THE VELAR’S SIZE drops it into the Range Rover line above the Evoque compact but below the Sport, with the full-lux Range Rover itself at the apex. Like the Evoque it sacrifices some space for style, with a fast, low roof-line.
The design is for the most part beautifully minimalist, with carefully ordered and finished surfaces, shallow headlamps and a very smooth nose. Pity the side vents at the base of the windscreen, and on the bonnet, are false. So much for the ‘reductionism’ mantra LR designers like to spout about.
Indoors, the design is also remarkably unornamented. The new control and information interface is definitely a wow – two big touchscreens, one of them having built-in rotary controllers backlit with context-dependent markings.
The Velar has different underpinnings than any other Range Rover or Land Rover. It uses sister-brand Jaguar’s aluminium platform, so it’s related to the Jaguar F-Pace. Don’t imagine it feels like a Jaguar though. Instead it goes down the road with that considered, plush motion of Range Rovers.
It also has a lot of extra off-road hardware and software compared with the Jaguar, although no low-ratio transmission.
What’s The Interior Of The Range Rover Velar Like?
Buy a Mercedes or Audi or BMW luxury crossover, and from the inside what you’re looking at is largely indistinguishable from those makes’ saloons and coupes. Get a Range Rover or Land Rover, and you can only be in an SUV.
You sit high, though of course not as regally as in the full-size RR. The window line is low, so you get a deep view out into the countryside. The main dash consists of two horizontal slabs upholstered in stitched leather, punctuated on the right by the instrument cluster in a slightly raised binnacle.
In the centre is a big touchscreen, but more strikingly, below that a near-featureless polished black panel extends down to the rotary transmission selector. All it carries is a pair of unmarked metal rings that spin when you twist them or click to an exploratory push. Very mysterious.
Until you turn on the ignition. Then the panel lights up. It shows a detailed and beautifully rendered climate control touchscreen. The rotary selectors are suddenly surrounded by a blue-to-red semicircle: twist to change driver or passenger temperature, and the temp is shown in the centre of the dial. Push them and the graphic behind them changes: now they’re seat heater controls. Hit another button on the panel, and on top-spec cars they become seat massage controls.
There’s more: with one touch that same panel becomes the control centre for the varios chassis and powertrain modes. You get dynamic, comfort, eco, grass-gravel-snow, mud-ruts and sand. The rotary knob nearest the driver is now illuminated differently again, becoming the mode selector. Related settings such as ride height and hill descent are also activated on this panel.
If you don’t need climate or drive mode settings, you can use the panel as a repeater for your entertainment. This is a great option if you want to maintain a nice overview map on the big screen above, but still show what track is playing (especially handy if like me you leave your iPhone in shuffle).
It sounds complicated but actually I got used to this dual-screen setup quickly. Using it for two long days of driving in all sorts of conditions I always found I could get to the setting I needed with little fuss. The menu structure is logical. And the rotary/push knobs do bring a welcome element of tactility, and are easy to use as the car bounces down the road.
Anyway, what else on the infotainment? The maps are crisp and scroll nicely. The navigation has good online search functions and several schemes for simple destination entry. You can use the upper screen’s ‘home’ level that shows simply your next instruction and ETA, plus music track and phone signal. The system provides 4G wifi if it can find data coverage.
Our test car had an optional Meridian stereo. It’s one of the nicest I’ve ever heard in a car. It sounds like music, not like a sound system. Too many top-end car systems add a load of their own colouration. By the way, that’s not the end of the screen displays. The instrument pack is also a TFT that the driver can reconfigure to suit. Fancy a map or trip computer data or music info? It can all be pasted up there.
Finally a crisp new head-up display is an option. It’s easy to read and rich in information: speed, speed limit, driver assist status, navigation arrows when relevant, and so on.
The front seats are big supportive thrones. In the rear, although the roof-line slopes away, there is enough headroom for most grown-ups. Leg space is a bit mediocre because of the bulky front seats. Still, out back there are good arrangements for lighting and charging, and vent outlets.
The air suspension lowers automatically when the car’s in park, so it’s relatively easy to climb in and out.
Generally cabin storage isn’t very good, which is a shame for an SUV. Those cars are supposed to be real-life-friendly. Door bins are big enough and there’s a little bay behind the lower screen. But the bin under the front armrest is woefully small. This is totally different from the Discovery and bigger Range Rovers, which have buketloads of console storage.
The boot is big in area but not that deep. However, at 673 litres, it’s competitive (Audi Q5: 550 litres). That’s with a space-saver tyre underneath, not a full-size job.
JLR’s clever activity key is part of the spec. It looks like a wrist activity tracker band, but is actually capable of locking and unlocking the car if held near a particular spot. So, you leave the proper keys in the car, lock up and head off to the surf without worries, as the activity key is proofed against water, sand and knocks.
What’s The Range Rover Velar Like On The Road?
As is the fashion, the Velar comes with several outputs of a four-cylinder engine family, all very modern and capable but lacking charisma. Then there’s a supercharged V6 petrol, which would be fun but likely to drain the tank before you need to stop for a pee. So the V6 diesel it is then eh?
It makes pretty majestic power, so main-road overtakes or stiff uphills are no issue. The 0-100km/h time is a handy 6.5 seconds. At light efforts you hardly hear the thing, but the baritone note gets stronger as you push it, sounding almost like a V8 actually. The eight-speed transmission is smooth and attentive enough, but you can always take matters into your own hands via the fingertip paddles.
The basic cars have coil spring suspension, but the V6 gets air springs, and all versions also has an adaptive damper package. Steering is light, but nicely progressive and the roll angles feel both moderate and natural, so this big vehicle is easy to place accurately on a small road. At speed the suspension lowers, further cutting the roll.
We drove it on wet roads as well as dry, plus a section of damp unsealed stuff. Traction was always assured, and the electronic systems have an uncanny ability to send torque where it’s needed (the centre diff has variable locking under electronic control on all models, and on our V6 the same applies to the rear diff).
We never found a situation where it seemed to be making a mess of finding traction. Driven aggressively around tight wet corners it feels more like a grippy rear-drive car: no understeer under power.
The low-speed ride is especially plush, and as speed builds it stays well controlled, though there can be a bit of shudder at wheel level: you’re feeling the mass of the suspension’s off-road reinforcements.
But always it drives like a Range Rover: its movements are damped and it doesn’t encourage you to throw it around. Agile isn’t a word that comes to mind. Which means it has a surprisingly different demeanour to sharper-cornering but sharper-riding F-Pace.
With the current Q7 and Q5, Audi has been making some amazingly quiet crossovers, and the Velar approaches that level. The tyres, even the big rollers ion our test car, seldom raise themselves above a hum, the suspension is quiet and the passage through the air is subdued. The engine is characterful when worked hard, but when you’re just cruising on a warm day the loudest noise in the cabin is likely yo be the air-con fan.
What’s The Range Rover Velar Like Off The Road?
There’s no low-ratio transfer box. Let’s get that out of the way – it won’t crawl along quite as well over boulders as the Discovery and bigger Range Rovers. Nor do the anti-roll bars uncouple, but articulation is good for a crossover.
Otherwise it can be optioned up with a strong suite of off-road capablity, including air suspension that raises up for impressive clearance and approach/departure angles (it’s in that condition that we quoted the angles in the spec table above).
Wade sensing uses sonars under the door mirrors to spot how far up the water level has risen, so you can go to the full 650m in confidence. You can also specify all-round cameras to check the gaps you’re squeezing through. Not as good as having a mate acting as a spotter, but helpful even so.
There’s ‘terrain response’, operated by one of the rotary controllers when you’re in that contextual touchscreen. As usual it reconfigures diffs, throttle and slip control for various types of going. Something that works really nicely is ‘all-terrain progress control’ – you input a speed (say 5km/h) and take your feet off the pedals. Accelerator and brakes are electronically managed so the Velar crawls serenely along holding close to the target speed. It’s far easier than trying to stop your foot bouncing on the accelerator pedal.
Switching into the off-road modes automatically brings up new info on the head-up display: you can see the angles of inclination, wheel articulation and diff locking state.
The doors wrap down around the sills. So the doors might get scraped in brutal off-roading, but after the more normal sort of rough-terrain or unsealed roads, you’ll be able to get out without dirtying your trouser leg. That kinda sums up the Velar’s priorities.
What Sort Of Safety Features Does The Range Rover Velar Have?
There’s no NCAP test yet, nor indeed for the Jaguar F-Pace, which is the closest related vehicle. The Jaguar XE saloon scored a strong five stars, but that’s a different height so would crash differently. But Jaguar Land Rover (it’s the same company) is good at making aluminium bodies that do well in crash tests – the Velar’s body shell and panels are in total 81 percent aluminium. There’s some steel in the rear body for rigidity, and magnesium in the front cross-car beams for lightness with strength.
The airbag count is six: a Volvo XC90 has nine.There’s radar cruise, and lane keeping assist. This isn’t the full steering support other luxury manufacturers offer. But at the present level of competence on any production car, self-steering can’t yet be called a safety feature.
Autonomous emergency braking is fitted, and the radar cruise will also brake the car to a stop to match the one in front. For parking there are assist beepers, and cameras too. There’s also a semi-automatic trailer reversing system.
All in then, it’s a car that relies on its inherent size and strength and grip to keep you safe. Its electronic assistance features are pretty commonplace these days, even down to Ford Fiesta level.
So, What Do We Think Of The Range Rover Velar?
The new Velar slots neatly into the Range Rover line-up and thankfully doesn’t tread on the toes of the Jaguar F-Pace. It heralds the latest generation of Range Rover infotainment and connectivity tech and an interior design that stands the thing above other Rangies. However, it’s not as practical as other Range Rovers, but that’s hardly unlikely to stop this vehicle from selling ever single one that Land Rover can build. It’s effortless to drive, as you’d expect, and is good off-road, better than its competitors, but it’s not as sharp as an F-Pace or Porsche Macan.
2018 Range Rover Velar 300TDI
PRICE: $70,300+ORC and $135,400+ORC (whole range)
WARRANTY: Three-years, 100,000 kilometre
ENGINE: 3.0L twin-turbo diesel V6
POWER: 221kW at 4000rpm
TORQUE: 700Nm at 1500-1750rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed auto
DIMENSIONS: 4803mm (L), 2032mm (W MIRRORS FOLDED), 2145mm (W INC MIRRORS), 1665mm (H)
TURNING CIRCLE: 11.6m
GROUND CLEARANCE: 251mm
APPROACH/DEPARTURE ANGLE: 29/27degrees
WADING DEPTH: 650mm
TOWING WEIGHT: 750kg (UNBRAKED), 2400kg (BRAKED)
KERB WEIGHT: 1959kg
THIRST: 6.4L/100km combined cycle