In the digital age, there is a constant battle for brands to stay relevant. With a media cycle and contemporary society for that matter moving at such a hectic pace, automotive manufacturers can get trapped in a continual process of reinvention.
While it’s probably not always enjoyable to be redirecting a course forward, it sure beats the alternative.
With that in mind, let’s segue to Range Rover. The luxury arm of Land Rover first arrived way back in 1970 when Simon and Garfunkel and the Jackson 5 were dominating the airwaves. So there’s some history here that’s worth getting excited over. Since the badge debuted, Range Rover has never strayed far from its founding principles, capability and luxury.
Of course, the Evoque represented a different approach and opened the range to a new set of buyers, yet the line-up still had a gap. The Evoque, often considered a statement aligned to modern fashion by purists, couldn’t quench the thirst of those wanting the real McCoy.
Owning a car with Range Rover emblazoned across the bonnet is an aspiration for many, but often turning an aspiration into a reality is a bridge too far for many enthusiasts.
Enter the new 2018 Range Rover Velar, an SUV that fills the void between the Evoque and the Sport. This is the market’s sweet spot, it’s also a segment that continues to grow.
The establishment should take note and show due concern. Described as the avant garde Range Rover, the Velar casts a shadow far larger than its size would suggest.
To say the Velar range is extensive would be an understatement. There are 42 model variants to choose from with prices ranging from $70,662 to $168,862. For this review, Land Rover supplied us with a 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE D240, this variant is priced at $106,950 plus on-road costs.
Now, this is exciting. There’s always a little bit more excitement in the air when you get to drive an all-new model. The Velar is also an important model, it’s tasked with carrying Range Rover forward to new markets and customers.
We have encountered some elements of the Velar before, it’s built on Jaguar Land Rover’s Lightweight Aluminium Architecture which also forms the foundation of Jaguar’s F-PACE. It should be said the Velar isn’t just a case of badge engineering, it can’t just be brushed aside as a Jag in drag.
Firstly, it looks like a Range Rover should - purposeful, elegant, understated and unmistakable. The exterior design is well judged in relation to where the Velar sits in the Range Rover portfolio.
Flush deployable door handles and the floating roof, along with the Velar’s overall proportions, deliver a very clean almost minimalist look.
As aesthetically pleasing as the exterior is, it’s the cabin that blows your mind. I’m reluctant to use the word luxury to describe cars anymore, the term premium fits better with brands competing at the high end. Yet inside the Velar, there is a genuine feeling of luxury.
There are so many different interior elements to analyse, which is something of a pleasant surprise because the clean minimalist approach from the outside is adopted inside the cabin which makes the interior look unfurnished at first glance.
Where the Velar’s interior sets itself apart from the hordes of other premium SUVs is in the way designers have combined technology with emotional details.
Technology comes in the form of two high definition 10-inch touchscreens named Touch Pro Duo. The top screen cleverly moves forward when the ignition is turned on. The system integrates almost all of the vehicle controls removing the need for the traditional buttons, switches and dials – it’s very James Bond. Resolution of the screens and reaction times to user commands are excellent. It looks brilliant and thoroughly modern.
The Touch Pro Duo is not just a great looking system, it’s intuitive. There’s a very logical structure to all the system’s operations that even the most technologically challenged individuals will be able to master.
Our test car was also equipped with a customizable 12.3-inch Interactive Driver Display that takes the place of the usual twin-dial instrument cluster. All the important vehicle information can be displayed here for the driver’s convenience. It really adds that extra dash of Apple-esque modernism that technophiles will find satisfying.
Then there’s the many emotional elements woven into the interior’s styling. Those with an eye for subtle details will find plenty to like. I won't spoil them all, but things like the satin chrome inlay on the steering wheel make a significant difference to the cabin ambience.
The leather work on the seats and dash is exceptional, our tester was optioned with the full extended leather package and perforated Windsor leather seats. Coloured in the gorgeous combination of caramel and black the look and feel of the leather-covered surfaces are lovely. The pièce de résistance is the 20-way seats (also optional) with heating, cooling, memory and massage functions. They are simply brilliant and supremely comfortable.
Buyers coming to the Velar from other similarly sized SUVs will immediately notice the seating position isn’t as high as the majority of its rivals. It’s worth noting, the low seating position can make it difficult to identify where the Velar’s long nose ends.
From the front seats, the Velar’s interior resembles a Robert Ludlum novel, it has everything. It’s the backseat where some questions can be asked. Rear seat space is tight with tall occupants up front. The boot is massive, it’s much bigger than many would expect leading us to the conclusion that the distribution of space could be better. We would happily exchange some of the 558 litres of cargo capacity for addition rear leg room.
Getting the Velar out on the road provides the best insight into its personality. After only a brief introductory drive, it’s obvious the links to the F-PACE are confined to the underpinnings meaning keyboard warriors can rest easy. The Velar doesn’t feel as sporty in the bends and while the steering is direct, it doesn’t have the same surgical precision found in the Jag. These shouldn’t be considered negatives, the Velar is a different SUV looking for a different buyer.
Driving the Velar is all about comfort and refinement which it delivers in spades. Regardless of the driving situation, the Velar is composed, compliant and relaxed. The electronic air suspension is supple even on choppy surfaces.
The D240 2.0-litre i4 Ingenium diesel engine is a cracker. This turbocharged unit can deliver 177kW of power, but the big news is the 500Nm of torque that is available from a lowly 1500rpm. It’s a creamy oiler that offers a wonderfully refined drive. Power is put down through a buttery smooth eight-speed automatic. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how good this drivetrain combination is.
If you currently drive an old-school diesel and are yet to experience an Ingenium engine, the only appropriate advice I can give is from an old Nike shirt – just do it!
Now you can’t really talk Range Rover without mentioning capability. It’s an important aspect of Range Rover’s narrative. The Velar wouldn’t be fit to wear the badge without genuine off-road ability. Range Rover claims the Velar offers class-leading all-terrain capability. With the optional Terrain Response 2 system, All Terrain Progress Control and electronic air suspension the Velar will take you much further than German rivals.
Taking the Velar off-road is a difficult undertaking to wrestle with from an emotional standpoint, it’s almost a crime to get it dirty. We put the Velar through a moderate course off the blacktop which it dispatched without fuss. We don’t expect many buyers are likely to head bush in their Velar, however, if it’s properly optioned and the mood strikes, they're covered.
Ingenium engine technology doesn’t just deliver refinement, it’s also efficient. We covered almost 1200 clicks over our test week, returning a consumption figure of 6.8L/100km. This is a very impressive result despite being 1.0-litre over the official figure.
The Velar R-Dynamic SE D240 only requires servicing every 24 months/34,000km which is nothing short of remarkable. A service plan is available to cover 5 years/102,000 for $1,500. This seems a little on the high side, considering it will be unlikely to require more than three visits to the workshop over that period.
Considering the mammoth service intervals and new engine tech, the Velar’s three year/100,000 kilometre is extremely underwhelming. Land Rover should look to bolster this coverage with an additional two years.
It’s difficult to determine the Velar’s competitors, there’s the obvious models from the big three Germans and sister brand Jaguar, however, the competitor set isn't that straightforward.
None of the usual suspects offer the same level of style, luxury or capability. In many ways, the Velar stands unchallenged by anything other than the badge rival midsized SUV models wear. The Velar’s biggest rival is found much closer to home.
Some of the higher spec Velar models will come under threat from its big brother, the Range Rover Sport. Our test car with the optional leather, seats, panoramic roof, metallic paint, privacy glass and the off-road credentials push the price to $132,980 plus on roads. This is well and truly in Sport territory. A 2018 model year Range Rover Sport S SD4 with the same engine has a list price $95,100 before on-roads are added. There is plenty of overlap between these two model lines that requires careful consideration when selecting and optioning your car.
No matter which way you look at it, the Velar brings something new to the market and fills a gap in Range Rover’s line-up. The people responsible for the Velar have not taken shortcuts, it possesses all the fundamentals associated with the iconic badge.
The Velar is an anomaly in the premium segment, it’s not just another expensive midsize SUV to navigate the perils of the school run. It’s a car that moves the game forward in a number of areas. At its core, the Velar is refined, luxurious and capable. Importantly, the Velar is worthy of being called a Range Rover. In a segment owned by Britain’s European neighbours, this is a case of the empire striking back.
2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE D240 Specifications
Price from $106,950 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre i4 diesel Power 177kW @ 4000rpm Torque 500Nm @ 1500rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 5.8L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Length 4803mm Width 2145mm Height 1665mm Wheelbase 2874mm Performance 0-100km 7.3 seconds Turning Circle 11.6m Ground Clearance 251mm (Electronic Air Suspension), 213mm (Coil Suspension) Wading Depth 650mm (Electronic Air Suspension), 600mm (Coil Suspension) Kerb Weight 1841kg Service Intervals 24 months/34,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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