When Land Rover announced that they were introducing a new Range Rover model, to sit above the Evoque and below the Sport, they secured the attention of even the most fairweather car fans. The Range Rover Velar, bigger than the Evoque and cheaper than the Sport. Suddenly every man and his dog who’d once entertained the dream of owning a Range Rover was waiting with bated breath.
I’m of the opinion that the unprecedented interest in the Range Rover Velar is partially tied to the fact that so many cared very little for the Evoque, an attitude I’m sure has driven the success of the similarly sized Discovery Sport – an Evoque minus the badge, price and a reputation for being feminine. I don’t know if the launch of the Evoque Convertible was part of some evil plan to ruffle the feathers of Land Rover enthusiasts worldwide and fuel interest in the Velar, but everything seems to have fallen ever so sweetly into place.
I liked the Evoque. I drove a handful of variants over the past five years and didn’t have a bad word to say about them. I also loved, and still love, the Discovery Sport. I reviewed the new Ingenium Diesel engine last year and thought it was superb. The point is, Velar couldn’t have come at a better time for JLR following a solid decade of product development, learning and success – the underpinnings of the car were always going to be a sure thing, they just had to get the design right.
When it was finally unveiled, oozing both attitude and elegance, with an entry price well below $100k, I had an inkling that I was looking at Land Rover’s most important model to date. Yesterday I drove it and confirmed what I’d previously suspected; the Range Rover Velar is going to be a monumental success, and 400 plus eager punters agree.
The word monumental also aptly describes the pricing spread on the Range Rover Velar, which gives customers the choice of six engines across two models, with the foundation model Velar D180 variant kicking off at $71,550, the top of the range R-Dynamic P380 HSE at $135,762 and absolute duck’s nuts First Edition P380 HSE starting at $168,862. I was eager to find out just how high that figure could climb, and after consuming a bottle of Pol Roger was happy to ask – north of $200k with every box ticked.
Fortunately, Land Rover will let you spec your car however you please, even if you choose the base spec, but fancy upgrades don’t come cheap for those entering at the bottom. Want to put 22inch wheels on your R-Dynamic D180, that’ll cost you $5,100 compared to $2,040 if you’re buying the R-Dynamic D180 HSE. Clearly, Land Rover has given the options list some serious thought, which may prompt you to consider a more expensive specification pack depending on how you want your Velar to look. For those wanting Carbon Fibre as your interior finish, there’s a cost of $3,240 across the board.
With so many options, no two Velar’s will be the same, and the mix at the press launch certainly confirmed that. I drove three vehicles over the two-day event starting in an R-Dynamic P380 SE, followed by a challenging offroad session in an R-Dynamic D240 SE, before heading home in an R-Dynamic D300 SE. The three cars featured a diverse choice of options including the incredible Sliding Panoramic Roof ($4370), 8″ Rear Seat Entertainment ($5490) and 21″ 10 Spoke Wheels with Satin Dark Grey Finish ($1840). To give you a realistic idea of cost, the Firenze Red R-Dynamic D240 SE was my favourite spec of the bunch, which featured all of the above options and more, and was priced at $129,770 before on-roads.
Options aside, there will be plenty of people purchasing low to mid-range spec Velars, because it’s undeniably gorgeous, whichever spec you opt for. The Velar has a dramatic presence and contemporary silhouette, enhanced by large wheels and lovely deployable door handles. It’s almost brutish in appearance but remains handsome and refined. It’s a pleasure on the eyes from every angle, including inside, where two ultra sharp 10″ touchscreens from the Touch Pro Duo Infotainment system take centre stage flanked by ambient lighting, perforated leather and subtle veneers with tunes provided by Meridan’s market-leading Hifi.
On the road, and off, it’s a wonderful thing to be in. The 280kW P380 hauls on the highway and is intoxicatingly spritely when you give it a squeeze. Climbing out of Kurrajong, I tucked it into a cracking series of corners up Bellbird Hill and was cackling with enjoyment. It was agile and light-footed with wonderfully precise steering.
These attributes are nice to have, but no one is buying a Velar to throw it into corners – they’re buying it for the annual ski trip or tackling the tree-lined gravel driveway at their mate’s hobby farm.
All quips aside, we took the Velars through the most rigorous session of four-wheel driving I’ve ever been involved in. I’m well aware that every Land Rover has to be a capable off-road machine, but we tackled some terrain that less than 1% of all Velars sold in Australia will ever see, with some parts so steep I momentarily exited my comfort zone. The car’s All Terrain Progress Control manages vehicle speed braking on a descent, and accelerating when climbing, allowing the driver to focus solely on steering which is quite incredible. A Low Traction Launch feature is also included to help pull away on very slippery surfaces and steep inclines – it’s literally 4×4 for dummies (if you want to be!).
I climbed into a freshly washed R-Dynamic D300 SE to return to Sydney this morning and as we glided down the M4, struggled to comprehend what the car had achieved the day before. For me, the pick of the bunch was the 177kW D240, I just don’t think you require the additional power to enjoy this car, but maybe that’s just me getting sensible in my old age.
The Range Rover Velar is a triumph of design and ability, it’s as happy being Jordan Barrett in the city as it is being Bear Grylls in the mountains, and that’s what it holds over all of its competitors – real off-road capability. Sure, there’s a high chance you’ll never use it, but pulling up next to a Merc or BMW SUV and knowing you can, is one of life’s strangely appealing little pleasures.
The Range Rover Velar will hit dealers across Australia this week. Check out the Land Rover website for more information.
Check out the small video I produced from the day here.