In terms of showroom appeal, the Velar has a great deal going for it – but this is a very tough crowd in a hard-as-nails playground.
If you didn’t know it existed, you will have been unaware of the gap between the Evoque and the Sport in the Range Rover line up. Well, Land Rover developed the Velar to fill it and, in doing so, complete its planned portfolio of four luxury SUVs.
When Land Rover developed its original Range Rover in the 1960s, the firm wanted to conceal the identity of an early prototype, so derived the name ‘Velar’ from the Latin ‘velare’, which means ‘to hide’.
The Velar uses Land Rover’s new platform and shares its underpinnings with the Jaguar F-Pace. It’s luxurious and has more off-road capability than most rivals – including the aforementioned Jaguar. Size-wise, the Velar nestles somewhere between the BMW X4 and X6, Merc GLC & GLE coupés and just above the Audi Q5.
The Velar is a slick and stylish looking SUV – fluid, fuss free, curvy smooth and with barely a crease to be seen. Around the rather bulbous nose, the grille, headlamp clusters and the bumper are so flush you would be forgiven for thinking it was one single body panel.
The test car was presented in R-Dynamic trim sporting 21-inch wheels which, on most SUVs, would look ridiculous and severely compromise ride quality. On the Velar they do neither, as the wheels comfortably fill the arches and offer a surprisingly pliant ride.
An external walkabout reveals attractive details such as the slim LED headlights and the flush-fitting door handles that pop out when you unlock it. It looks dynamic too, with its tapered tail and raked-back windscreen. The Velar is the most aerodynamically efficient Land Rover ever made, with a drag co-efficient of just 0.32.
Overall, the Velar has a look that would stand out at a concept-only motor show and rudely suggests a degree of frumpiness in both the Range Rover Sport and full-fat Range Rover above it.
Inside, the style continues with the simple horizontal dash employing the company’s latest TouchPro Duo infotainment system which boasts impressive graphics resolution and functionality that raises the segment bar to new heights. The two 10-inch touchscreens are as elegant as they are clever. When switched off they remain black surfaces, adding to the minimalist ambiance. Turn them on and the panels jump to life displaying crisp, high definition images.
Seated in plush leather and surrounded by high-quality materials, the subtle, minimalist ambiance is at once calming as it is exhilarating.
With its high hipline, lower seats and driver-focused accent, you sit lower in the Velar than any Range Rover before it. And this is one of the few critical points of this whole review, but some drivers used to Range Rover’s high eye-point, commanding seating position may at first feel slightly ill at ease.
While space in the back could be described as cosy, the boot makes up for it. It’s a good practical shape and the rear seats fold down almost completely flat. There’s 673 litres with row two up and 1,731 litres with the seats down.
Trim grades and equipment
There are currently two regular model lines offered for the Range Rover Velar; Standard Velar and R-Dynamic. Each of those has S, SE and HSE trim grades. There is a third, single-spec, range-topping Velar – the SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition.
Range-entry ‘Standard’ Velars are sparsely equipped and probably best avoided – you don’t get satellite navigation or leather seats as standard. They do come with a dual-screen infotainment system however, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
S models add 10-way adjustable leather seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, an upgraded 11-speaker Meridian stereo, LED headlights and a reversing camera. R-Dynamic S models (as tested) come with sportier front and rear bumpers, a dark interior headlining, polished metal trims and fog lights.
SE models are the sweet spot in the Velar range. They add a digital driver’s display instead of conventional analogue dials. You also get 20-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded 17-speaker Meridian stereo and a handy 360-degree camera system to help make parking a doddle.
HSE models come with an impressive array of kit but are pricey. Outside, there are those rather nice 21-inch alloys and inside you’ll find a set of 20-way adjustable leather seats with lumbar support and extra leather door trims help make it feel a touch more luxurious. You also get a raft of extra safety features including a traffic jam assist feature that’ll accelerate and brake for you in heavy traffic.
Drivetrain and performance
All Velars come with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and you can choose from a range of four diesel and two petrol engines. There is a potent 550hp V8 petrol reserved for the SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition.
If most of your driving is destined to be urban, then pick one of the four-cylinder petrol models. These P250 and P300 versions are smoother and quieter than the diesels and will return approximately 34mpg in real-world conditions.
If lots of A-road or motorway miles are your lifestyle, you should really consider one of the diesel models. The twin-turbo, four-cylinder D180 (as tested) and D240 units are the most frugal and should return around 45mpg in normal driving conditions. However, a smoother and more potent V6 in D275 or D300 guise will both make lighter work of long journeys and return a fair 35mpg while doing so.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox works nicely when you’re pottering around town and is reasonably responsive when you put your foot down.
On the road
The R-Dynamic S test car was fitted with the 2.0-litre D180 turbo diesel and had the optional air suspension fitted. Riding on the mid-height setting, the Velar is comfortable and incredibly stable although I did find the accelerator a little stubborn and required more downforce that is comfortable.
Delve into the touchscreen menus and switch everything to the Dynamic setting and the car stiffens and the steering and throttle response sharpen up, which is great but just don’t expect sports car performance.
On the road the Velar feels accurate and willing and the eight-speed automatic gearbox works well with the paddle shift; but in a bid to feel rock-solid and planted on the road, it never dances lightly.
Instead, the Velar’s set-up and character suits a long-distance, less frenetic pace – crossing continents at 80mph in luxurious comfort rather than tackling a switchback road.
Off the road
While the Velar is unlikely to manage the full swamp-squishing, boulder-bouncing capabilities of the full-fat Range Rover, it’s nevertheless a full off-roader like any other Land Rover product.
The spec carefully lists approach and departure angles, Terrain Response along with the air suspension can jack the car up till it looks like it’s on stilts, and of course there is a raft of electronic systems on board.
One is the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD), which uses sensors that measure steering wheel angle, throttle position, yaw rate and lateral acceleration to continually estimate the amount of grip, and distribute torque accordingly.
So, is the Range Rover Velar a case of style over substance? Perhaps.
Its slippery shape and ultra-smart interior make it very desirable, but it’s probably the first Range Rover to quite clearly lean more towards form than function. There’s a good selection of engines but the rear seat passenger space may be a compromise too far.
Stick to the mid-range R-Dynamic S or SE trim (both of which offer good kit levels), select the right engine for your work/life balance and smartly dodge the options list and you’ll be onto a winner in the family SUV stakes.
* Browse our top leasing deals on the Range Rover Velar.