Land Rover has learned a thing or three since its sale nine years ago.
First, pegging your future and bottom line on an all-SUV lineup can be rewarding (except when it isn’t).
Second, British automobiles and reliability don’t have to be mutually exclusive (except when it is).
Third, economy of scale can work wonders—especially when it’s called the 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar.
It doesn’t take long for the Velar to run away from the Jaguar F-Pace from which it’s based—it only needs to climb a mountain. The Velar daringly rids itself of the Jag’s door handles, curves, and a gaping maw in favor of a sleeker profile, sharp lines running from bow to stern, and more measurable inches of screens than the family room TVs of my childhood.
That the Range Rover Velar is verifiably a Land Rover when the asphalt ends is almost irrelevant; it doesn’t take long to see that its off-road programs will be used less than the instruction manual.
The Velar is already fashion icon, and it’s been on sale for less than 60 days.
Creamy Windsor leather hides, standard on all but base models, are punctuated with a diamond details that resemble a Union Jack flag. Same goes for the designer-level speaker grilles flanked by resplendent door materials that included brushed aluminum. Posh.
While the dual 10-inch touchscreens in the middle of the console are anything but subtle, their customization and responsiveness is shockingly livable. It makes the best case yet that Apple CarPlay doesn’t need to be everywhere, and that automakers may have emerged from 20 years of fumbling through infotainment systems. I get the feeling that Range Rover’s patriarch, Charles Spencer King, would be livid.
Optional premium cloth buckets recall the day when workaday cowhides were reserved for the chauffeur and soft wools and cloth were kept for the chauffeured in back.
Like the name Haagen-Dazs, the word “Velar” has very little meaning beyond its initial smokescreen. When the original Range Rover prototype was testing in the late 1960s, engineers used the word “Velar” because it was loosely related to the Latin velum—close to “veil.” Legend dictates further that engineers could also spell “Velar” with the letters already in use from “Land Rover.” In other words, the name doesn’t mean much.
But in the same way an ice cream can transcend beyond its name’s modest origins, Velar will mean for Range Rover shoppers an air of decadent flavors.
The Range Rover gets the F-Pace’s menu of powertrains including a base turbo-4, and optional turbodiesel inline-4 or supercharged V-6. While none of the engines are particularly refined, all of the above aptly power the Range Rover’s amenities that will appeal more than its power delivery.
The Velar relies on a base suspension package that uses double wishbones up front and an integral linked rear end to insulate passengers from unwashed (land)masses. An air suspension, standard on V-6-equipped models, does much better than that and can raise up to 9.9 inches of overall ground clearance, ford up to 25.6 inches of water, and turn rutted trails into butter.
The motions of the Velar aren’t entirely iced over—the Terrain Response Control system helps dial in steering heft and throttle response through a dizzying array of configurations including Dynamic, Comfort, Eco, and varying degrees of detritus that include mud, sand, snow, ruts, and likely mall lot curbs. While the suspension works to insulate passengers and driver from head tossing and bouncing rides, it doesn’t do so quietly.
The newfound Terrain Response Control system is easily one of the most configurable systems, and one that we’re told will reappear in the next-generation Defender when it goes on sale—sometime. It’s also highly likely that the similarities between the rough and tumble Defender and the smooth suited Velar end there.
The Velar fits solidly between the smaller Evoque and larger Range Rover Sport even though it dangerously encroaches on the latter. The Velar is a foot longer than the Evoque, but only 3 inches shorter, nose to toes, than the Range Rover Sport. It’s 3 inches narrower too, but sports a rear bumper that reads bigger thanks to strong horizontal elements. The Range Rover Sport relatively towers over the Velar with 5 additional inches of height, but the Velar doesn’t concern itself with that. It’s the first Range Rover with a coefficient of drag lower than “brick in the wind.” The Velar’s shape surely helps with fuel economy, but it absolutely helps with more sex appeal.
When the Velar eventually gets a V-8 engine (which Land Rover won’t officially discuss, but it’s worth remembering that the V-6 block is the same size as the V-8) justifying the blocky Range Rover Sport and its prodigious thirst will be tougher than a prison steak.
But this new Velar isn’t about the hardware underneath so much as it is about the soft wares everywhere else.