It’s the Range Rover Sport’s new cousin, that’s travelled back from the future to out-date every SUV in the market.
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Kerb Weight||Basic price|
|Supercharged 2995cc V6||374bhp @ 6500rpm||332lb-ft @ 3500-5,000rpm||5.7 secs||250kph||1884kg||$50,400 (AED 255,000)|
|Incredibly stylish, capable and comfortable|
|Engine noise too muted, even in Dynamic mode|
For the first time in my life, I’m boarding a plane and heading for what I assume will be a country covered by ice and snow. I’ve packed my suitcase accordingly, with my heaviest and thickest clothes, ready for one of my most anticipated drives of the year: the all-new Range Rover Velar, in Norway.
Until now I’ve always thought there was something missing from Land Rover’s line-up, that there was a gap for a vehicle ideal to my particular wants and needs. Because while the Range Rover Sport is a brilliant machine, it’s slightly too big and pricey for someone like me. On the other hand, I’d also like something with more performance ability than an Evoque as I tend to go off-roading from time to time. Could the Velar finally be a Land Rover to tick all my boxes? It has a lot to live up to.
As we land in Molde airport on Norway’s west coast, I’m in for a surprise: there’s no snow; not a single flake of the white stuff anywhere to be seen. I glance at my luggage with despair but that’s soon turned to unadulterated joy when my eyes fall onto the Velar that’s parked up and waiting for me. Seriously, if you think it looks great in the photos, just wait till you see it in person – if you don’t immediately fall in love with it, best check for a pulse.
The production Velar’s exterior looks are gratifyingly close to the seductive concept sketches and the design team has done a remarkable job in getting full functionality from such a design without major apparent compromises. The beautifully designed narrow headlamps and the bumper-to-bonnet aligned grill are definite highlights, as are the concealed/flush door handles. Initially I wasn’t bowled over by the design of the Velar’s rear but it’s beginning to grow on me.
Walking around it, I take more steps than if it was an Evoque, but almost the same as a Range Rover Sport. Little wonder, when I check the dimensions, as they are remarkably close when it comes to footprint, with the Velar being slightly narrower and lower, giving it a much more planted and meaningful stance.
I climb aboard and settle behind the wheel, only to get straight back out again to make sure this is a final production model. This is because the interior looks exactly like the 3D renders I’d seen months ago, which practically never happens. Concept cars are usually little more than teases that leave you unfulfilled once the toned-down production version rocks up but not this time.
The finishing touch to its magnificent cabin is the Velar’s ‘signature’ Meridian audio system, which is streets ahead of anything I’ve experienced before. A total of 23 speakers are served by 1,600 watts of music power, turning this Range Rover (which happens to also be blessed with excellent insulation from road and wind noise) into a laboratory of sound, with the highest volumes and deepest bass providing no problem for the hardware.
It’s fair to say that the Velar is many things but what it definitely is not, is a Jaguar F-Pace in different clothes. I wasn’t alone in thinking that was a distinct feasibility but it turns out the two, despite being related, offer very different combinations of luxury, refinement, sportiness and off-road capability.
With keen anticipation of what lies ahead, I leave the airport at Molde, with the windscreen full of astonishing views that conspire to distract me from the drive. Every time I think I’m getting into my stride, I see something special and feel compelled to park up and take photographs of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever cast eyes on. At this rate I’ll never get familiar with the delights on offer from the Velar.
When driving quickly on paved surfaces, the Velar is a proficient handler. With the systems fully in Auto mode, there is a perfect balance between stiffness and comfort, thanks to the use of a double-wishbone suspension up front, integral link in the rear. That’s in addition to the extensive use of aluminum in the body structure to reduce weight and help with handling precision.
Being the P380 model fitted with the 3.0-litre supercharged V6, the engine’s 374bhp is more than most people will want for daily driving, while its 332lb ft of torque grants the Velar impressive acceleration. It’s able to do the 0-to-100 sprint in just 5.7 seconds – numbers that are perfect for the Velar’s apparent positioning between Evoque and Range Rover Sport. The narrow roads taking us to Skodje highlight just how well sorted this car is, with it able to tackle tight corners at silly speeds.
This car has been specified with R-Dynamic trim, which adds bigger and more powerful brakes into the mix, and it’s entirely obvious that fast road driving was on the engineers’ minds when this was in development. With the Dynamic driving mode engaged, the vehicle lowers slightly on its air suspension, making for a sportier drive. Neither understeer nor body roll are problems, which is unusual for bigger and heavier sport SUVs.
Any vehicle sporting that famous green oval badge must offer class-leading off-road ability and the Velar is no exception. With its off-road mode selected, its adjustable suspension rises to offer 251mm of ground clearance (the Evoque tops out at 213mm and the RR Sport 280mm) and its eight-speed ZF automatic transmission benefits from close ratios. An active locking rear differential is present, too, helping elevate the Velar even further in the off-road stakes.
Off-road driving across snow and ice is remarkably similar to tackling sandy dunes and, on this visit anyway, Norway has neither to offer. However, I do get to experience this Range Rover’s prowess during a difficult articulation and high-angled off-road course, which the Velar tackled without coming close to breaking a sweat. Later on, a treacherous mud course has the Velar’s wheels spinning at all four corners but they soon find grip and forward momentum resumes. It’s safe to say that, based on what I experience here, the Middle East’s terrain won’t present the Velar with any issues.
Before handing back my Velar, I take one last look at it and, covered in mud it’s still beautiful. I reflect on how good it looks and feels from the inside, especially from behind the wheel but, with the top of the line P380 R-Dynamic HSE costing $107,600, that shouldn’t really be a surprise. To my eyes this is simply the most beautiful car Land Rover has ever made, yet its desirability is much more than skin deep – in fact, so impressed am I by the Velar’s sheer breadth of ability that it gets my vote for ‘car of the year’.