In the lower of the two 10-inch touchscreens in the Range Rover Velar, you will find the Vehicle Settings functions. Tap and slide through to Dynamic and you can gain access a) a lap timer that chronicles your hot shoeing; b) a g-force monitor to spell out your lateral g’s.
The numbers describe yours and your vehicle’s cornering skills. I am not kidding.
Here we have a station wagon/SUV/crossover from the Defender brand – the off-road brand that brags about braving bogs, beaches and the bush – that has the track tools of a Porsche 911 Turbo. Perhaps that’s not inappropriate in a rig available with essentially the same engine as the Jaguar F-Type S — a 380-horsepower, surpercharged V-6 capable of hitting 100 km/hour in 5.7 seconds, with a top speed limited to 250 km/hour.
Perhaps, too, it makes sense in a height-adjustable, largely aluminum wagon boasting a light and stiff body that is mounted over a totally car-like front double-wishbone/rear multi-link rear suspension. I have yet to drive a nimbler, more agile station wagon.
Yet Range Rover types insist on having it both ways. They say track abilities do not undermine the Velar’s brand’s fundamentals – that the all-new, all-wheel-drive Velar, with its available air suspension, can handle all sorts of surfaces, terrains and weather conditions: ground clearance up to 251 mm, wading depth of 650 mm, and fancy traction technologies.
The Velar illustrates the steady transformation of Land Rover, and in particular its Range Rover offerings. What started out decades ago as a pure truck brand aimed at military types, bush whackers and mountain-man wannabes, is morphing into a modern, high-performance, high tech, largely urban and eventually electrified collection of luxury cars (note the 2018 Range Rover Autobiography PHEV). Land Rover is becoming dotted with cars disguised as crossovers that are masquerading as SUVs (sport-utility vehicles).
The $62,000-to-start Velar, which slots in above the Range Rover Evoque and below the Range Rover Sport, truly is the most car-like Land Rover vehicle ever. And we’ll see more like it.
The grand plan at Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover is to blur the line between cars and traditional trucks and SUVs. Note that Land Rover’s sister Jaguar brand now has the F-Pace crossover, and it’s a best-seller. Yes, there is danger in muddying the two brands, but that’s another story.
In the Velar, we’re looking at a 2,098-kilogram ride that can handle hairpins and switchbacks as well as mudholes and logging roads. The torquey gas engine (a diesel powers the base model) delivers instant power off the line, as well as in passing moves from 80 to 120 km/hour. The eight-speed automatic gearbox boasts quick and tidy shifts, up and down. The steering is tight, the braking strong and predictable.
Then there is the “car” side of the story. Climb aboard and you’ll first notice the hip point; it’s similar to Subaru’s Outback and much lower
than a big Land Rover Range Rover or Discover. Adults just slide in.
The two-box design here is marked by a clean skin, pop-out door handles and a priapic grille up front. Head designer Gerry McGovern calls it the “avant-garde Range Rover.”
What may surprise you, given the low hoodline, is the space inside – head, hip and legroom for five with the seats up. There is golfer-friendly cargo space (558 litres) in the rear. Drop the second row and you have a nearly 2,000-litre cargo hold.
Most noteworthy of all are the two touch screens that manage almost everything through menus. The basic radio functions – AM, FM – operated only intermittently in my tester black R-Dynamic tester, suggesting an electronic glitch.
I can also report that using this system is easy. If you can live with your smartphone, you will be at home here, scrolling through settings, picking audio channels (when they function) and selecting performance and off-road settings.
What is a little shocking, however, is pricing. The basic model may be $62,00, but the range tops out at $95,000, plus options, fees and taxes. That’s a very big cash mountain to climb, said one Evoque owner I interviewed for this piece.
I am sure she’s not alone.
2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Price range: $62,000-$95,000, plus $2,722 for freight, PDI and various fees.
Engines: 2.0-litre diesel I4 (180 hp/317 lb-ft. of torque); 3.0-litre supercharged gas V-6 (380 hp/332 lb-ft torque) using premium fuel.
Transmissions: eight-speed automatic.
Drive: all-wheel with various dial-up functions for road conditions.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.5 combined for diesel; 11.6 combined for gas engine using premium fuel.
Comparables: Audi Q5, Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace.