The luxury suv is a taste of what the next 10 years holds for Land Rover. and on that basis, the road is clear and future bright
The future of the Range Rover brand looks like a motor show concept car – copper-coloured accents, recessed door handles, long bonnet and silhouette that resembles a shooting brake on stilts than a slab-sided SUV.
A high shoulder line, pinched greenhouse, low-ish seating position and steeply raked windscreen also conspire to lead one to believe that the Range Rover Velar isn’t so much an SUV in the Land Rover sense of the word as a (whisper it) crossover.
Even mechanically, it’s rather car-like. It rests on the same aluminium platform as the Jaguar F-Pace, an SUV admittedly, but its platform is in turn based on that found in the Jaguar XF and XE saloons.
Ground clearance and wading depth are down (at up to 251mm and 650mm respectively) over its full-sized Range Rover siblings. To be fair, it still can handle a fair bit of rough and tumble, but my biggest takeaway from this is perhaps a tacit admission from Land Rover that there’s a sizable portion of its customer base for whom the roughest terrain they’ll ever see is a stretch of poorly patched tarmac.
Even though its Continental tyres are rated for “general off-road use", the 21-inch wheels they’re shod on certainly aren’t. And you really wouldn’t be wanting to scuff that beautiful matte anthracite finish on a rock garden now, would you?
A three-litre supercharged V6 (there’s also a two-litre variant on offer) supplies the Velar with 375bhp and a 0-100km/hr dash time of 5.7 seconds. Along with the adaptive air suspension, its handling is impressively car-like, with masses of traction and superb composure. In spite of a kerb weight brushing 1.9-tonnes, there’s little of the initial heave normally associated with SUVs and it’s surprisingly agile. It’s something I’ve never before experienced in a Range Rover, and it might even handle better than the flame-spitting Range Rover Sport SVR.
Another thing I’ve never before experienced in a Range Rover is the lumpy ride quality. It’s probably down to a combination of the low-profile tyres and relatively high initial breakaway point of the air suspension, but whatever the case is, poorly surfaced tarmac tends to unsettle the Velar’s composure.
Another thing to be said for the Range Rover Velar’s on-road bias is how it’s the first time it’s been applied to a full-sized, high-volume model (the latter point precluding the SVR). The implications of one of its full-sized products being bred more for tarmac than mud are huge. After all, the entire premise of the Range Rover brand is predicated on how its cars feel like manors, no matter the terrain.
It’s a fresh take on the Range Rover formula, so appropriate, then, that it’s called the Velar, the nameplate that adorned early prototypes of the car that would eventually become the original, groundbreaking Range Rover.
And like the landed gentry (plus assorted oligarchs, potentates and slightly less savoury, but still well-heeled individuals) that the Range Rover speaks to, so the Velar hopes to speak to upwardly mobile, mobility-seeking millennials.
And if the Range Rover Velar’s design and dynamic prowess isn’t a sure enough sign that this is a Range Rover for the glued-to-smartphone generation, its interior is bereft of any analogue gauges.
The dashboard is a 12.3-inch digital display, complemented by a pair of 10-inch screens that comprise the infotainment, driving modes and HVAC controls. The knobs have ‘soft’ displays that change according to what you’re trying to do (for example fan speed or terrain selection for the all-wheel-drive system) and the steering wheel controls have touch-sensitive surfaces.
But the surest sign of the Range Rover Velar not being your grandfather’s Range Rover is how fabric (a premium wool blend with synthetic suede) is offered as an upholstery option, with portions made from recycled materials, no less. A vegan-friendly luxury car, then.
But more than all the little elements is how the Velar comes together so coherently. It’s good-looking, quiet, spacious and has an ultra-modern interior.
If you can’t already tell by now, I like the Range Rover Velar. I like it quite a bit, much as my inner automotive snob in me is recoiling in horror. And that, perhaps, is how good the Range Rover Velar is – making believers of sceptics.