Range Rover Velar | Refined Design, Rugged Capabilities
Driving the Range Rover Velar through town turned a few heads, and why wouldn’t it, this is probably one of the sleekest Range Rovers launched to date. The new addition to the family sits between the Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Sport. Not having driven either of its siblings, we can’t really do a comparison but we know what we like, and first impressions is that it is a winner. In a six-step build process, you can create your very own unique Velar from what seems like a never-ending source of options. We had the opportunity to try a few different builds but to keep this review simple, we’ll focus on the P380 HSE R-Dynamic which had the top petrol engine and pretty much every option you could throw at it.
From the front, it has an assertive and intelligent look about it, especially with the daytime running lights on. Its profile is slick and aerodynamic looking, and its booty has some pretty good angles. One of the highlights of its exterior are the retractable door handles that sit flush with the rest of the car, so clean. There are two shape variations available, the Velar as standard and Velar R-Dynamic. The R-Dynamic has a slightly higher price-tag but comes tailored with sports features.
Where we’ve fallen in love with the car is with the interior. Entering the car, you get a sense of openness thanks to the huge panoramic sunroof that spans all the way to the back. The simplicity in the design of the dash and instruments create a calmness in the space. The first thing we noticed was the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, two huge 10″ high definition displays in the centre console in place of all the buttons and dials that you would usually expect to find. Two large dials and a small rotating knob form the only tactile components of the control centre.
You can sense that a lot of thought has been put into removing complexity in this cabin, even the controls on the steering wheel are made to look like touch zones rather than the usual buttons and wheels. The driver’s dash is a beautiful full 5″ digital display that is defaulted to display the speedometer and tachometer, but it can do so much more.
At the end of the adjustable middle armrest was a slightly perplexing cup holder situation – one round hole and one square hole. Turns out the square hole is pretty handy for keys, wallets and phones to sit in or the likely acai berry oats bowl the driver might be scoffing down whilst on the run. We also thought there was a missing round cup holder but it was there, hidden under a cover that popped open with the press of a button.
Jumping straight to the headrest, whilst it looks like any other, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its cloud-like softness when you rest your weary head on it for the first time. A quick tap on the screen will activate the massage feature to have your back and shoulder gently kneaded whilst cruising down the freeway. Dual climate zones don’t stop with the air conditioning, you can also adjust the seat to heat or cool your butt to match the desired temperature.
The front driver and passenger seats were very comfortable, although on an R-Dynamic we expected the wings to have hugged us just a little tighter around the corners. The back seats were roomy and felt spacious, again thanks to the sunroof.
The displays are inarguably beautiful so we were hoping the user experience would do it justice. The system was relatively intuitive to use once we orientated ourselves with the two screens. All of the infotainment settings are controlled on the top screen and most of the drive and comfort settings can be changed on the lower screen. But there was a bit of a usability oversight; the touch icons are small, very small. This isn’t so much an issue when the vehicle isn’t moving but you still have to touch them with pinpoint accuracy. In a moving vehicle, it’s challenging to use even as a passenger whilst riding on a relatively smooth road. As the driver, it was quite distracting having to focus on the road at the same time. The menu system also required extra steps for performing simple functions like turning on seat heating. The process would go something like this – switch to the climate tab, select the heating/cooling seat feature instead of the massage feature, tap the little circle to turn it on and then turn the corresponding dial to set the preferred seating temperature.
The system also seemed to lag a little on certain tasks such as doing a pinch and zoom on the sat nav map. We also found the driver’s digital dash a little enigmatic to navigate and it was definitely less intuitive to use than the other parts of the system. To be fair we only had a few stolen moments with it, another half-day in the hot seat may self-heal some of those issues. Overall, it’s a good system that just needs some usability tweaks to make it great.
It’s a very comfortable drive and you can really feel the air suspension playing its part. The gear changes are smooth through the standard eight speed gearbox. We had a good run taking it all the way from the Blue Mountains back to Sydney. The P380 is super responsive off the mark, with almost too much power as you get a jerk motion when you accelerate from a stationary position, or were we just heavy footed? Strangely though, whilst cruising in automatic, it seemed to struggle to find the right gear to perform an overtaking manoeuvre in a timely manner. We tried this several times including in ‘dynamic’ mode but upon hitting the accelerator, it just revved towards the red for a second or so before actually finding the right gear to push the car.
You can configure the Range Rover Velar with one of six engines, 3 Diesel and 3 Petrol. There is a considerable price difference between the entry level and highest performing engines; opting for the lower specced models will save you some money, while splurging on the top tier will prove for some notable differences.
The target market for this vehicle is unlikely to be taking it off-road, unless you count rolling over a dirt and gravel path enroute to a luxury vineyard hotel, as off-road. For the amount of money you’d be spending on this car, the last thing you’d want are scuffs on the paint and scratches on the wheels. Having said that, we were lucky enough to have experienced the full off-road capabilities of the Velar. The way that this luxury car handled the terrain was truly incredible. We’re talking about steep slippery descents, rocky inclines and even driving through waist deep water crossings. Having never done any of that before, it was daunting to take control of the wheel, but the car took care of itself. Anything the road threw at it, it chewed up and spat out the other end. Trusting the hill descent control was nerve-racking at first, after all, you are putting your life in the hands of a computer, but it worked perfectly. In fact, after a few descents, it felt like the Hill Descent Control was being more cautious than we were in manual mode, which is always comforting. The air suspension was set to its maximum height, definitely a good option to have if you’re planning to take it off-road.
What do we think
Having driven a few SUV’s over the past 6 months, this was the most exciting one by far. The exterior is stunning and just makes you want to jump in to drive it. The interior feels both minimalistic and futuristic, leapfrogging most of its competition. The big screens are beautiful, although it would have been even better if it was one big display to really push the minimalism. Perhaps the designers thought it would be too reminiscent of a Tesla. To own a Range Rover Velar, you’ll have to have a spare $77,000 – $168,000 lying around; the car is awesome but awesome certainly doesn’t come cheap.