As the well-established off-road British marque meddles further into the urban jungle its Velar plugs a gap between the compact Evoque and bigger Sport. Sales of the first-generation Evoque, which is close to being renewed, smashed sales records and this new SUV, while not as affordable as the smaller one, should take second place comfortably.
But with a range of engines, both petrol and diesel, and various trim grades, the question is where's the sweet spot?
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium SUV
Price: $70,662 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 177kW/500Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 l/100km As tested: 7.0 l/100km
It's obvious Range Rover hasn’t instilled the same sort of off-road confidence into the Velar as its bigger brothers but that’s not the point as there’s no low-range transfer box and no off-road gear like a rear-diff lock or de-coupling roll bar, and not a great deal of ground clearance unless you look higher up the model range.
But that’s not to criticise this handsome Brit, that presents a wonderfully sleek and svelte interpretation of those capable larger models. In fact, for some, it will be the most striking looking model, and likely to nick sales from the Sport off the showroom floor.
It also comes with a respectable starting sticker price from $70,662 that goes all the way up to $168,862. The reason that looks so good is obvious once you step inside.
The D240 SE on test is priced from $100,950 though the D240, a badge which designates its 177kW/500Nm four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, starts from $80,950 in base Velar trim. S trim adds around $10,000 more and this SE an additional $10,000, and the top of the line HSE is a further $15,000 on top of that.
Likewise, one of six engine options can be joined to those trim levels in varying outputs from this four-cylinder diesel, a similar-sized petrol motor or a 3.0-litre supercharged V6. And the whole lot is bundled in either standard or cost-option but sportier looking R-Dynamic trim.
In total, there are over 40 different combinations to mull over. However, there’s plenty to like in this diesel SE that sits comfortably in the middle of range pricewise.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloys, Windsor leather interior trim, matrix led headlights, wonderful Touch Pro Duo twin-screen infotainment with sat-nav, 825 watt Meridian sound system with 17 speakers, power tailgate and those cool pop-out door handles.
Options are expensive but comprehensive, and include extras such as $640 premium carpet mats, $530 heating steering wheel, $940 digital radio and $3020 carbon-fibre copper weave door inserts.
Standard safety includes autonomous emergency braking up to 80km/h, 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning with optional lane-keeping assist.
- Standard Equipment: Auto on/off wipers and LED headlights with adaptive high-beam, keyless auto-entry with push button start, panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control, leather trim with electrically adjustable steering column, electrically adjustable heated/ventilated front seats with massage function, heated steering wheel and rear seats with electrically adjustable backrest, head-up display and active cruise control.
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch colour driver display and twin-centre 10.0in touchscreens with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, four USB and twin HDMI inputs, satellite navigation and 17-speaker, 825-watt Meridian audio.
- Cargo Volume: 558 litres.
Taking cues from the exterior design, the cabin brings a comparable degree of elegance with a premium fit and finish – at least with the right options. There’s a plethora of different leather, metal and timber trims to create as dressy or posh a finish as desired.
What steals the attention inside - at least when it's mastered - is the brilliantly intuitive and crisp-looking vertically-stacked twin-display array on the centre console. It’s not just the depth of clarity and response to touch input that are a class act but the integration of real rotary dials into the screen that can switch mode to control items such as the massaging heated and cooled seats to the climate control and fan speed.
It takes some time to understand the menu system, which is deep, but for nearly every important setting is a practical and quick way to bring it up.
Behind the display system is a 60GB hard drive and 4g connectivity for information and connected services, including streaming music which sounds good through the Meridian sound system, but, load some high-quality music files into the hard drive and its talents shine with crisp high and deep bass, as well as some complex surround and high-fidelity equalisation settings.
There’s also a third 12.3-inch wide screen lurking behind the steering wheel to challenge Audi’s same-sized virtual cockpit. While not as good, it is crisp, and can summon the usual lists of both interesting and nugatory information.
The 20-way electric seats are snug and comfy with one of the softest headrests in the business and the massaging function works as well as a shopping centre back-basher - which is good for any car in this class.
In the back there’s not a tremendous amount of leg room for six-foot plus frames but a rear-facing baby seat or small family won’t have any issues cramming in. Optional four-zone climate control makes things nicer if you plan on ferrying permanent passengers.
Further back is a long-loading length 558 litre boot that’s down on size compared to some rivals but swallows cargo easily with its length, and expands to a big 1731 litres via 40:20:20 split-fold seats.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol 184kW/365Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear, air springs
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
- Towing Capacity: 2500kg maximum
All of the brilliant gear and fine finishes inside pay a toll on weight that tips the scale at 1840kg - though not horrendous thanks to the new platform its built on.
But the heft does present a challenge for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo engine that produces a benign 177kW and 500Nm. Get on the pedal and it’s unwilling to scuttle any faster than a fully-loaded wagon; put it in dynamic mode and it peps up with sharper throttle response that’s useful for a quick getaway, but not much else.
However, it's relatively calm and quiet for a diesel engine and effortless at cruising speed where the high torque can be called upon for overtaking slower traffic.
Air suspension – optional for the D240 and not available on base engine grades – does plenty to provide a calm ride that floats with disguised firmness over rotten roads. It’s also useful for raising the SUV up and improving ground clearance from 213mm to 251mm that’s effective for light off-roading. The caveats are low-profile suburban-spec tyres and no low-range gear or diff-lock for help when the ground gets rutted or slippery.
That means the Velar falls into place as a gentler and larger beast than the Evoque that has shades of the plush ride in even bigger siblings. It also has a balanced dynamic ability that turns into corners and is easy to move but will lean and squirm about early in the piece. It’s graceful, but not fast.
Of course, enthusiasts can look further up the tree to the supercharged V6 that drops the 0-100km/h sprint from 8.9 seconds to 5.6 with a much nicer soundtrack.
The bonus in the diesel is good fuel efficiency, claimed at 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle and which hit a respectable 7.0L/100km in our real-world test, thanks in part to a slick ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Range Rover Velar scored 35.5 out of 38 points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assistance, and collision warning alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres.
Servicing: Checks to five-years/130,000km cost a combined $1800.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Jaguar F-Pace is a slick looking machine, but it doesn’t quite match the wow factor of its British step-sibling.
The Audi Q5 is a well put together SUV with a smart all-wheel drive system and clean but effective interior presentation. It’s also a bit cheaper, but without the ambience of the Velar.
The Porsche Macan is a more dynamic proposition that’s built around the German brand’s sports car theory, and with an interior that’s smart yet not as elegant.
- Audi SQ5
- Volvo XC60
- Jaguar F-Pace
- Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and GLC 63
- Porsche Macan
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Range Rover has successfully filled a hole in its small to mid-size SUV line-up that’s much more than just a bigger plug: it's unique.
Undoubtedly here to stay and ready to prove its worth with building sales, there’s a lot more Ranger Rover inside the Velar than in the smaller – and more affordable - Evoque. Some of that comes from size alone but so much more is in the interior details and brilliant new technology that rivals can’t match. The diesel might be acceptable if grace and not pace is your thing, but for everyone else, the petrol line-up might make more sense.
- Interested in buying Land Rover Range Rover Velar? Visit our Land Rover showroom for more information.