I’m all for styling exercises, but if you’re like me, the 2018 Range Rover Velar is a tough sell in a flooded luxury SUV market. Not because it isn’t beautiful, desirable or typically Land Rover to drive – it’s more to do with the Range Rover Sport and Vogue.
See, for me, the Vogue continues to define the luxury SUV segment like no other SUV. It’s the one you buy if you want the very best an SUV can offer. The Sport has run off into a sphere all its own since its initial launch, every year making more of a statement of luxury of its own, and no doubt appealing to those that don’t desire the statement piece of the Vogue, or the added cost.
Where, then, does the Velar sit in the ever more crowded Jaguar Land Rover universe? Another week behind the wheel should go some way to clarifying that place at the table.
I haven’t driven a Velar for some time, and while black is the absolute last colour I’d ever buy any car in, there is no argument the Velar looks stunning from any angle. That’s borne out by the impact it has on the street too. Everyone looks at the Velar, plenty comment, some ask if they can take a look. A lot of the fan boys and girls are existing Land Rover owners, of course – that’s somewhat expected – but if you judge the styling of a vehicle by its kerb appeal, the Velar gets a high distinction.
For me, though, there needs to be more substance to the equation than just styling. Remember that Land Rover is still copping it deluxe for redesigning the Discovery, and the Defender debate continues to rage before the new generation has even broken cover – both those vehicles were boxes effectively. Sometimes, style is very much in the eye of the beholder, as you can see.
Some of the issues confronting the Velar are very much a Jaguar Land Rover malaise in this country regardless of model – model range, pricing and options pricing specifically. We’re in the business of helping people buy new cars here at CarAdvice, and on many occasions when we do recommend JLR metal, that’s the feedback we get more than anything else.
Our test vehicle is a 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE P300, which sits in a crowded range of no less than 40 models. Forget that complexity, though, and let's take a look at our test vehicle specifically.
Pricing starts from $104,750, which isn’t in itself an issue, although you can get into a Sport for just over 95 grand (diesel) and 97 grand (petrol), which is why I use the pricing argument here.
Standard-equipment highlights include: single-speed transfer box, Terrain Response, ABS, Adaptive Dynamics, Torque Vectoring Braking System, HDC, Hill Launch Assist, Gradient Release Control, traction control, stability control, cornering brake control, AEB, lane-departure warning, EBD, roll stability control, speed-proportional electronic power-assisted steering, low-traction launch, electronic air suspension, stop/start, trailer stability assist, 20-inch wheels, tyre pressure monitoring system, deployable flush door handles, acoustic laminated windscreen, matrix LED headlights with DRLs, auto headlights, follow-me-home lighting, grained leather seats with suede bolsters, 10-way seats with driver memory, ambient interior lighting, ebony Morzine headlining, shadow aluminium trim, 360-degree parking aid, rear traffic monitor, Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi hotspot, Satellite Navigation Pro, 17-speaker Meridian system, interactive driver display, rear-view camera and powered gesture tailgate.
So, whichever way you attack it, there’s plenty there for your 105 grand investment – as there should be. It’s when you dissect the options that it gets a little out of hand.
Options fitted to our test vehicle include: 20-way seats with driver/passenger memory, massage, heated/cooled front and heated rear ($8570), sliding panoramic roof ($4370), Drive Pro Pack ($3920), Matrix-Laser LED headlights ($3900), carbon fibre with copper wire weave finisher ($3020), 22-inch gloss black wheels ($2860), head-up display ($2420), R-Dynamic black pack ($2180), electronic air suspension ($2110), perforated Windsor leather seats ($1910), On/Off-Road Pack ($1700), surround camera system ($1650), Convenience Pack ($1390), extended leather upgrade ($1200), DAB+ radio ($940), black roof rails ($940), electrically adjustable steering column ($890), privacy glass ($890), Advanced Tow Assist ($850), illuminated metal front tread plates with R-Dynamic branding ($640), smartphone pack ($590), solar attenuating windscreen ($560), configurable ambient interior lighting ($540), reduced section alloy spare wheel ($530), cabin air ionisation ($480), two additional USB charge points ($290), and finally, chrome instrument panel end caps ($210).
Well, that’s all we have time and space for, thanks for joining us here at CarAdvice! Now, no-one is paying the full, indicated price for a Jaguar or Land Rover product, but still…
That takes the pricing for our test Velar out to $154,300 before on-road costs, or for a more digestible figure, an almost 50 per cent premium over and above the starting price. Yes, our Velar is a stunning-looking luxury SUV, but those numbers take some digesting.
If you can effortlessly work out what the 300 in the model name refers to, you’re ahead of most people we encountered. It does, in fact, nod to the output in PS, equating to 221kW of those at 5500rpm, along with 400Nm at 1500rpm, which will propel the Velar from 0–100km/h in just 6.0 seconds. The ADR fuel claim is an efficient 7.8L/100km, no doubt assisted by stop/start during the testing cycle, and while the Velar weighs in at just over 1800kg, it can tow 2400kg braked. The Si4 petrol engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The first, and most obvious, factor when you get comfortable in the driver’s seat is the traditionally commanding view forward that Land Rover prides itself on. You feel like you’re sitting high and mighty, despite the sweeping roof line and hunched-down styling. The 20-way adjustment is probably too much, but needless to say, getting into the right position is easy.
The three-screen design is elegant, but can be complex for new owners or first-timers to work out. Once you do get your head around it, though, it is easy enough to get familiar with. The screen does show fingerprints, which can get annoying, but it is the way of the modern touchscreen world. While the Bluetooth connection was faultless, and music streaming worked reliably too, there’s little doubt a proper smartphone connection would add to, and enhance, the premium feeling in the cabin.
The driver’s display specifically is classy, clear and customisable, the two-tone leather seats are beautiful, and the aforementioned seating position is faultless for those up front too. Heating and cooling up front is a quality touch – cooling especially for Australian summers. The rear-view camera is clear and broad, and all visibility from front to rear three-quarter is excellent for the driver. That’s enhanced by the feeling of sitting up nice and high, but you never feel like you’re hemmed in either, the large sunroof helping here too. The cabin could do with more useful storage, though; the result of the modern world, where we seem to carry more gadgets and items that need effective storage.
For mine, there isn’t enough space in the second row to justify the physical external size of the Velar. It’s very much a large SUV outside that looks and feels more like a medium SUV inside the cabin. The seats are comfortable in the second row, but there won’t be enough leg room if you have tall occupants up front. Head and shoulder room are also impacted by the roof line in the second row.
The luggage space is large enough to be useful for family buyers, though, with a flat floor helping things out, despite the deep load lip at the edge that will make getting heavy items into and out of the boot a little harder.
I headed out for my first evaluation drive thinking the small petrol engine might, in fact, be too small for an SUV of this heft – and that’s partly true, while not being as noticeable as I thought.
The engine and gearbox work together smoothly, including stop/start, which is far from the most annoying we’ve tested. In fact, it was smooth enough that I left it working while I undertook my city, traffic-heavy cruising. The eight-speed gearbox deserves a tick here, working beautifully at a time when a 10-speed is becoming more common, and perhaps an indication that more is sometimes just more.
Despite the smoothness of the relationship between engine and gearbox, it can sound like it’s working hard, and that reality is borne out by the 12.6L/100km fuel use we saw around town, against that 7.8L claim. Now, 12.6 isn’t horrid for a vehicle of this size, but it is definitely higher than you’d get from a larger, more robust engine – either turbocharged petrol or diesel.
The gearshifts can be sharper and more decisive when you’re pushing hard too, but they are almost imperceptible at low speed around town – an important luxury factor. The ride is firm – certainly firmer than a Sport or Vogue might be – but it’s never too harsh; an important point to reinforce. Comfort and a feeling of serenity in the cabin are important for buyers spending 150 grand.
On the flip side, the steering itself and turn-in once you wind the wick up a bit aren’t as sporty as the exterior design might indicate; an interesting conundrum. For me, the idea of a sports SUV is a silly one. I’d rather my SUV float along unaffected than handle like a sports car, but regardless, manufacturers are selling SUVs as sporty, so it’s something to take into consideration.
The Velar can still feel sporty when you want it to despite this, but we found the best mode around town to be either Eco or Comfort. On that note, I know it’s a Land Rover, and I know what its mission statement is. Off-road modes, though? They seem utterly superfluous in this vehicle.
So, the Velar continues to impress based on its stunning styling and sense of refined luxury. There's more competition than ever, though, and possibly even smarter ways to spend your money in the Land Rover stable. Still, for those who love the idea of a coupe SUV, the Velar will be right up near the top of the list.