Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Velar - D300 SE AWD
Land Rover models
Opulent and special-feeling cabin, great technology, excellent practicality, supreme comfort, V6 diesel delivers both performance and efficiency
Room for improvement
Thin sunroof blind lets in too much heat, laggy step-off acceleration, no adaptive cruise control or lane assist even with $31K of options fitted
Segment-straddling Range Rover Velar is more desirable than its showroom siblings
27 Aug 2018
IF A Range Rover Evoque is too small and a Range Rover Sport is too big, the Velar promises to be your ticket to British SUV satisfaction, with a built-in brand promise that off-road adventure is a mere touchscreen swipe away.
A bewildering 48-variant line-up starting in the low $70,000 bracket and topping out almost $100,000 north of that means the Velar straddles the price-point of high-end Evoques and mid-to-high-spec Sports.
It’s recognisably a Range Rover, but the Velar cuts a sleeker, lower silhouette while stopping short of the coupe-like style of competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and BMW X4.
The result is opulent and stylish yet practical and user-friendly family transport for those who want to spoil themselves rotten.
Well before our week with the Velar was up, we were more than a little bit smitten.
Price and equipment
We drove the $112,850 (plus on-road costs) D300 SE that represents about the mid-point in the 48-variant Velar range.
This version comes with the most powerful of three diesel engine choices (a punchier petrol serves as flagship, with two less powerful petrol options also available) and the second-from-top trim level (top spec is HSE two further grades sit below SE).
Further broadening the Velar palette and available on top of each engine and trim level combination is an R-Design specification with sportier interior and exterior styling that carries a $6000 premium.
A stand-out standard feature – and much more than just a gimmick – is the two-tiered 10.0-inch touchscreen multimedia setup, with the traditional navigation, audio and phone functions displayed on the top level, and the lower deck handling air-conditioning controls, drive mode selection, some vehicle settings and duplicated audio/phone access. The Velar has voice control for most of these functions, too.
Beyond that, standard Velar SE kit includes a fully customisable digital instrument panel that can provide yet more duplication of the functions and information available in the two touchscreens, which at this spec level also have in-built internet connectivity and on-board Wi-Fi hotspot. Audio output is via a 17-speaker Meridian premium sound system, standard upholstery is perforated black leather and the front seats have 10-way electric adjustment.
There’s dual-zone climate control, a gesture controlled electric tailgate with roof spoiler, automatic matrix LED headlights with daytime running lights and high-beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, flush-fitting door handles, a frameless auto-dimming interior mirror, auto-dimming and folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, an acoustic laminated windscreen and parking sensors front and rear.
Behind the seven-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels are electronically controlled air suspension and torque vectoring.
Range-wide standard safety systems include autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, a reversing camera, trailer stability assist, hill-start and descent control, tyre pressure monitoring, six airbags, a speed limiter and awful cruise control that gains far too much speed down hills. The SE adds to this list driver fatigue monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
To get adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring requires a step up to the top-spec HSE that is $16,300 more expensive and includes as standard several of the features fitted as options to our SE.
In case you’re curious, here is a list of the more than $31,000 of options fitted to our car, bringing the total price to $144,190 before on-road costs:
Our favourite was also the most expensive at $7730, which bought a front seat upgrade providing 20-way electric adjustment, massage, heating, cooling and three-position memory for both driver and passenger. Money very well spent, enhancing every single journey we made and making traffic jams a massage-extending pleasure.
We could live without the $4370 panoramic roof, though, especially as its thin blind was no match for the Australian summer sun.
Another $2440 was spent on the Interior Luxury pack that adds leather trim to the steering wheel centre, door caps, and instrument panel. The steering wheel also gains a chrome bezel and satin chrome paddle-shifters.
Head-up displays are useful, but $2420 is a bit rich considering a growing number of mainstream vehicles now feature one as standard in higher-spec variants.
The $2310 Premium Exterior pack was also fitted, comprising Narvik Black colour scheme for most exterior trim pieces as well as the decal lettering and grille.
Land Rover Australia lavished $1910 worth of supple perforated Windsor leather on the seats and $1780 of fetching Byron Blue metallic paint.
On a more practical note – and uncharacteristically reasonably priced for Land Rover – was the $1000 tow hitch receiver should we have wished to exploit the Velar’s 2500kg towing capacity.
But of questionable benefit was the $1110 active locking rear differential, a bit of hardcore off-road gear that would probably be of more use dragging a trailer up an algae-covered wet boat ramp than scaling an escarpment in the Flinders Ranges. Especially on our car’s 20-inch alloy wheels.
The black roof rails on our car are a $940 option, as is ‘configurable dynamics’ that enables the driver to tune transmission, steering and suspension settings to their taste and driving conditions. It includes a dynamic mode that activates a G-meter, stopwatch and pedal response indicator for when you’re trying to break the Nurburgring lap record for a diesel Range Rover, or something.
Next on the options-fitted list is $890 of rear privacy glass, which we’d have preferred to provide a bit more shade from the Queensland sun than it did. Arguably more useful for the same money on our car was the electric steering column adjustment.
Should we have driven on wet grass, snow, ice or other low-grip surfaces best negotiated at 30km/h or less, we would have benefited from All Terrain Progress Control ($640). The solar attenuating windscreen, however, was worth every penny of its $560 and we wished all the windows were made of this stuff.
$540 was spent on configurable ambient lighting, which was great for amusing a toddler passenger while parked in a basement garage, and it did show off the $440 Satin Blonde Linear veneer door trims beautifully.
Last but not least was Terrain Response 2 ($430), another off-road gizmo that uses sophisticated electronics to get the Velar closer to nature whenever its driver desires.
And there are further options and customisations available, making it possible that no two Velars sold in Australia are the same.
Our car’s interior colour scheme was Light Oyster with highlights in Byron Blue and Ebony. The included care label and bottle of leather cleaner in the glovebox did little for our confidence about wearing blue jeans, drinking coffee or transporting children in this car.
But happily we did all the above without incident and all occupants felt thoroughly pampered in the process.
To put it mildly, the Velar interior is stunning. The extended leather coverage added to our test vehicle made it feel even more special inside and the comfort of plush, almost infinitely adjustable massage front seats made even motorway snarl-ups bliss.
When the Evoque launched around eight years ago, it set a new benchmark for dashboard architecture and style that has since been interpreted to suit every price point in the Land Rover range.
The Velar takes this design philosophy to the next level. In terms of outright luxury feel, attention to detail and materials choice, it more than good enough for someone who can afford the biggest Range Rover but finds the size unnecessary and impractical.
At the same time, the Velar, like the Evoque before it, democratises high-end design and quality to those for whom a full-size Range Rover is beyond reach. There’s nothing else in this price range that delivers the sense of luxury evident in a Velar.
Central – both figuratively and literally – to the Velar’s cabin layout is the two-tier touchscreen setup. Those familiar with Jaguar Land Rover’s multimedia interface will find little new on the upper 10.0-inch display that integrates best with smartphones when a proprietary app is installed on the device but otherwise has no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mirroring. It’s a pretty usable setup overall – once accustomed – and certainly fully featured.
The top screen also presents itself to occupants by rotating subtly from its resting place as the rotary transmission selector raises from its position in the centre console. It’s a nice bit of theatre, but there is a practical benefit in the ability to customise its angle to the driver’s preference. Being such a glossy thing, it would easily cause glare or have its image obscured by reflections, but there is just enough adjustment available to eliminate these problems.
Beneath it, the lower tier is a triumph. Not only does it look great regardless of whether it is turned on or off, but the integrated multi-functional, context-sensitive twin rotary controllers are the ultimate antidote to gripes about certain functions – particularly ventilation controls – being consigned to touchscreens.
For example, with the climate menu active the controllers display the currently selected temperature at their centre and can be rotated to adjust it up or down as is conventional. If your Velar is so equipped, pushing the controller switches it to seat mode and the graphics change accordingly. Our car had both cooled and heated seats, meaning it was a simple twist of the dial to choose a comfortable level of cooling or heating.
We also had massage seats, the intensity of which could also be controlled by the dial and the style of massage selected while using the relevant menu – on which it was also possible to restrict seat heating or cooling to the backrest or seat base.
On Velars with the right options ticked – such as ours – in the vehicle settings menu the rotary controller is also used to select the driving mode or off-road setting in the Terrain Response system, again with the logo displayed in the centre of the rotary controller. Virtual buttons for more mundane functions such as disabling the idle-stop system are also provided here.
It occurred to us that a successful integration of all switchgear into a system such as this eliminates not only the clutter of physical buttons but also the switch blanks that serve only to remind a vehicle owner of equipment they are missing out on. In a touchscreen-only cabin, switch blanks are blissfully concealed in lines of code.
There is also a duplication of audio and phone functions on the lower screen, should you require the sat-nav map or some other function to occupy the upper display.
More duplication was on offer in our SE-spec Velar, in the shape of its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Many combinations of information are available, if not as simply selected as with, for example, the equivalent Audi system. The way the labels on the steering wheel buttons alter during different modes is pretty nifty though.
As our car had a head-up display, it was feasible to occupy the entire instrument panel with the sat-nav map and literally nothing else. It felt odd to do so, but welcome to the modern world.
This is all great for showroom wow factor and impressing your mates, but the Velar backs it all up with excellent practicality.
Plenty of cabin storage is on offer, with three cupholders up front (one square and perfectly sized for those trendy cartons of spring water, another concealed behind a flap that glides open on the push of a metal Land Rover logo) and great big door bins all round that do a great job of holding big drinks bottles.
Two more cupholders are situated in the rear fold-down armrest, too. Someone from the cupholder obsessed Discovery 5 development team clearly advised colleagues from the Velar project that their customers would be similarly thirsty.
Each side of the split front armrest can independently slide forward to obscure two of the cupholders (providing extra comfort for long-armed people or those who need their seat really far forward to reach the pedals). The sharp-edged, flimsy feeling release catch for these was the biggest letdown in the Velar cabin, of which we were reminded every time we accessed the reasonably large storage bin beneath containing a couple of USB ports and other connectivity options.
A hollow behind the lower touchscreen is home to another large storage area we found useful for stashing sunglasses and keys (obviously not at the same time), while the glovebox is also of a handy capacity provided the chunky user guide is removed.
Map pockets are provided but are quite small and made of an inflexible material that restricts the chunkiness of things you can put there. For example they don’t conceal a traditional-sized iPad.
The Velar is a five-seater, with a split-fold rear bench in 40:20:40 configuration. With it all completely flat, luggage capacity expands from 558 litres to 1616L. It is a usefully proportioned space, with four chunky fold-down shopping bag hooks and a 12V power outlet provided along with a number of tie-down points. There are a couple of switches that can raise or lower the car’s rear suspension to help the loading of large objects, too.
Outer rear seats can also be subtly reclined via switches located on their edges, and easy-to-use Isofix child restraint anchorages are also provided in plastic guides that make attachment simple. Similarly, top tether points are in a sensible spot on the rear of the backrest.
For 186cm adults sitting behind the same-height front occupant, the Velar provides adequate, but not acres of legroom. It is a similar story for the person sitting in the middle position, although it is a harder cushion that feels like a perch and its raised nature reduces headroom compared to the generous amount lavished on those sitting either side.
Ventilation throughout the cabin is excellent, as is visibility and the general sense of airiness. The latter was helped by the panoramic glass roof and mostly light-coloured trim. The roof blind’s thin fabric did little to quell the Queensland sun, though.
On the move, we would sometimes note how quietly the Velar was gliding along and at other times feel as though road noise was compromising the sense of serene luxury. Coarse-chip bitumen was dealt with easily, but concrete surfaces would penetrate the insulation.
Engine noise was mostly distant and never obtrusive and, as Land Rover points out, the Velar is seriously aerodynamic for an SUV, which we noticed the benefit of when travelling at speed with little intrusion from wind noise.
In any case, the 17-speaker Meridian sound system was an absolute treat for the ears and easily offset any unpleasant sounds entering our leather-lined cocoon.
The most disappointing feature of the Velar was the cruise control that, apart from not being of the radar-operated adaptive variety given the vehicle’s cost, was pretty poor at holding a consistent speed when faced with gradients. We would often see the speedometer climb 10km/h down even a gentle hill and then lose a similar amount on the way up the next one.
Lane-departure warning is more accurate, but with an unusual setup that does not beep but causes the entire Velar cabin to quake as if there are vibrating devices behind the dashboard and door trims, as well the more conventional shaker for the steering column.
Despite this, and venturing onto some twisty, poorly paved bitumen and rugged gravel, the Velar cabin remained solid and free of squeaks, creaks, groans and rattles. This in itself is surely a departure for the Land Rover brand.
Engine and transmission
The D300 badge on our Velar’s rump signifies the presence of a 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V6 at the opposite end, producing a hearty 221kW at 4000rpm and a substantial 700Nm of torque at just 1500rpm, resulting in a sprightly 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds.
A significant delay when accelerating from standstill caught us out many a time during the week we had with the Velar and was our biggest gripe with it (apart from the rubbish cruise control mentioned earlier). The same problem afflicted a 2.0-litre petrol Jaguar F-Pace we drove before it, too. Many modern cars have this irritating tendency but the Velar and F-Pace were among the worst in recent memory.
Once up and running, it is all good news. This diesel engine is smooth, refined and exhibits just a subtle vibration at cold start or idle. Its deep note and wave of low-end torque are the only real giveaways that this is not a petrol – especially as compression-ignition clatter is all but absent.
The unit is also at least as punchy as the figures suggest, especially when required to burst rom 80km/h to 100km/h for overtaking or surging from 60km/h to 110km/h for joining a motorway. When not extended in this way, it feels reassuringly relaxed and unstressed.
Apart from the occasional clunk from its eight-speed automatic transmission during low-speed deceleration of manoeuvring, we were more than happy to let the Velar make its own decisions about gear ratio for most driving scenarios.
The D300 Velar has enough ratios and enough low-down grunt to get pretty much any job done without fuss and apart from those rare times it was caught out and clunked, it was buttery smooth when left in D and the vehicle set to Comfort mode.
With Dynamic mode selected on the touchscreen, sport mode engaged on the transmission dial and a driver who has activated the paddle-shifters, the Velar transmission is genuinely manual and will happily hit the limiter – which is easy to do given its 4000rpm redline and how quickly it gets there due to short ratios and plentiful power.
Avoid such faux pas and the transmission flies up and down ratios, with rapid responses to driver requests – accompanied in sport mode by an aggressive sportscar-like slam as each shift is executed.
Land Rover also seems to have added some kind of Dynamic mode specific fake engine note to accompany this setting’s red-tinged instrument dials and rev-counter that appears in the head-up display.
Officially, the D300 engine consumes 6.4L/100km on the combined cycle, while we achieved an average of 7.9L/100km during our week and more than 700km of driving.
In the Velar’s defence, we did a lot of round-town errands in the Velar as well as lots of sitting idle with the engine running during photography, or waiting with the air-con running. In any case, 7.9L/100km is still excellent for a car of this size and performance.
The official highway figure of 5.8L/100km is almost spot-on, as we got 5.9L/100km on the motorway. Clearly a result of those finely tuned aerodynamics at work.
Ride and handling
With adaptive air suspension between and 20-inch alloy wheels wearing chubby 50-section rubber, our Velar came close to achieving the magic carpet ride of a true luxury car.
Land Rover has also managed to engineer in impressive levels of body control, apart from the occasional bobbing sensation on bigger hits when in Comfort mode. Things are altogether more tied down in Dynamic mode, with a slightly firmer ride to contend with, but it is still by no means a bone-shaker in this setting.
Anyway, Dynamic mode is almost irrelevant because pitch and roll are so subdued in wafty Comfort mode that a Velar’s occupants can remain blissfully ignorant of just how little impact their high-income bracket tax dollars have on the state of Australia’s roads.
Edge-of-your-seat dynamics were probably not on the Velar design brief – the F-Pace from sister brand Jaguar takes care of that – but there is a pleasant crispness to the way this new Range Rover handles whether round town or on a fast twisty road.
For example, as with the suspension setup in Comfort mode, the steering weight and action feel perfectly in tune with the Velar’s relaxed cruiser character, while not being so pointy as to harm the off-road capabilities required to justify the Land Rover badge. A bit more arm-twirling on tight bends than more overtly sporting rivals is the result, but there’s plenty of directness for bends that can be taken at fast country road speeds.
On the day we visited our dynamic test route, the surfaces ranged from just-soaked to damp or unfathomably dry. Surface quality was similarly variable, which after all was the reason for choosing this location in the first place.
Regardless, the Velar remained consistently poised and communicative enough to avoid unpleasant surprises for the driver as grip and traction limits were approached – or suddenly changed – while being sufficiently responsive and agile to be easily controlled when things got slippery.
In essence, the Velar is not one of those grip monsters that you never get to truly interact with at legal or socially acceptable speeds, but neither will it replace your hot hatch or performance sedan in terms of satisfaction on twisty roads. But neither can a hot hatch or performance sedan raise their suspension and go off-roading.
The differences between comfort and dynamic modes are subtle, with the ride tightening up a bit but not enough to cause skittering on poor corner surfaces and with apparently little enhancement to the already excellent roll control of the comfort setting. Steering and throttle response is heightened, though.
When venturing onto gravel we selected the appropriate Terrain Response mode and marvelled at how brilliantly fit for purpose the technology was for this low-grip environment. Traction was expertly managed and so was stability, gently and softly guiding the Velar’s nose around corners as the front tyres started to push toward understeer or rough corrugations bounced the wheels around enough to threaten steering accuracy.
A bit of extra resistance to direction changes through the steering discouraged heavy-handed inputs here, too, with a doughier accelerator pedal response to match.
What’s more, hard braking felt more confidence inspiring out here than on the damp bitumen we had driven on earlier. The Velar’s brakes haul the car up well in the dry and have a great feel when there’s plenty of grip, but applying the pedal hard enough in the wet for the ABS to kick in led to buttock-clenching squirming.
Wet weather emergency braking aside, the Velar has a broad range of dynamic talents far exceeding what most people, in the real world, would ever need.
And having more than you need is the definition of luxury, right?
Safety and servicing
The Range Rover Velar was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP crash-test rating in October 2017, scoring 35.47 out of 38 in the adult occupant protection section, full marks in both the side impact test and pole test, and 7.2 and 7.4 out of eight respectively for the full-width frontal and frontal offset tests. Whiplash protection was rated 1.92 out of a maximum three points.
For child occupant protection the Velar got 41.85 out of 49, with a score of 31.29 out of 42 attained for pedestrian protection. It picked up extra points for strong performance of the pedestrian collision avoidance function of its autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system.
This contributed to an overall score of 31.29 out of 42 for safety assistance tech, with a full three points for seatbelt reminders along with good results in the lane-keeping and AEB tests. Only a meagre score of 1.25 out three for speed assistance systems let the Velar down.
Standard safety equipment on the velar includes AEB, lane departure warning, a reversing camera, trailer stability assist, hill-start assist, hill descent control and tyre pressure monitoring. Dual frontal, side and curtain airbags are also fitted.
Servicing intervals are 12 months or 26,000km and Land Rover offers pre-paid five-year maintenance plans costing from $1500 to $2200 depending on the type of engine fitted. Our Velar’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel was up for the most expensive plan. All plans max out at 130,000km apart from vehicles fitted with the 2.0-litre diesel engine, in which case it expires at 102,000km (data correct at time of writing).
The standard Land Rover warranty covers the vehicle for three years of 100,000km. Unfortunately, the brand’s reputation suggests you will need it. However, the Velar was one of few Land Rover products we have driven that exhibited no faults during our test.
The Velar oozes desirability and despite feeling almost too exquisite to be tasked with suburban errands, school runs and grocery-getting, these are all performed beautifully in every sense of the word.
Beauty, in this case, certainly is more than skin deep, for the Velar is brimming with genuine practicality and fitted well into everyday family life while making every journey feel like an occasion.
Few cars in the Velar’s price bracket manage to achieve all of the above, making it something of a feel-good bargain, much as we gristle and gripe about the level of standard equipment and the price of options.
Talking of which, our optioned-up example felt seriously special to sit in, with fantastic attention to detail, quality materials everywhere and supremely comfortable massage seats.
And at least we know from other Range Rover products that you still get a high percentage of the premium look and feel we experienced, without going to town on upgrades.
Passers-by, including owners of other Range Rover products, saw fit to make positive remarks about the Velar and other road users seemed to deliberately manoeuvre their vehicles to get a closer look. The Velar created a sensation everywhere we took it, much like the Evoque did when we first drove that back in 2011.
Just as its smaller stablemate did at launch, the Velar feels as though it is at the cutting edge of design and technology – as much is possible these days in a car powered by internal combustion.
What’s more, unlike those poorly put-together early Evoques and numerous other Land Rovers we have driven since, our Velar test car exhibited zero glitches, faults or questionable fit and finish issues.
It was one a handful of test cars we handed back to the manufacturer with great reluctance.
So, to those with the means to splash out on a Velar, we say: Go on, spoil yourself rotten.
Jaguar F-Pace S D, from $101,795 plus on-road costs
Related to the Velar under the skin and the more overtly sporting of the pair, with car-like dynamics compensating for a relative lack of ride comfort. The biggest disparity, though, is the Jag’s unforgivably naff interior.
Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe, from $111,000 plus on-road costs
Plenty of change for options on this performance-oriented AMG ‘lite’ SUV compared with the Velar and it’s arguably better value. But then again it is smaller and nowhere near as opulent or special-feeling as the Rangie.
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