The Range Rover has long been a stalwart in the luxury SUV market. But they've upped the ante with the Velar. A stylish, high tech mid-sized SUV that'll take on the Porsche Macan and the Audi Q5. The introduction of the Velar expands the Range Rover brand to four models on the market. They'll compete with Land Rover's Discovery line of SUVs. It comes in three powertrains, and while it has its roots in the Jaguar F-Pace, the Velar comes into its own under the expert eye of Range Rover. The result is a sleek and sporty ride for the 21st century.
Wait, another Land Rover SUV?
Ok, perhaps another Rover may seem somewhat...excessive, and one built on the frame of an SUV that already exists might seem outright redundant. While the Velar is built on the frame of the Jaguar F-Pace and shares an engine with the Jaguar, it really is much more than that. You see, the Velar name was first used by Land Rover in 1969 when they were test driving the first ever Range Rover: in fact, velar comes from the Latin, meaning "to cover," or "to hide" (think veil). Back in those days, the Velar was a closely guarded secret, and lest we forget, Range Rover was the first car to introduce permanent four-wheel drive and feature a split tailgate, clamshell hood, and a continuous waistline. The first Rover was made of a hodgepodge of different car parts, so it is fitting that 50 years later, they have done their share of borrowing to make something entirely new. Longer than the F-Pace by 72 mm, the Velar has a cockpit that more closely resembles Range Rover's Sport models, and is entirely more driver-focused. It's also outfitted with the Jaguar Land Rover Ingenium line of four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines as well as JLR' six-cylinder models. So yes, it is another Land Rover, but in a sense, it's the Land Rover that was always meant to be built.
How good does it look on the road?
If you like the looks of the Jaguar F-Pace, you're already going to be intrigued by the Velar, and while the two models share some similarities, the design team at Range Rover have gone above and beyond to make the Velar stand out from the crowd. They've done away with the F-Pace's body panels and replaced them with an aluminum hood, fenders and roof, bringing the overall weight down. The Velar is also more aerodynamic than its Jaguar cousin, with an upright grille and short front overhang that enable it to cut through the air more efficiently. The exterior is simplified, giving it smoother lines and a cleaner overall look while the front end is elongated to bring out its features. The continuous lines that have become the calling card of the Rover family remain but are updated with a balanced shoulder line that almost looks as if the roof is floating on top of the black window panels. The result is something that you need a moment to take in: it feels different, even if you don't quite know how, or why. That feeling may well be due to the insane amount of technology that has been incorporated into the Velar's exterior, such as motorized door handles that seal flush with the door panel in an ode to aircraft gear doors or space shuttle chambers. This and other details make the Velar feel both innovative yet as impenetrable as the Rover has always felt, a neat trick to rebrand without getting away from its original aesthetic. Other small touches go a long way: copper accents on the front fenders are so flattering, you almost wonder why it hasn't been done before.
What about the inside?
The exterior of the Rover is a masterclass in modern, clean, minimal design: the interior is rich and luxurious, a contrast that makes it seem all the more intriguing. The base trim Velar comes with brushed aluminum surfaces as well as synthetic leather and suede upholstery: with a starting price at just about $50,000, the choice of synthetics is not entirely unexpected. Even so, the front seats are multi-adjustable with 20 different configurations, and they have heating, cooling and massage functions to make any journey an exceedingly comfortable one. Higher trims offer real leather, and for an extra $750 you can kit out your interior with a plush eco-friendly, union jack patterned cloth. In a smart move for a mid-sized SUV, Range Rover has resisted the urge to try and stick a third row in the back, giving much more legroom in the second row that you might otherwise think. That said, it's not the most spacious SUV on the market: you'll just about fit three in the rear, but the comfort of the automatically reclining, the heated second row might make up for the fact that you'll have a little bit of a squeeze getting in. There's adequate cargo space for most of your daily runs, with 34 cubic feet behind the second row, and 70 cubic feet with the back row down.
How does it drive?
With the Velar, Land Rover has managed to do what the F-Pace was meant to do but hasn't quite delivered on: a luxury SUV that still feels great to drive. The Velar 2018 comes with the same three powertrain options that the JLR F-Pace sport: a 180 hp diesel powered turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 247 hp petrol version of the same engine, and a top of the range 380 hp supercharged V-6. The new aerodynamics and lighter weight of the Velar manage to give new life to these standard engines, which give it an overall leg up on its cousin the F-Pace. No matter which engine package you choose, all models come standard with a super responsive automatic eight-speed transmission, connected by paddle shifters to the AWD system. Steering is sharp and engaging in the corners despite the nearly 5000-pound curb weight, and the suspension is comfortable yet still sporty. Spend the extra $9,500 on the V-6, and you'll also get air adjusted suspension, giving you an additional 3 inches of ride clearance. Off-road enthusiasts will get the most out of this upgrade, as it intensifies the ride and feels significantly more responsive. Creating an SUV that was somewhere in between the cushy overindulgence of a luxury car and the chunky tank-like feel of the classic Range Rover is a mighty challenge, but the Velar comes pretty close to nailing it.
What about the infotainment?
No luxury SUV worth its salt skimps on infotainment tech, and the Velar does not disappoint. However, it keeps its trailblazing theme up in the choices of features and backs up these choices with some exceedingly smart technology. JLR has bucked the trend by not installing an Apple or Android app system in the Velar, instead opting to create their system, cheekily called "The Blade." While not entirely new to the Range Rover line it has been much improved, with a simplified look and intuitive, user-friendly interface. Of course, what good is an intelligent interface if you have nothing to display it on? The Velar sports not one but two 10 inch screens tilted towards the driver plus a 12-inch driver information display. The top 10-inch touchscreen controls music, navigation, connectivity, camera, vehicle information, and settings by swiping left or right, or pinching in and out for navigation. The bottom touchscreen manages climate control, seat massage, both front and rear defrosters, and the terrain management system. This last feature enables drivers to switch between sport, comfort, eco and off-road modes and snow, sand, mud, or crawling conditions without disrupting your podcast or phone call. The third 12-inch screen is crystal clear and fully customisable for speedometer, navigation and vehicle settings, turning the Velar cockpit into the closest approximation of a space shuttle that we've seen on the roads so far.
What are the trim options?
The 2018 Velar comes in 5 different trims, with starting prices ranging from $50,000 to $95,000. The standard model is called simply the "Velar" and comes with 18-inch wheels, an eight-speaker audio system, the two 10 inch touchscreen "Blade" infotainment system, a 5-inch driver display screen, keyless ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and synthetic leather upholstery. With the Velar S, the synthetic leather is replaced by real leather, the 18-inch wheels become 19 inches, and the audio and navigation systems get an upgrade. The R-Dynamic SE is the next level up, and with it comes 20-inch wheels, a 17 speaker audio system, advanced safety features including parking sensors, the full 12-inch driver display and all perforated leather upholstery embossed with the Union Jack. The R-Dynamic HSE sports 21-inch wheels, those 20-way power adjustable heating/cooling seats as standard and even more safety features like brake assist, daytime running lights, lane assist and departure warning, and traction control. The top of the line Land Rover Range Rover Velar First Edition has it all with 22-inch wheels, a 23-speaker audio system, 360-degree surround camera, heated windshield, heated steering wheel, massage options and a handy "activity key" (something like a Fitbit) to replace the standard key fob.