Remember the Mini-Me character in the action-comedy film Austin Powers? Apparently a ‘one-eighth-sized’ clone of Dr Evil, this fictitious duo comes to mind when driving the 2017 Range Rover Velar P380 First Edition.
This medium SUV is not evil, to be clear. Range Rover has, however, finally filled the gap between its Evoque small SUV, and Range Rover Sport large SUV, with a decidedly ‘mini-me’ version of the largest Rangie formerly known as the Vogue.
From the imposing front styling, to the upright driver’s seat and indulgent cabin, The Velar also certainly does appear very ‘in-vogue’.
The question now is whether this new model really is ‘luxury distilled’.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $168,862 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 280kW/450Nm 3.0 supercharged V6 petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.4 l/100km | Tested: 12.6 l/100km
Range Rover offers enormous choice with the Velar, and here we climb straight to the top, above the D180 and D240 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels and four-cylinder petrol P250 and P300 of the same engine size.
The 221kW/700Nm D300 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel is also passed up for the 280kW/450Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol as tested here. In standard Velar specification they cost $92,850 (diesel) and $93,462 (petrol) plus on-road costs.
The S broadly adds $10,000 to the price, the SE the same amount again, and the HSE a further $15,000 give or take. Choose the R-Dynamic exterior styling package in case for $5000 extra, as well.
Yet our test car, the limited edition Velar P380 R-Design First Edition, takes the $135,762 (plus orc) list price of the Velar P380 R-Design HSE and then adds around $36,000 of extra features, for an eye-watering total of $172,372 (plus orc).
- 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 23-speaker, 1000-watt Meridian audio.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 558 litres.
Sumptuous Windsor leather is standard on the HSE specification, covering the dashboard and door trims, and offering 20-way electrically adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, plus a power-recline rear backrest.
But the First Edition further adds carbonfibre ‘copper weave’ door inserts ($3020 extra on HSE), suedecloth headlining ($2630 on HSE), premium carpet mats ($640 on HSE), and a heated steering wheel ($530 on HSE).
Then there is a 23-speaker, 1600W Meridian sound system, panoramic sunroof, Matrix LED headlights, surround-view camera and enormous 22-inch wheels, which usually cost $5640/$4370/$3900/$2380/$2040 on the HSE respectively.
Still missing are four-zone climate control ($1910) and a digital radio ($940), however, although there isn’t much else a buyer could be left asking for.
Thankfully, Range Rover hasn’t just thrown expensive options at a basic interior. The Velar in this specification feels far more premium than its arch-rival Porsche Macan. Moreover, it feels like a condensed version of the priciest Range Rover, the sub-$400,000 Autobiography, and compliments simply don’t come bigger than that
Velar’s tri-colour-screen arrangement helps with the perception of expense. The colour display ahead of the driver may not have the crisp graphics or menu intuition of Audi’s benchmark Virtual Cockpit, but it’s close.
Meanwhile the centre screens have a stunning combination of graphics, touch sensitive controls and rotary dials – for temperature, seat heating/cooling, fan speed and audio volume – that offer the best blend of touch and tactility around. As smartphone-like touchscreens become a more dominant part of the cabin experience, Land Rover’s latest offering is superb.
The only major downside is that the computing power can fail to keep up with the speed at which a driver request certain functions, lagging behind requests.
And although every touchpoint, from leathers to brushed-silver doorhandles, is absolutely first class for anywhere near this price point up front, the rear seat is a reminder that this is a medium SUV.
It’s wide and comfortable, with decent legroom, and the boot is spacious enough, but for this price buyers could be starting to shop in the realms of a large SUV. Range Rover has one of those in the form of the Sport, but also the likes of an BMW X5 M isn’t far off at $189,010 (plus orc).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 280kW/450Nm 3.0 supercharged V6 petrol
- 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
Within metres of leaving a dealership the Velar proves that it rides like a Range Rover should. All six-cylinder models get standard air suspension, and the way this P380 First Edition fails to crumble to the demands of 22-inch tyres is simply stunning.
It rides beautifully, slightly firmer than the ultra-plush Range Rover, but with steering immediacy and a general manoeuvrability that is far more engaging. This Velar can thread through 90-degree turns without a driver needing to cross arms over.
Too many SUVs prioritise sportiness over serenity – including the closely related, hard-riding Jaguar F-Pace – but not this one, thankfully.
As part of a Configurable Dynamics package, standard here but usually a $1700 option bundled with an All-Terrain Response Control off-road system, a driver can place the Velar into a sportier Dynamic mode. However, instead of being harsh and unyielding, this Range Rover continues to be measured fun through corners.
Down a tight mountain pass it runs into understeer fairly early, but the 22s grip well. It’s best to enjoy the superb response from the supercharged engine, lifting the throttle as the front-end starts to run wide, at which point the SUV neutralises itself.
A driver won’t be going very fast, but the impeccable inherent balance is as charming as the compliant suspension.
Only on the roughest country roads do the 22s make their presence felt with the occasional thump, and indeed the greatest deficit for the Velar compared with a Range Rover is in terms of road noise – which is decently, but hardly deathly, quiet.
With claimed 5.4-second 0-100km/h performance, the P380 First Edition isn’t very fast in a straight line for the price, either. But the 3.0-litre is a real charmer, and it proved more frugal than expected, slurping 12.6 litres per 100 kilometres on test.
The eight-speed automatic is likewise a smooth and slick partner at all times, helping the Velar to become more than the sum of its performance numbers.
Ultimately, a Macan Turbo Performance Package is faster in a straight line and through corners, but conversely this Range Rover feels more stately and plush.
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
An SQ5 is cheaper at $100K, just as quick and feature packed, without being as luxurious. Likewise the XC60 R-Design T8 that puts a hybrid twist on that theme.
The F-Pace First Edition lacks interior ambience and ride quality by comparison to this related Range Rover, while the Mercedes-AMG and Porsche dial up the sports factor – but neither can match the cabin of the model tested here.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Velar P380 First Edition looks and feels like an expensive Range Rover both outside and inside. For many the review can stop right there.
Even with 22-inch wheels this P380 First Edition offers first class ride quality, in addition to nice steering and immediate throttle response. It’s simply a great balance of driver enjoyment and engagement, and passenger pampering.
On the flipside, Range Rover’s superb new infotainment system should be less laggy, and the rear seat is tighter than pricepoint rivals such as the much-faster BMW X5 M. Given that comparison, more power could therefore be expected for this price.
Yet the Velar P380 First Edition isn’t a sports car, and it doesn’t need to be. It succeeds simply because it really is a ‘mini me’ Range Rover Autobiography.
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