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Driven: Range Rover Velar. Image by Land Rover.

Driven: Range Rover Velar
With the new Defender inbound and loads of SUV products in the JLR family, is the Velar in danger of being unfairly overlooked?

 



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Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: sumptuous ride, quality cabin, much-improved infotainment, mighty V6 turbodiesel engine

Not so good: not quite the last word for handling, rear-seat space only average, rear visibility compromised, pricey as tested

Key Facts

Model tested: Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300
Price: Velar range from 45,260; R-Dynamic HSE D300 from 70,530, car as tested 73,330
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 167g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 in year one, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 150mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 300hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 1,500-2,000rpm
Boot space: 632-1,690 litres

Our view:

With all the furore over the replacement for the venerable Defender subsuming all before it in 2019, Land Rover has had a lot on its mind. And it also has, along with its sister brand Jaguar, a lot of fancy, 40-grand-and-upwards SUVs of various sizes. The Land Rover Discovery Sport has just been updated and still offers seven seats (sort of) at a level of the market where there's little else premium that does. The larger Disco has shaken off the last vestiges of its agricultural past with the fifth-generation version, while both the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover plough their plush furrows in the upmarket SUV sector. A second-gen Evoque is also out and, handling the sporty mid-sized premium SUV sector, there's the Jaguar F-Pace.

Somewhere in and amongst all this lot is the Range Rover Velar. It was launched in 2017 to much fanfare, it used a historic name that was associated with the very origins of the Rangie back in the 1970s, and it premiered JLR's fancier new infotainment and fold-out door handles. Plugging a perceived gap in the portfolio between the Evoque and the RR Sport, the Velar was a welcome addition to the line-up.

And, if you'll forgive us for making some suppositions, it seems to be a car that's quietly going about its business, almost in danger of being forgotten as people rage about offset rear number plates and how JLR is going to infuriate farmers with its vision of a 21st century Defender, even though no farmer in Britain has bought a Defender for work purposes for decades (they all use one-tonne pick-ups, the Defender is just another posh SUV now). There are mad SVO and SVR projects filtering out of the West Midlands, but still the unassuming Velar remains. Obviously; it's only two years old, after all. But much of the column inches regarding it seem to have died down, or even disappeared entirely.

Maybe this is because its novelty value has worn off, but it's also almost certainly because its USP is a little hard to define. It's about F-Pace-sized, given it shares so much with its Jaguar cousin, but it's not supposed to be sporty to drive - the F-Pace handles that side of the battle, taking on the likes of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Porsche Macan. Similarly, the Velar can't be perceived to be more luxurious or desirable than a Range Rover Sport, or even a full Rangie, because that would upset the hierarchy apple cart.

We're not saying it's the forgotten Land Rover/Range Rover model... but we might be strongly insinuating it. So does that mean it's a forgettable SUV? Well, here's the weird thing: no, it isn't. In fact, it's one of the best JLR things we've driven in many a year. It manages to blend the typical Range Rover elements of totalitarian noise suppression and thoroughly cosseting ride quality, on its air suspension, with some of the sportiness of the F-Pace. The handling is more nuanced and involving than on the bigger two Range Rovers, even though we still think the Velar is noticeably duller at the helm than the Jaguar source material. Despite this, it manages to blend comfort with decent dynamics with such skill that it makes you forget it's ever so slightly on the wrong side of two tonnes for kerb weight - things like the sharp steering, near-absent body roll and meaty brakes make hustling the Velar both easy and reasonably rewarding in equal measure.

It helps that our test car was a D300 with the monster twin-turbo V6 diesel, which is a gem of an engine. Smooth, cultured, incredibly muscular (thanks to a hulking great 700Nm coming on stream at just 1,500rpm) and linked up to a silky eight-speed gearbox, the Velar's drivetrain exhibits no notable turbo lag nor fuzzy throttle response, so it simply picks up and goes (fast) when you ask it to. It's even reasonably frugal in the real world, as we managed to elicit 36mpg from it without once going near a motorway or dual carriageway, where no doubt it would be able to do more than 40mpg with little effort.

Throw in a wonderful cabin, which has a huge boot, enough space in the back for six-footers (although it's not exactly cavernous to sit in row two) and JLR's vastly improved InControl Pro Duo human-machine interface - this having some fancy digital buttons that change their display according to what you've pressed, allowing you to access sub-menus in a neat and effective fashion - and this suddenly looks like the Range Rover which should be leading the pack.

There are a few niggles. As we've said, despite the handling surprising us, it's still not quite as sporty as it could be. We've already said we like the ride/handling balance, but it's skewed ever so slightly too much towards the former than the latter. Visibility out of the back of the car is also an issue, as the Velar's sleek exterior lines result in a rear windscreen which is small; it can make manoeuvring the Range Rover a little tricky, even with a decent reversing camera. But these are minor observations. The bigger one is that, to get a Velar in the luscious specification of our test car, you end up paying more than 73,000. And that's where it becomes a little harder to defend. Rivals with similar diesel power don't cost anything like as much, so you've got to decide if the Range Rover nameplate is still worth the extra on its own to merit choosing the Velar.

Do you know what, though? On this showing, it just might be. A thoroughly class operator, great to look at, strong in all disciplines and, yes, wearing the RR badge, the Velar seems to have all the important bases covered. Maybe it doesn't matter quite so much what Land Rover does with the new Defender after all... wait a minute - what the heck are we saying?!

Alternatives:

Audi SQ5: most potent Q5 (for now) has a diesel engine that's more powerful than the Velar's and it starts from around 55,000. The Audi handles better, the Range Rover's more refined.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 350 d Coupe: despite the Merc's six-cylinder engine being down on power, this is a quick car as it's lighter at about 1,900kg. Looks of the GLC Coupe won't suit all but it is, again, significantly cheaper than the Velar.

Volvo XC60 T8: the Swedish company is moving away from diesel power, so a plug-in hybrid petrol is the alternative here. Volvo's cabin and 400hp drivetrain are both impressive, but the last one we tested was 70,000...


Matt Robinson - 26 Sep 2019









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2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.

2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.2019 Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic. Image by Land Rover.








 

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