Land Rover bills its new Range Rover Velar as the “Avant-Garde Range Rover.” It’s more “work of art” than “work horse,” and it showcases an almost sensuous take on the classic Land Rover design language. It’s a look that won the prestigious 2018 World Car Design of the Year Award, and one that we found commands attention wherever it goes.
It’s also a vehicle that rides atop the same platform as Jaguar’s F-PACE SUV. If you’ve already read our take on the Jag, it should come as no surprise that our final thoughts on the Velar are remarkably similar: it needs the V8 from Jaguar/Land Rover’s SVR division. But there’s still so much that the Land Rover gets right, and we can’t help but be more than a bit smitten with the thing.
We were fortunate enough to take delivery of a Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE. It’s one incredibly sleek machine whose presence exudes both luxury and speed. It’s a design that gets all the details right: things like the power-activated, flush-mounted door handles and burnished copper-coloured trim are unlike anything we’ve seen. This is also an SUV that sits just right over its 21-inch alloy wheels — satin dark grey on our test car — which further amplifies the Velar’s suggestion of performance.
Delivering (a bit) on that performance is a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, rated at 380 bhp, and mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Being a Land Rover, of course this power gets to the ground via all four wheels, here in a technologically complex all-wheel drive system. Together, these parts work to rocket the Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Top speed — if you can find a place to hit it — is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Technically, this is the same powertrain found in the Jaguar F-PACE S, yet for some reason the Velar feels quicker. It’s livelier off the line, and the engine holds its power well as speeds increase. It could, of course, use more power. But as the other powertrains use lower-powered, turbocharged 4-cylinder engines (one diesel, one gas), this supercharged V6 is as fast as it gets. For now, at least.
Of course, it’s not all magic. While the Velar is designed incredibly well, driving it still feels like driving a Range Rover. There’s a slight coarseness to the engine, and despite the adjustable suspension, the ride is still bumpy. At times, we can’t help but feel that it drives like a truck. The Velar’s on-road performance far exceeds the Range Rovers of yore, but the sheer beauty of the design suggests that this SUV can do a whole lot more. It’s almost like hopping into a Lamborghini and finding out it’s only as quick as a Camry. Sure, that Camry can hit 60 mph in less than 6 seconds, but in a Lambo, that kind of performance would feel like a disappointment.
A number of intelligent, computer-controlled off-road modes come standard on the Velar R-Dynamic HSE, but we can’t see anyone taking this SUV over anything other than the immaculately manicured gravel driveway that leads to one’s private stable. Perhaps with our next go-round in the Velar, we’ll have the opportunity to see if its off-road capabilities live up to the Land Rover name.
So…it’s not a sports car. Our right feet are a bit disappointed, but once most people get inside — especially the well-appointed, premium version we have — they really won’t care. The cabin is a triumph of design — with a few caveats, of course.
Let’s start with the good. The design is clean. Immaculately so. It’s the first vehicle in the Land Rover lineup to feature the all-glass display, which includes a digital gauge cluster, two high-resolution touch screens, and a full-colour heads-up display — all of which is customizable. Everything sits flush with the minimalist interior, with most functions being controlled via the 2 10-inch touch-screens or via the 2 multi-function touch dials on the steering wheel.
As cool as these features are, they’re both a blessing and a curse. They’re a blessing in that they allow one to do a lot of stuff: turn on the heated and air-conditioned seats, customize the massage function, lower the Velar’s ride height, and set up the AWD system for hard desert running. The curse part is that by having all of these functions on just two screens, there are a lot of menus to navigate, which isn’t always easy to sort out when driving. Also, if you’re at all OCD like I am, be sure to bring a microfibre cloth to clean these things, as they are magnets for fingerprints. But that being said, when you’re sitting in the soft Windsor leather seats, getting the knots in your lower back worked out and swimming in the sound from the 23-speaker Meridian sound system, some smudgy screens are the least of your worries. And this vehicle not being the fastest thing on the block isn’t a big deal, either. The Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE is a spectacular place to spend time in; the fact that it works as a vehicle is just a nice bonus.
And another “but”: just as with our Jaguar F-PACE review, we are still left wanting more, again that “more” being the 550-horsepower supercharged V8 from the Jaguar/Land Rover’s SVR division. In that case, the F-PACE SVR was announced just before publication, so it’s only a matter of time before the Velar version becomes official. And we, of course, cannot wait.