THE boom in luxury SUVs has been nothing short of great for brands like Range Rover, with the 2018 Range Rover Velar the latest offering from a company that is flush with credibility and sports a highly desirable badge on the bonnet.
Britain’s original 4WD specialist has been creating aspirational SUV models for a little while now, with the Range Rover Sport and Evoque targeting two completely different luxury markets, and both proving significantly popular within them.
It will soon launch a new monster SUV as well, known simply as the Range Rover, but it’s in the midsize space where it’s lacked a genuine contender, until now. Enter the visually stunning Velar, with prices starting from $71,000 through to $169,000.
From the outside the Velar’s sensory assault begins once you’ve pulled the chunky handles, which are accessible when the vehicle is stopped and unlocked, before tucking away into the bodywork, but more on that later.
Inside, the Velar debuts Range Rover’s new cabin concept. There are cues from the Range Rover Sport in here, but with major updates that include a focus around a dual stacked touchscreen arrangement in the centre console.
Super-crisp and intuitive, the twin screens are standard and mark out technology as a Velar strong suit – making its Porsche and Mercedes-Benz competitors look, by contrast, basic.
A further 12-inch widescreen can be optioned ahead of the driver, providing a large map in line of sight, or an impression of traditional gauges. Customisation is encouraged, with the contemporary cabin providing, in essence, a blank canvas.
It isn’t cheap, but you’ll benefit from stepping up to high-grade Windsor leather, which makes the Velar’s seats soft enough to wear the Range Rover badge. This leather is available in six colours, including a fetching tan and black two-tone.
For the first time in a Range Rover, a premium non-leather textile fabric is available for the seats, for those who want a luxury material that avoids animal products, with the unique material produced by Danish designer Kvadrat.
Under the skin, the Velar has much in common with the Jaguar F-Pace. Like that sporty SUV, produced by Range Rover’s cousin, the Velar sits on the rear wheel drive iQ-Al platform that also underpins the great to drive Jaguar XE and XF.
iQ-Al allows for all wheel drive and every Velar has that feature (unlike the F Pace, which is available in either all or rear wheel drive), with the Range Rover staying faithful to its name badge, and offering solid off-road performance
We drove a pair of appropriately optioned Velars, a D240 S and P380 First Edition, pretty far off road through the Watagan Mountains, and they really impressed, largely thanks to the air suspension fitted as standard to V6 models.
It gives you the ability to raise the body to 251mm, enough to wade a depth of 650mm, although a locking rear differential, and a pack that bundles the Terrain Response 2 off-road computer with sophisticated off road cruise control, remain on the options list.
We recommend you check those boxes, and the Velar will get you much further than a fashion forward medium SUV needs to, should off road be your thing. And yes, we know most of these vehicles will spend their lives on the tarmac.
But it’s on the road that the Velar really differentiates itself from both the F Pace and the Range Rover Sport. Of the three, the Velar is the best to drive, and most closely fits the premium SUV brief.
The first few corners also demonstrate that the Velar makes no attempt to follow the F Pace into sporty SUV territory, and that’s fine. In a move befitting of the Range Rover marque, air-suspension equipped Velar rides beautifully.
Amazingly, the supple ride doesn’t fall apart at all on the absurdly large 21-inch or 22-inch wheels that are fitted to high spec grades. Handling is acceptable. The Range Rover Velar takes corners best when not pushing it too hard.
The moderate body roll is hardly exaggerated, but this car just calls for a nice and easy approach. The light tiller doesn’t have much in the way of feel or feedback, but the Velar rotates satisfyingly.
Move from relaxed to frenetic and you can feel the great iQ-Al chassis underneath, but there’s none of the F Pace’s over steer characteristics; instead, the Velar’s front end ploughs into predictable under steer as its two tonne mass overpowers the tyres.
It can tango, it just doesn’t really want to be treated in that sort of undignified manner. The Velar’s mission in life is to cruise, comfortably. And cruise it does, provided you are a little discerning with what you put under the long bonnet.
The Velar joins the Evoque in being designed primarily around four cylinder engines, but if you can stretch to them, either six cylinder is an inspired choice. The petrol P380 takes the 250kW/450Nm V6 from the Jaguar F Type coupe.
It’s a gutsy power plant, full of supercharger whine, and it makes the Velar properly fast, achieving a rapid 5.7 second 0-100km/h sprint, the front end rising comically with a shove of the loud pedal.
The P380 is pretty thirsty though, but it’s very refined and will satisfy those who want the Velar to be as fast as it looks. A 221kW/700Nm diesel V6 (the D300) is available too, and it’s got an awesome twin turbo bolted to it. It could be the pick of the litter.
Although you can pair any of the Velar’s six engines to any trim grade, it’s the four cylinder Velar options that will attract many new buyers to Range Rover showrooms. Of these, the D240 twin turbo diesel is our main recommendation.
It’s the second of our two test vehicles, producing 177kW/500Nm, and while it lacks the six-cylinder’s ultimate refinement, it does offer good grunt and very solid fuel economy.
Beyond choosing an engine to stick under the bonnet, the model selection process probably requires a Range Rover sales person to hold your hand. At its most basic, the choices start at Velar or Velar R-Dynamic.
From there, it’s S, SE, HSE or First Edition trim levels. At this point you have to factor in your budget, and a D240 R-Dynamic S ($98,050) is a good place to start, though you will need to think about optioning air suspension and 21-inch wheels to fill the guards.
While standard equipment is actually pretty good, all cars receive the impressive InControl Touch Pro dual screen infotainment, AEB and lane departure warning, and most have premium Meridian audio, leather, and an electric tailgate as standard.
Like all Range Rover products, the Velar’s options list opens up further extensive customisation. Costs can really escalate here, but these are nice to haves rather than must haves, and you don’t need the options list to get a Velar that is satisfyingly trimmed.
An opening panoramic sunroof, luxe suede cloth headlining, four zone climate control, and an improved heads up display are standard in the First Edition for example. As a result, it’s hard to see how the Range Rover Velar won’t prove exceedingly popular.
It covers the essential five seat midsize space, providing a worthy competitor to aspirational SUVs like the Porsche Macan, Mercedes-Benz GLC/GLE and BMW X4//X5/X6 siblings.
It’s got expensive looks, a lush interior, a superior cabin technology proposition, and broad options for buyer customisation. Just make sure you choose the engine and grade that gives you what you need while keeping the cost in check.
Our test vehicles was provided by Range Rover Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Velar D240 S and P380 First Edition Velar’s, contact your local Range Rover dealer.