirelli Scorpion tyres and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, finding grip isn’t an issue – until it is. Despite being a 2160kg SUV, the hotted-up Velar’s rear axle can be provoked into somewhat lurid yaw movements before and after an apex, with the electronically controlled rear LSD proving its worth. However, enter a corner too hot and it can fall into understeer. Swift progress is all about managing weight transfer, easing smoothly into the pitch and roll characteristics of the thing.

The softer setup, despite being equipped with sports air suspension, is appreciated in terms of ride quality. Relax the damping (all the key driving parameters can be tailored via the adaptive dynamics screen) and the Velar verges on plush, which pairs well with the quiet cabin. The downside is a loss of body control when hustling. You also have to be mindful of brake temperatures and the fact that the steering isn’t the final word on feedback. The eight-speed torque-converter auto does a decent job of both the fast-paced and cruising tempos.

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

The latter is, despite all the performance readily available, where the Velar is going to boogie most of the time. And, like a Range Rover should, it nails overindulgence. From the Windsor leather seats (20-way adjustable up front with heating, cooling and massage functions) to dual touchscreen displays, the interior design has plenty of showroom appeal. What’s not quite so successful are  some of the ergonomics, with just about everything having to be controlled through the Touch Pro Duo system. It becomes easier with time, but there’s definitely a familiarisation period and it takes your eyes off the road. Being a range-topper it’s highly specified, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto featuring.

It’s important to remember that the Velar is a mid-size SUV. However, the interior is roomy if not overtly capacious. In the back, leg and headroom is generous – even with the panoramic glass roof – while the rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 fashion for extra practicality. Raise the power tailgate and the 673-litre boot can swallow heaps of cargo, or fold the rear pews for a total of 1705 litres of space.

Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography review

The interesting thing is, when you consider what your $176,412 affords you, the SV-fettled Velar can be seen to present a modicum of value. I’ll pause while the comments section explodes… However, with the level of performance at hand and its explicitly luxurious nature, one could feasibly expect the sticker to start with a two, not a one. Although with the ferocious neck-kinking grunt of this Rangie, leaving some cash aside for Deep Heat is very much advised.

The Rivals

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q; BMW X3M;  Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S; Porsche Macan Turbo S

Price and Specs

Model: Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition
Engine: 5000cc V8, dohc, 32v, supercharger
Power: 405kW @ 6000-6500rpm
Torque: 680Nm @ 2500-5500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 2160kg
0-100km/h: 4.5sec
Economy: 12.3L/100km
Price: $176,412 ($181,325 as tested)
On sale: Now


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