2018 Range Rover Velar D240 SE R-Dynamic
AU$106,950 (plus on-roads)
AU$132,980 (including options, plus on-roads)
(3.5 / 5)
Style versus substance – is it possible to combine the two? Land Rover seems to think so, creating one of the most beautiful SUVs to grace our roads. But does one quality win out over the other?
Did we really need another Range Rover model? Apparently so, because there was clearly a gap in between the Evoque and the much larger Sport. The Velar, with its supermodel looks, fits neatly into the relative chasm between the two models.
We say chasm, because in terms of niches, the distance between the Evoque and Sport could probably fit another three models; such is the way with SUVs these days.
But with the Jaguar F-Pace platform ripe for the pickings, it makes sense for Land Rover to build its own mid-size SUV and put a luxury spin on it. Hence, the Velar was born.
If you’re wondering where the name comes from, there’s a bit of history. Before Land Rover had finished creating its Range Rover model, the first luxury vehicle from the formerly pragmatic company, the Velar name was given to the first pre-production versions of the Range Rover. That was back in 1969.
In 2018, the Velar is now a properly cossetting vehicle, with a lot of ability both on and off-road, but with enough space for the typical family of four.
As you’d see from Jan Glovac’s masterful photos, the Velar is a stunning machine to behold. It has concept car looks in a production car form.
Every surface blends into the next without massive steps and Gerry McGovern’s design team has done a brilliant job of giving this a definite Range Rover feel, as opposed to a Jag with a Land Rover body.
The door handles pop out when you get out and wait until you drive off before retracting. They also pull in when the car is locked, as do the electric mirrors, creating a perfectly flush side profile – very cool.
Options will cost you
Despite the extensive inclusions, Land Rover has taken a leaf out of BMW and Audi’s book, offering a lengthy options list. But there’s also a price tag to go with it. Our test vehicle had a whopping $26,030 worth of boxes ticked.
The 20-way adjustable electric seats with position memory, massage and heating and cooling cost $7730. The sliding panoramic roof was $4370. An extended leather pack added $3480. Air suspension was $2110. Getting the Union Jack perforated into the Windsor leather cost $1910, while the Kaikoura Stone paint was $1780.
Then you add a black roof for $1260, privacy glass at $890, electrically adjustable steering column for $890, Land Rover’s “All Terrain Progress Control” for $640, Terrain Response 2 for $430 and ambient lighting for $540 and you now have a very drained bank account.
Engine and transmission
Under the bonnet is the same diesel engine found in the Discovery we tested last year, being a turbocharged four-cylinder which makes 177kW (240hp) and a very healthy 500Nm (368lb-ft) of torque. Official figures say that it will hit 100kmh in 7.3 seconds, but you’d expect it to get there a bit quicker with that torque figure.
It still uses the ZF eight-speed auto found in plenty of other JLR products, however our test car did stumble a couple of times when trying to find a gear during part throttle acceleration.
There’s also a noticable amount of lag, which was something you’d get used to (and learn to drive around) but given competitors’ diesels feel a bit more punchy off the line, there’s some room for improvement.
For the most part, though, the engine is quiet and refined with a nice rumbly note that’s not too intrusive. Land Rover’s official fuel figure for the Velar is 5.8L/100km, but we’d argue that it’s not a realistic target. Our week of testing brought a figure of 8.2L/100km, across long distance and mostly city driving.
Now this is where the Velar comes into its own. Step inside and you’ve forgotten that the name comes from the era of the first moon landing.
With a centre stack that houses two large screens taking up the majority of central space, it could run the risk of feeling cramped. But because the lower screen sits on a floating buttress, there’s room behind to store small items and it feels a bit more spacious.
The upper screen is used for sat-nav, off-road displays and infotainment, while the lower screen handles HVAC, seat settings (including massage and heating/cooling), vehicle drive mode settings and other functions.
The bottom screen takes a fair bit of getting used to, especially when changing between things like the seats and HVAC controls. In fact, it requires taking your eyes off the road to make the adjustments – not ideal.
It also seems like there are two lots of software to run each, both with a completely different look. A more harmonious display combined into one may look and feel a lot nicer. But for wow factor, it certainly does the job.
As do the seats with their perforated Union Jack logo. Now, the colour on our test car wasn’t the greatest, but optioned in a light grey, a cream or even black, it would look fabulous. And there’s no denying the seats are very comfortable indeed.
The space for the back seats is quite good, too, though it’s more comfortable in the outboard pews, rather than the centre seat, which props you up a little. And even with a sunroof, it’s nice to see that someone six-feet or over can sit up without brushing their hair against the roof line.
With the back seats up, there’s 556 litres of space, and if you drop them, you can get 1731 litres.
Our test Velar ran on 20-inch wheels, which sounds like they’re huge, but when you consider that you can option 22s, it’s not so bad. Couple that with the optional air suspension and there’s a bit more give in the side walls.
This makes the ride quite pleasant, with excellent bump absorption in Comfort mode, but also takes the hard edge of ridges in Dynamic mode. The air suspension also firms up nicely when it’s in Dynamic, and it also self levels if you’re parked on a hill somewhere.
The ride/handling balance is really quite good, but if you plan to get anywhere off-road, you’ll need to tick the air springs box. That gives you an impressive 251mm of ground clearance when needed, too, so this isn’t just a show pony.
And with the Terrain Response 2 system (which really should be standard) it almost becomes a point and shoot affair, but it’s the highway-biased tyres that will be the hindrance if you do decide to get it dirty.
The steering has good weighting – not overly light, but without too much heft. Yet it’s not what you’d call communicative, with the Jag F-Pace’s steering feeling a lot more connected. Perhaps the air suspension has affected feedback somewhat.
The Velar’s standard safety suite includes AEB (which works up to 80km/h), lane-departure warning , reversing camera, 360-degree surround view, rear cross-traffic alert (which widens the rear camera display when required), blind spot monitoring, and a driver alert warning.
Six airbags are standard, and the Velar recently received a five star safety rating from EuroNCAP.
Here’s the deal
The Velar is a beautiful machine – there’s no argument there – but a few things count against it. Number one is the price. With a larger (and quieter) Range Rover Sport around the same price, but with even more ability off-road, it seems a little odd that anyone would opt for the Velar.
The Sport has the better ride, too, as well as being more practical with more space. Okay, it looks a little older inside, but the difference isn’t enough to warranty spending so much on a smaller car.
The options are also a little over the top. While some are understandable, some should be standard, such as Terrain Response 2, and the electrically adjuatble steering column. It is a Range Rover, after all, so luxury inclusions should come with it out of the factory.
It needs the V6 diesel to really shine as well, with the small four-pot just having a little too much lag.
As a piece of automotive art, in the SUV space it’s unparalleled. Unfortunately, the style side of the scales has been weighed up a little too heavily.
Photos: Jan Glovac Photography