It has been two years since the Range Rover Velar made its debut on local soil, but only now has Bernie Hellberg Jr found the right model fit that has made him a newfound fan of the Rangie sub-brand…
The concept of a luxury SUV was born in 1970 when Land Rover launched the original Range Rover. Preceding the official launch, and official naming of the original, when development engineers needed to hide the true identity of the 26 pre-production Range Rovers in the late 1960s, they chose the name Velar – derived from the Latin velare, meaning to veil or cover.
Designed to fit between the entry-level Evoque and mightier Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover Velar is the first of a new generation of Range Rover cars that combine high levels of luxury, refinement, and all-terrain capability beyond anything the brand has accomplished before. But, has the Velar matured as well as Range Rover had hoped it would, given the tough (and getting tougher) South African economic environment which continues to put a damper on luxury car sales numbers?
BEAUTY BEFORE BRAWN
With its floating roof and clamshell bonnet providing explicit references to its lineage, the Velar is instantly recognisable as a Range Rover. And yet, its individuality is evident as it strikes a delicate balance between robust and refined, along with perfectly optimised volume and proportions that are accentuated with the prominent horizontal line that runs above the high waistline.
The Velar’s beauty, however, is more than skin deep, and it has advanced technology to thank for its contemporary design. The LED headlights, for example, are the most slender ever to appear on a production Land Rover, while the retractable door handles (now also seen on the second-generation Evoque) emphasise Velar’s sculptured form. Form again follows function, as the door handles – that sit flush with the body while the Velar is locked or driving – contribute to the low drag coefficient of only 0.32, making this is the most aerodynamically efficient Land Rover ever produced.
As much as the Velar pioneered a new way of thinking about SUV design on the outside, the Touch Pro Duo dual-touchscreen infotainment system achieves the same thing inside the vehicle as well.
Elegant, powerful, and sophisticated, the Velar’s dual-screen system certainly is a novelty at first introduction. With switches being kept to an absolute minimum, most of the car’s functions are controlled via either one of the two high-definition touchscreens. Which sounds great in theory, but became somewhat frustrating to use on a day-to-day basis during our test period. Firstly, the second touchscreen is placed below the lower half of the dashboard out of the natural line of sight, and the menu system is unnecessarily complicated to navigate. I found this combination to be distracting while driving, and subsequently avoided making menu adjustments until I could either safely pull over to the side of the road, or wait for the next red traffic light to stop at.
Range Rover redeems itself with the use of authentic materials of the highest quality and contemporary finishes that underline the Velar’s luxury status.
Our HSE model came equipped with luxuriously soft perforated Windsor leather on the multi-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, which extends to the instrument panel and door casings. S and SE models also get high-quality perforated grained leather.
The Velar showcases the latest safety technologies as it combines six airbags with an array of advanced driver assistance systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control that is standard specification on the D300 HSE.
On the performance and handling front, double-wishbone front- and integral-link rear suspension provides the perfect basis for agile handling and notable ride comfort. The Velar features Land Rover’s sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and an almost unmatched suite of traction technologies, including Terrain Response 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control. The Velar – like all Range Rovers – offers exceptional all-terrain capability, and the optional four-corner air suspension delivers class-leading ground clearance and wading depth.
Our test car’s performance comes from the turbodiesel range-topping 3.0-litre V6 powertrain, matched to a smooth-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics. With its 221 kW of available power (from 4,000 r/min), our test Velar compares favourably to its rivals in the segment, beating down both the Audi Q8 45TDI quattro (183 kW) and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d Coupe (190 kW), while the BMW X6 xDrive40d M Sport achieves a stellar 230 kW. Its torque figure of 700 Nm also trumps the full field of competitors.
Although the Velar and Velar R-Dynamic range comprises Standard, S, SE and HSE specifications, I believe that the point of a luxury SUV such as the Velar is best experienced at full tilt, in HSE specification. Priced at a hearty R1,447,196, the R-Dynamic D300 HSE is not a entry-level SUV choice, and is the most expensive in our chosen list of opponents, yet it represents a leap forward in terms of styling and technology that is only matched by the Audi Q8, that I rate it a decent buy at the price.
Report by Bernie Hellberg Jr | Images © Jaguar Land Rover South Africa