2018 Range Rover Velar Review | Just Another Luxury SUV?
In the wake of the ever-increasing SUV popularity, the last thing we need is more niche segments. Sport Utility Vehicles, or SUVs for short, are quickly becoming the norm. We won’t be surprised if they phase out the wagon and perhaps even the sedan altogether in the next decade or so. With the proliferation of hybrid and electric SUVs just around the corner, it’s not a question of fuel economy and efficiency either. Most manufacturers have already jumped on the SUV bandwagon, even some which would have never considered building an SUV before. Jaguar launched two new SUVs in the last two years alone, and even Bentley has a full-size SUV now as well.
No name is as iconic when it comes to SUVs as Land Rover though. You see, Land Rover has been building SUVs since the beginning. They have never built something other than an off-road capable vehicle, so in that regard, they represent the benchmark by which all others measure their models. The Range Rover has been perfecting the entire luxury SUV segment for over a decade, and the Evoque started off the entire entry-level luxury SUV market when it made its public debut. Land Rover realized that there’s a pretty noticeable gap between its two best sellers though, and decided to fill it with the new Range Rover Velar.
If you think the Evoque is good looking, wait until you get a good look of the Velar. To say Land Rover has stepped up their game in terms of design would be an understatement. The Velar looks stunning from every angle, including the rear three-quarter panel shot, a weakness of most bulky SUVs. It’s still instantly recognizable as a Land Rover, but it’s somehow different to its Evoque and Range Rover siblings. It’s more evolved, if that’s even the correct term we’re looking for.
The front is mostly borrowed from the larger Range Rover, especially the headlights and the cutoff grille. The bumper is a lot sportier though, with two air vents with gills on either side accentuated by small diffusers right underneath. The hood is flat, as are the front quarter panels. It gives the Velar this square-ish stance and appearance. It looks hunkered down and low to the ground, despite the fact that it can outperform most SUVs on an off-road trail.
As you get further back, you notice the design influence from the Evoque. The upward-sloping waistline is heavily borrowed from the Evoque, as is the flat roofline with a cutoff rear window spoiler. The taillights are distinctly different, but the bumper isn’t. It too slopes upwards just like on the Evoque. It’s really impressive how Land Rover’s designers have managed to make something seeming so square appear so elegant and futuristic. It’s almost as though a clay block has been left to erode in the wind and the Velar emerged as a result of it.
The boffins at Range Rover haven’t skimped out on anything. The Velar gets the full-fat Range Rover treatment. The LED headlights are equipped with matrix LED technology which shields oncoming traffic from any glare caused by the lights. On dark roads the incredible laser high beams provide a staggering visibility of well over 1,840 feet ahead. The Velar is also the first mid-size SUV to feature deployable door handles. When not in use, the handles retract inside the body work. It looks cool, but it contributes to increasing the aerodynamic efficiency as well. The Velar boasts 0.32 coefficient of drag, one of the lowest figures for a car of its size and stature.
Like its bigger brother, the Velar comes in several different styling packages. Three to be more specific: R-Dynamic, Black Pack and Luxury Pack. As you can probably guess, the R-Dynamic is the one to go for if you want the whole package. It offers copper accents for the vents, a more chiseled front bumper, sleek darker Range Rover badging and gorgeous 22-inch Dar Grey Satin wheels.
The big Range Rover has always been the benchmark when it comes to interior quality. The Velar is no different, but because it’s competing in a mid-size segment where most of its competitors are usually cheaper, the difference is even more noticeable. Overall it’s still a Range Rover and you can definitely tell the connections between it and the Evoque for example, but everything has been taken to an entirely new, futuristic level. It impresses you the moment you get in it for the first time. Even high expectations are surpassed as you observe near Bentley levels of refinement in a mid-size SUV costly exponentially less.
Let’s start with the technology onboard, because it’s mighty impressive. For starters the small buttons along with the plastic center console you’ll find in the Evoque are gone. The Velar has a unique center console full of touch-sensitive dials and knobs, as well as a digital gauge cluster instead of the gimmick in the Evoque. It may be priced between the Evoque and the big Range Rover Sport, but it’s leaning towards the Sport a lot more than it is towards the Evoque in terms of luxury and creature comforts.
Then we arrive to the touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel and the 10-inch touchscreen which is operated by the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. I won’t be entirely wrong in saying it’s one of the most powerful infotainment systems currently on sale. It’s not as intuitive or as easy to use as, say Ford’s SYNC 3 system, but once you get the hang of it, the range of capabilities are endless. It’s got 4G LTE Wi-Fi, multi-gesture controls, 60 gigabits of onboard storage, and deep smartphone integration.
Engine and Performance
The Velar comes with three different engine choices from launch. The standard unit is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged diesel from the brilliant Ingenium family. With 180 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque it isn’t exactly the most powerful unit out there, but it gets the job done. Offered for European customers, it’s received high praises for its amazing blend of decent power and great fuel economy. On the gasoline side you have the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder opening up the range. It makes a healthy 247 horsepower, which in an SUV as light as the Velar, means it moves relatively enthusiastically when you stomp the accelerator.
If it’s performance you’re after though, the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is your best bet. Lifted straight from the F-Type S, it generates 380 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It’s not just fast for an SUV, but it’s fast full stop. The sprint to 60 mph takes just 5.2 seconds, quicker than most hot hatchbacks. You can genuinely shock a lot of sports car owners, even off the lights, and it’s all thanks to its drivetrain. Power is, as you can guess, sent to all four wheels via the full-time 4WD system. The ZF eight-speed auto we know and love does an excellent job in the Velar as well. It’s fast, intuitive and smooth. As far as transmissions go, it may very well be one of the best one out there.
A standard coil-spring suspension setup comes as standard, but you can spec your Velar with air suspension at an added premium. The air suspension is capable of raising the ride height by a rather large 46 mm, giving the Velar a total of 9.88 inches of ground clearance. The Velar, like its two siblings, is equipped with the Terrain Response 2 system. The driver-selectable settings mean you can adjust the car and its suspension to virtually any terrain. It boasts a locking rear diff and a central-mounted transfer case which can direct and adjust power between the front and the rear.
It’s not just capable as an off-roader though. The Velar can tow 5,500 lbs. with the included Advanced Tow Assist feature. What really impressed us though, is how well the Velar handled the corners. The Range Rover Sport is a big, full-size SUV, and it drives like one. It’s the best full-size SUV dynamics-wise, but you still feel its weight and the high center of gravity. Not so with the Velar. Range Rover has managed to deceptively mask the vehicle’s mass and its height, so much so that you don’t even get any excessive body roll in the corners. It’s neutral throughout the apex, with a hint of understeer if you really push on. Forget your Ms and AMGs, the Velar can wipe the floor clean with most of them.
If you look at the Velar objectively, it’s just another Range Rover model which slots in between the Sport and the Evoque. In reality though, it’s so much more than that. It’s perhaps Range Rover’s most competent model. It’s larger than the Evoque so it’s a lot more luxurious and it offers more space, but it’s not as bulky as the Sport. If you’re in the market for a luxurious SUV these days, forget the Sport or any other SUV for that matter, get the Velar. It’s a game changer.