There was a hole in the Land Rover–Range Rover lineup, and it was exactly the size of … the Jaguar F-Pace! What are the chances of that?? So Coventry, world headquarters of all that is Jaguar, as well as part of the giant conglomeration that is Jag-you-are Land Rover, sent over an F-Pace, which was stripped down to its bare essentials and built back up in the image of a Range Rover.
The result is what you see here: It’s called the Velar, and not only does it fit sizewise in between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, it is priced almost exactly in between those two SUVs, from $50,895 to $90,295, thus filling out the company lineup quite nicely.
The Velar can also swim, sort of.
We here in the U.S. will get a selection of three powertrains when Velars go on sale in September 2017, two turbocharged fours and a supercharged V6. The D180 diesel four makes 180 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, while the P250 gasoline four makes 247 hp but only 269 lb-ft. Finally, the P380 supercharged V6 makes 380 hp and 332 lb-ft. All are mated to ZF eight-speed automatics, come with all-wheel drive standard and all have towing capacities over 5,000 pounds.
The Velar is now the fourth Range Rover model and ought to make the lineup as complete as it’s ever going to get. With this new entry comes all the latest developments from the brand. Range Rover promises “new levels of refinement, elegance and technology” in this new midsize SUV, including driving precision, off-road capability and technology on the inside that, from RR’s breathless descriptions, rivals the European contributions to the space station (more or less).
The Velar’s dashboard includes two touchscreens.
Let’s start with that shared aluminum monocoque chassis.
“The platform is shared with the F-Pace, the wheelbase is the same as the F-pace (113.15 inches), those interfaces are common, but that’s about where it ends,” said program engineer Rob Scott.
Scott said that, while the chassis and space frame are common, the body structure is unique. The body panels, obviously, are all-new on the Range Rover, as is most of the content. The F-Pace, for instance, doesn’t have the V6 Velar’s air suspension.
“There are similarities to the underpinnings, but each vehicle is true to its DNA,” Scott said. “The Jaguar is about on-road performance. The Range Rover represents refinement and luxury but also the ability to deliver off-road capability with composure.”
There are a lot of SUVs that could match the Velar in rock-conquering ribaldry, but none could do it with the same levels of composure, Range Rover says.
“An F-250 could do the same off-road but the Range Rover delivers comfort through the maneuvers,” Scott said.
He pointed to a demonstration we witnessed wherein a Velar sat with diagonally opposed wheels dangling in space. The resultant stresses on the chassis didn’t torque the stiffened space frame.
“We can open the doors (with two wheels hanging in space),” he said. “With the competition you rarely can re-shut the door in that situation.”
You can even open and close the rear hatch, he added.
So it’s a stiff chassis (Scott couldn’t say exactly how stiff and has yet to deliver promised figures that could be compared to competitors, but we’ll agree from seeing the demo that it is, indeed, a stiff little sucker).
Velar on actual dirt.
Inside all that stiffness is a coddling interior festooned with technology. The Velar hosts the debut of two high-definition 10-inch configurable touch screens called the Land Rover InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Name aside, after a couple days driving around in a Velar in Norway, I found the intuitiveness of their operation refreshing, considering the maddening complexity of some luxury rivals (cough Cadillac, cough BMW, cough Mercedes, cough Tesla).
The seating material on our range-topping Range Rover was Dapple Grey, which was developed together with Kvadrat, not a Bond villain but “Europe’s leading manufacturer of high-quality textiles.” There was even a seat massage function.
Velar feels comfortable on road.
I drove only the V6-powered First Edition Velar, which was more loaded than your favorite uncle at the family reunion. That included pimpin’ 22-inch wheels wrapped with 265/40 tires, a combination that promised crisp performance on pavement but might do less well in the dirt. I spent time both on-road and off, sampling the full range of this new Range Rover’s capabilities.
On-road it was indeed just as quiet as a luxury car should be. In a straight line, it was the essence of British elegance. In corners, in regular driving mode, the feel behind the wheel (and in the somewhat limited cornering we were able to find) was perhaps slightly less nimble than that of the X5, Macan/Cayenne or F-Pace, even with those mighty meats, with just a bit more lean in the corners. Twist the transmission selector knob over to S, however, and the Velar jumps to life, trying its best to imitate its Jaguar sibling. “S” means that everything is dialed up just a bit: The transmission shifts quicker and holds gears longer, the air suspension, available only with the V6, firms things up and the electric power-assist steering feels a little quicker to react. It tries to be sporty but it is still a 4,471-pound luxury SUV. Even with 380 hp that works out to a weight-to-power ratio of 11.8 pounds of Velar for every horse to haul around, not anywhere near what you’d call sporty. The smaller-displacement engines would offer even less oomph.
Velar goes up a ski lift with aplomb.
Then they directed us off-road and up a fairly steep ski run — in the winter, with snow on it, it’d probably be a black diamond run … except that I was driving up it instead of slithering down. Here I enjoyed the benefit of almost every marketing term in the Range Rover playbook: Terrain Response 2, Active Rear Locking Differential, All Terrain Progress Control, Low Traction Launch, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Response Control and torque-on-demand all-wheel drive. A lot of those terms are copyrighted so you can just forget about stealing them for use on your Baja racer. A lot of them are also utilized via programs that grab the brakes whether aimed uphill or down, to stop a slipping wheel from slipping. This resulted in a discernable scent of brake dust on both the drives up and down, making us wonder if perhaps a simple low-range transfer case would have been more efficient. Perhaps not, considering that few, if any, Velar owners are likely to go backward up a black diamond Norwegian ski run in summer.
Our V6 had a ground clearance of 9.9 inches, which I could lower by touching an icon on one of the touchscreens. The single-speed transfer case can send 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the front axle in as little as a tenth of a second. Other icons engage Terrain Response, which tailors vehicle response to eco, comfort, grass-gravel-snow, mud ruts, sand and dynamic modes. You could spend the first 10 weeks of Velar ownership playing with touchscreen icons.
Velar holds its own on twisties.
You can get your Range Rover in a number of trims: Velar and Velar R-Dynamic range offer four specifications: Standard, S, SE and HSE with any of those three powertrains mentioned above. As I said, mine was the Velar First Edition, of which only 500 will be made. All the powertrains are available at launch.
Range Rover said competitors include the BMW X4 and Porsche Macan, but you could also throw in the Volvo XC60 and even the Mercedes GLE. And don’t forget the Jaguar F-Pace and maybe even the X5 and X6. Who knows how buyers think in this stratospheric segment?
Prices ain’t for lightweights. As noted, with the starting price listed at $50,895, including destination, they go up to my test-Velar’s sticker of $90,295. For that you could probably buy one of the painfully cute slopeside cabins on that Norwegian ski run. Of course, you’d never be able to leave it, but maybe if you married the right Norwegian you wouldn’t want to.
On Sale: September
Base Price: $50,895
As Tested Price: $90,295
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter gasolinefour, 8-speed automatic, awd
Output: 247hp at 55000 rpm, 269 lb ft at 1200-4500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4217 pounds (mfg.)
0-60 MPH: 6.4 seconds (mfg.) (5.3 w/ V6)
Fuel Economy: 22/26/23(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: First Edition model, loaded
Pros: A comfortable, quiet, yet capable awd SUV
Cons: First Edition is over 90k!
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