2018 Range Rover Velar
Stylish and capable
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- 13 Feb 2018
By James Park
The newest member of the Range Rover lineup is arguably the looker of the bunch and is equipped with fancy new two-screen infotainment system that surely points to the overall direction the rest of lineup is headed.
We are not sure what ‘Velar’ means in the automotive sense, but slotting in between the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque, the vehicle is not too big and not too small – right in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone. The Velar has an athletic stance and possesses the most ‘evolved’ Range Rover design to date.
For those of you wondering, think of Range Rover as Land Rover’s luxury sub-division. Also in the family, of course, is Jaguar. These renowned British brands are now owned by India’s Tata Motors. (The industry works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?)
Thanks to Tata’s generous investments and minimal meddling, the JLR is enjoying a kind of revival, rolling out new products as the Velar, Jaguar F-Pace, E-Pace, the new Land Rover Discovery etc., in relatively short amount of time.
As with stylish exterior, the Velar’s interior is also very appealing. The overall ambience silently screams of upper-class opulence. Leather surfaces are sumptuous, fit and finish seem to be spot on and more than that, everything is tastefully done – no vulgarity, anywhere. The vehicle would not look out of place parked in the courtyard of Windsor Castle.
The much vaunted infotainment system, however, takes some getting used to. The top screen takes care of navigation, media, phone connectivity and the like. Climate control, seating arrangements, vehicle dynamics and so on are controlled by the bottom screen. Below the bottom screen are two redundant dials for temperature, heated seats and drive modes – not to mention other buttons on the steering wheel itself.
All of these together may seem daunting. One definitely should take a minute or two to get to know the arrangement. Once figured out though, all turn out to be fairly intuitive. Still, one can’t help to complain that some controls demand needlessly convoluted process to activate.
On the other hand, the seats are supportive, the leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel has nice heft to it, and there’s enough room for four normal-sized adults to enjoy the drive comfortably. The forward visibility is excellent, but the car’s design restricts the rearward vision somewhat. The back-up camera comes handy in this vehicle.
Delivering power to the rear or to all wheels as needed is either the 2-litre turbocharged diesel or the familiar supercharged 3-litre gasoline V6. The oil-burner develops ‘only’ 180 horsepower but more than makes up with very respectable 317 lb-ft of torque.
Nonetheless, most customers would probably choose the supercharged V6 good for 380 horses and 332 lb-ft of twist, enough to propel the none-too-light 2,028 kg (4,470 lb) car to 100 kph in less than six seconds.
Utilized throughout the JLR lineup, this long-in-the-tooth motor still spins out plenty of power but perhaps shows its age with less than exemplary refinement. However, the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission it is mated to is smooth and unobtrusive.
Undoubtedly, the Land Rover products are famous for their off-road prowess. In fact, looking at the drive modes that include Sand, Gravel/Snow and Mud, as well as the ability to raise and lower its suspension, the Velar seems ready and capable.
At the end of the day, however, the Velar shares platform with its corporate cousin, the Jaguar F-Pace, and is much more home on tarmac than loose gravel. Then again, only a miniscule percentage of Range Rover owners would ever think about venturing off-road, anyway.
So, push the drive mode to Dynamic and mesh the throttle. The Velar satisfyingly catapults away and for a high-centred utility vehicle, it shows tight handling and almost Porsche Macan-like agility.
The price of entry is bit stiff with the basic diesel model starting from $62,000 and the supercharged V6 from $69,000. The top-of-the-line R-Dynamic HSE test-vehicle demands $82,600 to start and rises to $92,360 with all the options, excluding taxes and other fees.
Among the options, the Meridian audio system is a must-have. Roll the windows down, turn up the Zeppelin and watch other middle-aged people nod their heads with approval.
Interesting gizmos include the door handles that keep flush with the panel and rise only when needed. Like other JLR models, the gear-select dial rises up when the car is started. In case of Velar, the top screen also pivots to the pre-selected angle, determined by the driver.
All these add to the drama and enjoyment of the car, but sometimes one can’t help but wonder how steep the repair bill would be in case they get broken. Although much improved lately, the reputation for reliability has not been JRL’s strong suit.
Still, the Velar has the ability to appeal to the heart. It is stylish, sophisticated and has plenty of power. All those looking for a luxury utility vehicle should do themselves favour by checking it out. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE
As tested: $92,360
Engine: 3.0 litre supercharged V6
Power: 380 hp/332 lb-ft
Transmission: 8 spd auto
Fuel: 13.3 litres per 100km (city), 10 litres (highway)
Best: styling, luxury atmosphere
Worst: needlessly convoluted infotainment
Competition: Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace, Audi SQ5, Mercedes-Benz GLC 43
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