Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Velar - range
Land Rover models
Stunning exterior design, flush door handles, refined interior, supple and comfortable ride, genuine off-road ability, wide range of choice
Room for improvement
High-output engines could use more exhaust noise, dynamically vague, dual-touchscreen layout can get confusing, low standard equipment levels
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18 Sep 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
LAND Rover’s Range Rover brand has slowly grown over the years as the market shifts from passenger cars to SUVs, satiating the burgeoning demand for premium, off-road capable crossovers.
With the flagship Range Rover sitting at the top of the family tree, the large Range Rover Sport perched below and the small-sized stylish Evoque as the entry into the line-up, the British brand has now introduced the mid-sized Velar to bridge the gap between its models.
Based on the same platform as its Jaguar sister brand’s F-Pace, the Velar SUV arrives with an emphasis on design, style and finish to compete against other premium crossover offerings such as the BMW X3/X4, Porsche Macan, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC/GLC Coupe.
However, being a Range Rover, the Velar brings with it commendable off-road credibility with features such as a rear-locking centre differential, Terrain Response and all-wheel drive as standard.
Can Range Rover deliver both style and substance in the ultra-competitive, German-dominated premium SUV segment?
Land Rover is betting that customers will dig the range of choice available on its new Range Rover Velar premium mid-size SUV, with two body styles, six engine options and four different trim levels available.
In total, there are 48 different permutations available and that’s excluding the special First Edition versions and the long list of options!
While the line-up initially seems overwhelming and over-complicated, the Range Rover Velar’s unrivalled selection opens up a lot of possibilities for buyers.
Keen on a lot of equipment but not fussed about a high-performing engine? Grab the entry-level D180 engine with a high-spec SE or HSE trim. How about a high-performing, sportscar-scaring V6 on a budget? The P380 in standard trim level has you covered.
Range Rover has to be commended for giving free rein to its customers to pick and choose exactly the specification they want without tying higher equipment levels with more potent engines and a heftier pricetag.
As expected though, prices vary wildly depending on which Velar is chosen, ranging from $70,662 before on-roads all the way up to $168,862, catering towards a pretty broad spread of large premium SUV buyers.
While we acknowledge that design is subjective, it has to be said that Range Rover has gone out of its way to produce an incredibly striking, attention-grabbing SUV.
And if you think it looks stunning in the photos, it looks even better in the metal.
A high beltline which sweeps from the front of the glasshouse to the rear, a rear bumper design which manages to mask the bulbous boot and the door handles which sink in flush with the bodywork elevate the usual SUV shape into something chic, modern and unmistakably eye catching.
The Velar is also offered in R-Dynamic configuration, which adds visual tweaks including front intake accents, faux bonnet vents, extended fender strakes finished in a copper colour, while the inside gains satin chrome touches.
While the R-Dynamic option adds $6000 to the price, the Velar’s appearance is altered from a sleek and sophisticated luxury SUV into a much more sporty and aggressive looking crossover.
Range Rover reckons the pick of the bunch will be the mid-tier P240 diesel and P300 petrol offerings with the R-Dynamic pack paired with the two mid-tier S or SE trims, which offer a good balance of performance, frugality, specification and price – and we reckon they are right on the money.
At the Australian media launch of the Velar, we were only able to sample the top-spec D300 diesel and P380 petrol V6 engines, as well as the mid-spec D240.
Our favourite of the bunch was definitely the D240, which offers up 177kW of power and a substantial 500Nm of torque from a twin-turbo 2.0-litre engine for as low as $80,950.
While both flagship engines offer substantially more performance with 221kW/700Nm from the D300 and 280kW/450Nm from the P380, we felt the exhaust noise could be turned up a notch or two and they are both around $12,000 more expensive.
Power delivery across all three engines was smooth and predictable, with the nearly two-tonne SUV moving briskly through Sydney traffic and cruising comfortably at highway speeds thanks to the eight-speed automatic transmission and sharp throttle response.
On road manners are fantastic. The ride is supple and cosseting, even when the bitumen gets twisty the Velar soaks up bends and bumps with nearly no perceivable bodyroll at regular speeds. Of course, the air suspension fitted to the test cars helps.
In a more dynamic section of road, with the Velar in full attack mode thanks to the Dynamic driving mode and transmission set to Sport, we found steering and chassis feedback tended to become vague the more it was pushed.
However, Range Rover never intended the Velar to be a canyon-carving monster and has instead tuned the mid-size crossover for comfort and refinement and, in that regard, with a poised and polished road manner it has succeeded.
But it is when you take the Velar off-road that the real surprises start to pop-up.
Planned as part of our drive route, Land Rover allowed us to take each Velar – barring the 22-inch wheel-equipped versions – along a vigorous off-road section of a national park in the Blue Mountains.
While we would not quite call the route hardcore (it was more like a semi-hardcore track), the road featured steep hill climbs, descents, shallow creek crossings and genuinely harsh terrain that would not be approachable from its premium competitors.
And the Velar handles the rough-stuff just as well as it does inner-city driving.
As standard, there is a central-diff locker, all-wheel drive and the brand’s Terrain Response system, with All-Terrain Progress control and air suspension available as an option or standard on higher grades, which gives the Velar an extraordinary ability to handle the rough stuff straight from the highway without any need for preparations such as tyre or oil changes.
While the Velar won’t be replacing any Toyota LandCruisers or Nissan Patrols for the extreme bush-bashers, it is impressive that Land Rover has kept the Range Rover’s off-road DNA in such a premium-looking and feeling package.
Our V6 diesel test car was fitted in First Edition trim, which adds a number of options including a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, 22-inch wheels, 20-way adjustable seats and solar attenuating windscreen – basically a fully loaded Velar.
While the equipment list is substantial, the $168,250 pricetag certainly is too.
More palatable is the SE grade we tested in P380 and D240 guise, with 20-inch wheels riding much more compliantly while still equipped with premium creature comforts including 10-way adjustable seats, 17-speaker sound system, blind-sport monitoring and leather interior.
For our money, the mid-range diesel or petrol engines in SE trims hit the ‘goldilocks’ zone, offering a peppy engine with enough equipment to compete against the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X4.
Inside, the Velar is plush and comfortable and feels ultra-premium thanks to the sumptuous touchpoints and the inclusion of a new infotainment system.
A two-tiered 10.0-inch touchscreen set-up, which includes driving information such as navigation, connectivity and off-road information is displayed in the top section, while the lower screen handles climate control, seating functions and drive mode selection.
All in all, the system looks great, with a high-gloss piano black finish and a lux feel, however, the system can take a little time to get used to with a lot of information directed at the driver.
The screens are also fingerprint magnets, quickly attracting unsightly smudges, prints and dust even after minimal use.
Driver’s are also treated with capacitive touchscreen buttons on the steering wheel with right-hand-side controls taking care of cruise control and safety systems, while the left has volume and instrumentation controls.
While the system worked for the most part, a potential electrical gremlin popped up in the form of the left-hand controls ceasing to function on one of our test cars mid-trip. It started working again about 20 minutes later.
While the controls look nice, we found it can be tricky to get your finger in the right position without looking down at the wheel. We also feel that steering wheel controls should be tactile, giving drivers the ability to change songs or set cruise control without having to look down, which you sometimes need to do in the Velar.
From the rear seats, the Velar is also spacious and comfortable, however the high waistline means outside vision can be obscured, although we never felt cramped or uncomfortable.
Overall, the Range Rover Velar is an undeniably impressive package featuring stunning supermodel good looks, a premium fit and finish, and enough on/off-road ability that would put most other high-end SUVs to shame.
However, we think the best part is that Range Rover has given buyers the choice to pick a version of the Velar that best suits their own individual needs.
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