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First Drive: Range Rover Velar. Image by Land Rover.

First Drive: Range Rover Velar
The gorgeous new Range Rover Velar fills the space between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport

 



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Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic HSE

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Using a name drawn from the mists of Range Rover history, the Velar is both the most design-led model in Land Rover's history, and just possibly its best-driving vehicle ever. Sacrificing little of the legendary off-road ability that comes with the badge, the Velar is a very complete product, albeit a very expensive one.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic HSE
Price: 70,530 as tested, range starts from 44,830
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, permanent four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door luxury SUV
CO2 emissions: 167g/km (500 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 150mph
0-62mph: 6.4 seconds
Power: 300hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 634- to 1,690 litres
EuroNCAP rating: Not yet tested

What's this?

It's the Range Rover Velar and, right now, it's the show pony of the Land Rover line-up. Designed to be all about the design, it's sized to slot between the compact Evoque and the hulking Range Rover Sport. Does that mean it's in an awkward middle ground? That might have been the case, but thankfully Land Rover's chief of design, Gerry McGovern, has resisted his previous urges to plaster on too many fiddly details, and instead has followed a style called 'reductionism'.

That makes for a far simpler, cleaner-looking car, with a prominent grille, narrow headlights (LED units as standard on all models, with clever matrix LED ones on higher spec versions) and a swept up rear profile that looks vastly more elegant than the chop-tops of the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe. Or, to put it more simply, it's gorgeous.

Underneath it owes much to the Jaguar F-Pace, although it would be fairer to say that it shares components and engines with the F-Pace rather than precisely that car's chassis. The Velar is actually quite a big vehicle. It's broad across the shoulders and all but matches the Range Rover Sport in length, and is only really smaller because of its lower roof line. It's lighter, too: the kerbweight for the 3.0 V6 diesel model tested here is just over 1,900kg, and four-cylinder models will be as trim as 1,800kg.

The basic engines will be the 180hp and 240hp four-cylinder turbodiesel 'Ingenium' engines already seen in various other Jaguars and Land Rovers. Next to those will be this V6 diesel, a 300hp four-cylinder petrol, and a range-topping 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol with 380hp, borrowed from the F-Type sports car.

The cabin looks pretty spectacular, at least on the top-spec models we've thus far been shown. Quite how good a basic version will look is still open to debate, but all Velars will get the intriguing new double-decker Touch Pro Duo touchscreen system. Using a pair of upper and lower ten-inch HD touchscreens, Touch Pro Duo eliminates almost all of the physical buttons from the Velar's cockpit, bar for a pair of rotary controllers that seem to float on the surface of the lower screen. Between them, the two screens manage functions such as air-conditioning and climate control, sat-nav, the stereo and the myriad off-road aids of Terrain Response. You can even swipe to swap some functions between screens, such as moving the media player controls to the lower screen while keeping the sat-nav map on the upper one.

The rotary controllers alter their functions depending on which screen you have selected, and while it's a complex system, spend a bit of time learning it and it should become reasonably intuitive. Mind you, we'd appreciate some physical 'shot cut' buttons as Peugeot has used in the 5008 and 3008. There's also the very real concern, shared by anyone who's owned an older Land Rover, that this complex electronic set-up may not always function perfectly...

Better get used to it though, as this is a very hi-tech Range Rover. The steering wheel buttons are now also touch-sensitive capacitive units, and as an option you can have a 12.3-inch TFT digital screen instead of analogue instruments. It more or less mirrors the functionality of Audi's Virtual Cockpit, and looks pretty slick.

Space and comfort up front are excellent (the Velar's seats are plush and deeply padded) but room in the back is less impressive, and the boot, at 634-litres, is perhaps not quite as big as you'd like it to be. Quality, at least on these early cars, seems to be very good, and Land Rover has now introduced the option of a ten-year warranty for those willing to pay a little extra.

Oh, and the Velar name? It comes from 1969, when Land Rover engineers, testing the then-unknown original Range Rover, needed to come up with a fake badge to put inquisitive types off the scent. They chose Velar, partially because it comes from the Latin 'velare' or 'to hide', but mostly because it was a snappy name which could be made from existing Land Rover badge letters.

How does it drive?

With the caveat that, so far, we've only driven the range-topping V6 models, and not the more sales-friendly four-cylinders, the Velar is little short of brilliant to drive. Let's start with the steering. Not very long ago, even the best Land Rovers had steering which could charitably be described as ponderous. But the Velar is light and fluid in its feel, fast across its locks and, in Dynamic mode, even manages a tiny smidge of road feel and feedback from time to time. It allows you to place the car with unerring confidence, which is just as well, as the Velar's driving position has you sitting further back, further down and further in than is the Land Rover norm.

Keep the car in Dynamic mode, and with the optional air-suspension stiffened up, you can really string an entertaining series of corners together with the Velar. It's no hot hatch, nor sports saloon, but manages to pull off the clever trick of being both engaging and yet relaxing to drive.

Much of that is down to the ride quality. On the optional air springs the Velar is very relaxed and comfortable, and only has its composure interrupted by the odd thump as the massive 21-inch and 22-inch wheels fall into a rut. You'll probably be better off on standard 18-inch or 19-inch rims, but just like the steel-sprung chassis, we just don't know at the moment.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine perfectly suits the Velar. Thanks to 700Nm of torque, it feels indecently quick at times, and yet doesn't exact a harsh penalty at the fuel pumps. It's very refined and smooth too, and is a much better fit for the car than the 380hp supercharged petrol engine. That has its charms, of course, but it's less torquey than the diesel and it lacks the bombastic soundtrack that it enjoys when fitted to the Jaguar F-Type, so there's really no point to it here. Especially not at 18mpg, which is what we managed with it. The diesel V6 should do better than 40mpg on a good day.

Of course, a huge part of the Velar's appeal will be its foul weather and harsh terrain abilities, and these are little short of astounding. In spite of lacking even the option of a low-ratio transfer box for the standard-fit eight-speed automatic, the Velar simply swept through any obstacle we presented it with. Fording rivers? Scrambling up slippery slopes of shale? Up to the axles in mud? Balancing on two wheels on a teeter-totter? The Velar took it all in its stride. At one point it even climbed above the clouds to the peak of a Norwegian ski resort (sans snow) to admire the view and stop for a restorative cup of tea, and then using its 650mm wading depth to drive across a rock-strewn river.

Many car makers allow reviewers to use their 4x4s to tackle little more than damp fields and the odd muddy path. Land Rover, by contrast, likes to remind us that all of its products, no matter how design-focused, still spring from that original 1948 Series I, and the Velar quite dramatically underlines that point.

Verdict

There's very little about the Velar that doesn't impress. It's very good looking, has an interior which at last shows that Land Rover is starting to catch up with its German rivals, is very good to drive and is still properly capable off-road. It's pricey, though - more expensive model-for-model than an F-Pace and really quite stiffly priced at the top end, breaking into full-size Range Rover territory if you really pile on the options. But even so, it's a car that's virtually impossible not to be admired. Style on top, strength underneath. A winning combination.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 30 Aug 2017









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2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.

2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.2017 Range Rover Velar First Drive. Image by Land Rover.








 

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