The Range Rover family welcomes its fourth member for 2018, the brand-new Land Rover Range Rover Velar. At first glance, it seems to check all the boxes a buyer would have for a luxury SUV. Style? Check. Luxury? Check. Off-road capability? Double check. But does it hold up under deeper scrutiny, especially of its brand-new multimedia system? Yes and no.
The Velar is positioned as the “Goldilocks” Range Rover for urbanites. Both the original Range Rover and Range Rover Sport aren’t quite suitable for city use because they’re too big. The Evoque, with its tiny backseat and shortage of cargo room, is too small to fulfill the utility portion of the equation. So along comes the Velar, which fits most folks (including those with small families) just right.
To find the Range Rover Velar’s closest competitor, you don’t have to look further than across the Jaguar Land Rover garage to the Jaguar F-Pace. The two share the same powertrains and platform, which gives them many similarities. The Velar, however, is about 2.5 inches longer, and its looks and interior put it in a different luxury echelon.
Also competing with the Velar are other compact/mid-size luxury SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC60.
Here’s what I drove:
2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE
Powertrain: 380-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 332 pounds-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined
Key features: Air suspension, Touch Pro Duo with two 10-inch touchscreens, quad-zone automatic climate control, active rear locking differential, heated/ventilated/massaging front seats, all-terrain progress control, adaptive cruise control, and power liftgate with gesture opening
Price: $87,110 (as-tested, including destination charge)
In addition to a supercharged V-6, the Range Rover Velar offers two four-cylinder powertrains I drove, as well: A 247-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 269 pounds-feet of torque rated at 21/27/23 mpg; and a 180-hp, turbocharged diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 317 pounds-feet of torque rated at 26/30/28 mpg.
Each engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. Impressively, all three engines are available across all the Velar’s trim levels (S, SE, R-Dynamic SE and R-Dynamic HSE) except the base trim, which comes only with the gasoline four-cylinder.
I spent most of my testing time with the supercharged V-6, but we also had a diesel Velar at our Chicago headquarters.
After driving a Velar with each engine, I didn’t find myself enamored with any of the powertrains. As mentioned before, the Velar shares its powertrain options with the F-Pace, but is around 400 pounds heavier in each configuration.
That added weight shows, especially with the four-cylinder engines. Arguably the least luxurious part of the Velar, the engines don’t provide easy power, and you have to really get into the accelerator pedal to make the Velar move with any urgency. Our team’s consensus on the diesel was that it was firmly in the realm of “just OK.”
Though the engines felt decidedly average, other aspects of the Velar’s driving experience were impressive. Both the standard steel springs and optional air suspension (standard on V-6 models) offered a comfortable ride at low and high speeds. When the road bent a bit more, I preferred the simpler steel-spring setup; it was slightly firmer and allowed the Velar to hold corners with more composure. The air suspension, however, offers more flexibility, especially off-road.
Most Range Rover Velars likely won’t so much as sniff a trail (and Land Rover admits as much), but they still have the Land Rover name, so they must be able to perform off pavement, as well. The Velar does that pretty spectacularly. I only had a chance to test the V-6 model off-road; it comes with a standard air suspension. While the Velar sits a bit lower in everyday driving with this suspension (8.1 inches at its lowest point, versus a fixed 8.4 inches with the regular springs), it can raise up to 9.9 inches of ground clearance when the surroundings necessitate extra lift. I wouldn’t recommend driving in this setting unless it’s required, however, because the fully stretched height makes the ride extremely stiff at anything but a crawling pace. If you can leave it in standard height, even on a dirt road, you and your passengers will be appreciative.
My test vehicle was also equipped with an off-road package that included Terrain Response 2, which adds functionality to the standard Terrain Response system, which comes with six drive modes (three on-road, three off-road). The upgraded Terrain Response 2 adds more configurable settings and a feature called All Terrain Progress Control. ATPC functions like off-road cruise control: The driver can set a speed going up or downhill and the Velar will travel at that rate, managing the throttle and braking and leaving only the steering up to the driver. It’s an impressive use of the Velar’s myriad sensors and electronic wizardry, and the feeling of crawling over sizable rocks while surrounded by an opulent interior (and getting a massage from the driver’s seat) is a strange dichotomy that will never fail to amuse me.
Man, That’s Nice
Speaking of opulence, the Range Rover Velar’s biggest strength is its overall sense of luxuriousness. This starts before you step into it, from the retractable door handles to a low roof that makes the exterior lines appear stretched and taut. That feeling extends to the interior, with fantastic materials all around, clean styling and two large screens (part of the new Touch Pro Duo system) staring back at you from the center console. Lower trim levels are not as consistent with their materials, but I’d put the top trim level up against pretty much anything out there. It’s not often I get out of a nearly $90,000 vehicle and think it was worth it, so kudos to Land Rover here. It looks and feels the part.