The spec sheet for the new Range Rover Velar helpfully includes the car’s maximum approach and departure angles, wading depth and ramp breakover angle. As if anyone buying the Velar will know what they mean, let alone care about them. This car may have the sort of off-road chops the green oval implies but, like the Evoque, it’s not for the sort of people who venture into muddy woodlands or ford streams. It’s for urbanites and the heavily style conscious.
Some “old-school” Range Rover fans might get sniffy about this but it’s where a large part of the brand’s market now lies. People want the luxury and prestige that the name carries but packaged differently.
The Evoque proved this but Range Rover bosses saw another market among drivers who coveted the Evoque’s style but needed more space. Hence we now have the Velar.
Range Rover Velar First Edition P380
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, supercharged, petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.3 seconds
CO2 emissions: 214g/km
In size terms it slots in just beneath the Range Rover Sport but where that car is chunky and macho the Velar is smooth and sleek. The front is clearly Range Rover but lower and wider and that theme is carried on as the body sweeps back and the roofline plunges at the rear. With hidden door handles, a contrast “floating” roof and massive alloys clad in low-profile rubber it’s more Gucci gown than grouse shoot but it looks fabulous.
Pop those secret door handles and climb in and, in the best possible way, the Velar feels like every other Range Rover. You climb up into it and there’s the same sumptuous look and feel but with a more modern edge. The steering wheel-mounted controls are capacitive touch now rather than physical buttons and the centre stack is dominated by two huge touchscreens.
The upper screen, which flips out slightly to meet you, acts much as it does in other JLR vehicles, controlling and displaying nav, phone and media. The lower one controls all the vehicle settings, climate etc. Most of the menus are controlled by touch but in an ingenious move there are two menu-sensitive physical buttons that add to the functionality and ease of use. Depending on the menu these let you quickly and intuitively adjust things such as the climate or drive modes. They look good and feel good and fall easily to hand.
Beyond the shiny tech the cabin is sumptuous, with enveloping seats and high-grade materials wherever your hands fall. The test car’s seats were a new fabric made partly from recycled plastic and while it sounds bizarre it feels every bit as premium as leather. It may be smaller than the Sport but the Velar manages to look and feel airier and more spacious.
The Velar is available with a range of engines but in sensible fashion faced with the choice of the 238bhp diesel or the supercharged 375bhp bhp V6 petrol I went for the biggy.
It sounds properly naughty. The V6 has a raspy, throaty note overlaid with the whine and whoosh of the supercharger that provokes a smile every time you sink your foot. In traditional Range Rover fashion though once you start cruising it’s near silent. The V6 is a meaty, muscular engine that drags the big machine down the road at a pace that quickly becomes indecent. This is a car that weighs nearly two tonnes but hits 60mph in a shade over five seconds.
Range Rover insist that this is the most road-focussed car they’ve ever produced. it feels it but there’s still no getting away from the fact that this is a big, heavy and relatively tall vehicle. There’s some roll when you’re really pushing on, even in ‘dynamic’ drive mode but it doesn’t reach worrying levels.
The ride is phenomenal, especially considering that it starts at 1,884kg and our test car was fitted with 22-inch wheels. The test car’s air suspension means that, like its stablemates, the Velar soaks up the worst the roads can throw at it without disturbing those on board.
The biggest sticking point for me is the price. Looking at the company’s website tells you that you can have a Velar for £45k but our V6 First Edition P380 weighed in at £86,175. You could have a full-fat Range Rover for less.
The bottom line, though, is that’s unlikely to worry the target audience for the Velar, likewise the accusations that it’s not a “real” Range Rover. It might not be to everyone’s taste but there’s no denying the Velar has presence, luxury and performance in spades.