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I remember when I first spotted the Range Rover Velar on the street shortly after its release – it's a car that looks even better in person than it does in pictures.
Regardless of what you think of SUVs, this is one of the most beautiful cars on the road. So I was keen to see whether it stacked up behind the wheel as much as it does from the outside, and whether it could still hold the title of being capable off-road.
Prepare to be overwhelmed for a moment. The car you see here is the 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic D240 SE – that sure is a mouthful – and it's priced from $104,750 (plus on-road costs).
The Velar range kicks off from $71,550 (plus on-road costs) and is available in Velar, Velar S, Velar SE, Velar HSE, and Velar First Edition. Each of those models (with the exception of the Velar First Edition) can be bought with the R-Dynamic package and with either a petrol or diesel engine. So that means there are effectively 41 models to choose from. Yikes!
In saying that, I think we hit the sweet spot right on the head with the Velar R-Dynamic D240 SE.
You won't be missed in traffic with this design. The Velar looks stunning from any angle. Everything from the wrap-around tail-lights through to the swept-back front end scream prestige, while the rising beltline and invisible door handles really turn the style appeal up a notch.
Even the LED lights at the rear have a unique design that sees them sit deep within the panel. At night, they're their own work of art and something to behold.
We even loved the look of the style treatment on our test car. A dark brown over black with modest alloy wheels – it looked even better with some dust thrown on it for good measure.
Like all Jaguar and Land Rover products, there's a seemingly endless list of options. According to JLR, that's designed to give customers the ultimate choice of product and to tailor a vehicle to their specifications, but it also means that starting price evaporates fairly quickly.
For example, our test car had a sticker price of $104,750 (plus on-road costs) before options. After options were done, it clocked in at $132,980 (that's $28,230 of options). Some of the options included things like air suspension ($2110), Windsor leather seats ($1910), 20-way electric seats with massage function ($7730) and panoramic roof ($4370) amongst others. Admittedly, most of this stuff isn't a must-have, as the car is well equipped straight from the factory.
If you thought the exterior looked good, the interior takes it to the next level. Our car's tan leather was offset by black highlights from the infotainment system and dashboard.
The Velar debuts Land Rover's all-new style direction for infotainment and driver controls. Instead of a single screen at the top of the dashboard, the Velar now uses an upper and lower screen, dubbed Touch Duo Pro. The upper screen takes care of primary controls like navigation, while the lower screen manages climate and vehicle functions.
Both screens measure in at 10.0 inches in size, with the top screen attached to a dynamic swivel that allows it to sit out of the dashboard slightly, while the bottom screen features touch feedback and dynamic controls that change function depending on the setting.
So, for example, if the driver wants to adjust four-wheel-drive controls, they select the Terrain Response menu and use the swivel dial to adjust their four-wheel-drive mode. The same dial is then used to adjust cabin temperature in another menu.
Even the steering wheel has gone high tech. Instead of static buttons, the buttons can now change form and function while on the move. And, instead of a standard button push for functions like volume, the driver now slides their finger in a clockwise motion to increase volume.
While it's a great idea in theory, I found the steering wheel controls a bit clumsy and hard to use on the move – so a great idea in theory, but not in practice.
The infotainment system, on the other hand, is excellent. It's now super fast and flicking between menus is lag free. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't included in the system (or available at all), but it's something that JLR is working on including within the future.
Ahead of the driver is a large TFT display in lieu of analogue controls, there's also a head-up display, but it's an optional extra ($2420) that wasn't fitted to our test vehicle. The screen in front of the driver includes new revisions that offer extra configurability and display options – such as a full map screen and minimised speed indication.
Room in the front row is excellent. Even with the panoramic roof there's plenty of leg and head room. Visibility is great out of the front and sides, but compromised slightly through the rear due to the narrow rear window. But it's offset by the fact the rear-view camera is excellent and also available with a 360-degree camera option.
Despite appearances, the second row doesn't offer a great deal of knee room. Toe room is okay and head room is fine, but there's not a huge amount of space for taller adults. We recently spent some time in the back of one being transported around Geneva as part of the motor show and it was comfortable but slightly cramped. It's worth keeping in mind that was with a taller adult in the driver's seat and me in the back seat (185cm tall).
The second row folds in a 40/20/40 split-folding fashion with a centre armrest that includes two cupholders. When the centre arm rest is folded down, two USB high-current charging ports are exposed – if four-zone climate control isn't optioned, the two USB ports are moved to the back of the centre console. There's also a 12V plug at the back of the centre console. In the front row there are two USB ports, a HDMI port, an SD card port and a 12V power outlet.
Cargo capacity comes in at 673 litres with the second row erect and expands to 1731 litres when the second row is folded. Beneath the cargo floor is a temporary space-saver tyre.
Powering the Velar R-Dynamic D240 SE is a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 177kW of power and 500Nm of torque, consuming a claimed 5.8 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle. It sends torque through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Despite appearances, the Velar doesn't carry the extra weight of its Range Rover Sport or bigger Range Rover siblings. It tips the scales at 1841kg in this trim, making it fairly light in comparison to its other Range Rover stablemates.
It's also damn quiet for a diesel engine. Both at idle and under throttle, it's hard to tell it's a diesel from both the inside and outside. It's also imperceptibly a diesel out on the open road.
At low speeds there's plenty of throttle response with peak torque coming on from just 1500rpm. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is also excellent, providing gear response at all times with a calibration designed to maximise the available torque in any gear.
The most surprising part is when you get stuck into it while moving, it delivers an incredible surge that throws you back into the seat. It loses a bit of puff at the top end of the rev range as peak power comes about, but it all starts again when it grabs the next gear.
We did a stack of country driving with the Velar, and it definitely impressed when it came to overtaking and taking advantage of the slabs of torque on offer.
That brings us to the ride and just how brilliant it is with the optional air suspension. This specification rides on 255mm-wide tyres on all four corners and 20-inch alloy wheels. Around the city it deals well with potholes and features like crossing perpendicular tram tracks and road joins.
Out in the country it's equally as impressive with immediate supple response to corrugations and road breakaways. That story continues on gravel where it remains unfazed by continuous corrugations and mid-corner bumps.
Fuel economy over a week of mixed city, off-road and country driving came in at 6.8L/100km.
While this isn't a hardcore off-road Range Rover like the bigger Sport and full-sized Range Rover, it can still hold its own off the beaten track. We took it off-road to assess how well it would handle some basic but rough terrain, including a 700mm wade test.
With the optional air suspension, Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), it was specced perfectly to test its abilities. Air suspension allows the ride height to be increased by 50mm, which offers an increased 650mm of wading depth and up to 251mm of ground clearance (compared to 600mm and 213mm respectively).
Terrain Response 2 configures the all-wheel-drive system, traction control and throttle sensitivity to cater for a variety of conditions, including rock crawling, general driving, grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts and sand. ATPC, on the other hand, operates between 1.8km/h and 30km/h to modulate throttle on low-friction surfaces and when driving off-road to prevent surges in torque that can unsettle the car.
We drove over a variety of surfaces including breakovers, mud ruts, rock and also an articulation course designed to lift a wheel off the ground to test torque delivery and body rigidity.
One test included getting two diagonal wheels off the ground and then trying to open and close the door. In cars with weak chassis rigidity, it's easy for door closers to hit the rigidly connected body parts. No such issues with the Velar. It actually passed all tests with flying colours, including a 700mm water wade.
Some people assume that it's expensive to run and service a car like the Range Rover Velar. One thing you may now know is that the engine fitted to this model, called an Ingenium diesel, only needs to be serviced once every two years (the thought of that gives me chills, but it's what Land Rover warrants the car for). The Velar comes with a three-year, 100,000km warranty and can be bought with a capped-price servicing plan.
Pre-purchased during the purchase process, an owner can pay $1500 for five years of servicing up to 102,000km. By Land Rover's schedules that's three services at the regular 34,000km/12-monthly service intervals. In the grand scheme of things, it's pretty cheap for what is a luxury vehicle.
The Range Rover Velar really surprised us. When you get over the bill shock of some of the options and how quickly they break away from the standard sticker price, the car makes up for it with an excellent drive, smooth ride and off-road ability. It's a car that's quite hard to fault.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images by Joel Strickland and Igor Solomon (off-road).