Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Velar - D240 R-Dynamic SE AWD
Land Rover models
Gorgeous steering and ride quality (on optional air suspension), expensive-feeling cabin (when optioned), plush and comfortable seating
Room for improvement
Four-cylinder diesel can get noisy, automatic needs to be in S-for-Sport to impress, electronic gremlins, excessive options
The Velar has proven superb in flagship spec, but can a four-cylinder Range Rover deliver?
30 Jan 2019
IN MORE ways than one, the Range Rover Velar D240 R-Dynamic SE is all about balancing the challenges of downsizing.
For many ‘Rangie’ traditionalists the older, smaller Evoque was too far removed from the large, stately models that have long adorned luxury Land Rover badgework.
Perhaps, though, the Velar has enough presence on its side to present a strong case that this medium SUV is closer to its larger, not smaller, siblings.
It also must balance its catwalk-model styling with still being above-average in the countryside, while even this D240 four-cylinder turbo-diesel model grade has to prove that it is not two pots short of the minimum engine configuration standards for a Range Rover.
It is extremely fuel efficient on paper, but can it deliver the expected performance?
At just on $100K before on-road costs and options, the R-Dynamic SE is exactly the middle specification model of the entire range, too, with the cheapest model grade being $30K cheaper and the top brass $30K pricier.
How is all that for several balancing acts?
Price and equipment
With Velar diesels, it all starts with the D180 at $71,550 plus on-road costs. Swapping its 132kW/430Nm turbo-diesel four-cylinder for this 177kW/500Nm twin-turbo unit adds $9400 for an $80,950 total, with this D240 reducing the claimed 0-100km/h from 8.9 seconds to 7.3sec.
However, basic equipment remains, and it takes another $11,100 for a $92,050 total to buy the D240 S with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, leather trim with 10-way electrically adjustable front seats, widescreen satellite navigation with Wi-Fi and a 380-watt 11-speaker Meridian audio.
This D240 SE then needs a further $8900 for a $100,950 total, adding 20s, Matrix LED adaptive high beams, auto-dimming and power-fold heated door mirrors, a colour driver display, blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera with rear cross-traffic alert and 825W 17-speaker Meridian audio.
But only a final $16,300 lunge and $117,250 total brings, in D240 HSE, 21s, heated/cooled perforated leather seats and dashboard trim, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance.
Yet that is still not quite it, because the R-Dynamic option adds $6000 to this D240 SE, with a bodykit, front foglights, satin-chrome treadplates and other trim bits. Rear-seat entertainment ($5490 extra), panoramic sunroof ($4370), and air suspension ($2110) were also further options.
In short, your Range Rover can look as expensive as a $300,000-plus version for $7960 extra on, in this case, a $100,950 D240 SE. Without such options, the as-tested D240 SE R-Dynamic lacks the premium feel expected of a Range Rover, with soft-touch but coarse-grain dashboard and door plastics, plus a rubbery textured insert across the middle.
The suede inserts over basic leather did not resonate for six figures, either, although the seats themselves join the upright driving position and lovely steering wheel by together feeling very regal. The twin colour screens also radiate a brilliant, high-resolution slickness across the cabin, although this is the second Velar tested where some lower touch-sensitive tabs did not work. Digital radio is also, again, another option at $940 extra, although the 825W Meridian audio is superb.
The rear seat is also roomy and comfortable, without exceeding the lofty standard set in the premium mid-size-SUV segment by the Volvo XC60. The more money spent, the less impressive the legroom becomes, but it is broadly competitive at the start of six-figure territory. And, likewise, the 558-litre boot volume is similarly adequate without being outstanding. What the Velar does feel like, though, is a nice ‘inbetweener’ size – not too small yet none too large and unwieldy.
Engine and transmission
Usually a diesel engine is a perfect fit for a heavy SUV, with the breed’s surge of low-down torque ideally suited to effortless and efficient progress. However, the Velar is not just another SUV, but rather – just as a Porsche Macan asks a premium for best-in-class sportiness – it is one that from the start asks a price surcharge for a lush, refined, silken character synonymous with Range Rover.
When intelligently specified, the Velar can feel like a Range Rover should inside, and – on optional air suspension – ride like one too, but this 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel is just too noisy to gel with the rest of the package. With 177kW of power at 4000rpm and 500Nm of torque at just 1500rpm, there is no shortage of urge, and the 7.3-second 0-100km/h claim feels credible.
If the pricetag read $60,000 plus on-road costs, then this engine would seem reasonably quiet enough for the pricetag, but together with some turbo lag and a surprisingly imperfect partnership with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, it lacks the slick polish the D240 SE delivers elsewhere.
The auto can, in D-for-Drive, sometimes slump into taller gears and allow the throttle to turn to mush before response arrives, although thankfully the alternative S-for-Sport does a fine job of subtly holding one lower gear without over-revving the engine. However, the result of such frequent stoking of the throttle did, result in a sharp rise in fuel usage, with an on-test 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres coming in far higher than the 5.8L/100km combined-cycle consumption claim.
Ride and handling
Quite simply, when optioned with air suspension, the Velar is the smoothest riding premium medium SUV available. It just manages to eclipse the Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60 with the same type of optional set-up, with marginally superior compliance and control respectively. Even rolling on 21-inch tyres fails to upset this Range Rover’s at-all-times silken and assured progress.
In the alternate, firmer Dynamic setting the D240 SE R-Dynamic fails to match the lofty handling heights of that aforementioned German rival, yet it is perhaps equally enjoyable at a slower pace, with great chassis balance, absolutely fantastic steering and subtle electronic stability control (ESC).
Indeed, it is that combination of a softer roll-centre and quick yet incisive steering that enables a driver to enjoy this SUV at low speeds around town, or through country corners. However, unlike its rivals, this one also has a locking centre differential, height adjustable suspension that takes the body up onto its tippy-toes, plus multiple off-road driving modes pinched from other Land Rovers.
The point is, what the Velar loses in aggressive sportiness, it makes up for twice over in plushness and offroad ability.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with around-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and assistance, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are standard fit.
ANCAP has tested the Range Rover Velar, and it scored five stars with 35.5 out of 38 points.
Land Rover’s servicing plan for five years or 130,000km includes costs $1800.
A four-cylinder diesel is not an ideal fit for the Range Rover Velar, which can indulge the driver and passengers with its lavish interior appointments and lush ride quality, only to annoy owners with delayed response and too much clatter. It is certainly not bad, but for the price it is a sore point.
Thankfully, there are myriad model grades beyond this D240 SE R-Dynamic. A 221kW/400kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol P300 SE asks $3000 less than this turbo-diesel, with higher fuel usage mostly offset by quicker performance and – based on experience with it in the Evoque – smoother running.
Or, for around $10K extra there is a 221kW/700Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder D300 SE. Add $8K in luxury options, and it will feel like a $300K Rangie for half the price – because this is a rare example of more money delivering something that doesn’t just feel chintzier.
Indeed, with a judicious mixing-and-matching of equipment, circa-six-figure family car buyers could definitely find an engine and model grade that does the Range Rover nameplate the greatest justice. It is worth searching for, because there is a superb premium mid-size SUV to be found here.
Porsche Macan S Diesel from $95,300 plus on-road costs
Smoother yet faster six-cylinder diesel a nicer drive, but more cramped inside than Velar.
Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design from $73,990 plus on-road costs
Cheaper, roomier, and with a better diesel, it leaves buyers room to indulge in options.
Model release date: 1 September 2017
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