Genteel outdoorsmanship. Exploring off the beaten path. That’s what one used to think of when discussing the Range Rover brand.
Now, of course, Land Rover’s Range Rover vehicles are the people movers of choice in ritzy enclaves like Easthampton or Newport Beach.
And when exploring off the beaten path means trekking to Whole Foods or Restoration Hardware (sorry if I’m offending anyone, but my weekends sound a lot like this), suburban travelers need a range of vehicles to choose from. Hence Land Rover’s need to slot another SUV in its ranks below the ‘range’-topping Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, but above the entry level (and slightly long in the tooth) Evoque. Enter the Velar.
When Range Rover unveiled the Velar in early 2017, automotive press and fans alike were stunned, in a good way. And seeing it for the first time last year at the 2017 New York Auto Show, I was taken aback by its svelte profile. A handsome Range Rover front end leads to sweeping lines (including Aston Martin-esqe front fender strakes) and a clean and sporty rear.
The R-Dynamic HSE model that Land Rover dropped off for our test takes things up a notch, with more aggressive exterior elements, including the Dynamic Black Exterior Package and 20” wheels with a gloss black finish.
Engine and drivetrain
The Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE is a quick, and it starts with its heart—the engine. The R-Dynamic sports a 3.0L supercharged V-6, good for 380 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds. The other engine options for the Velar are a 274 horsepower 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, as well as a 2.0L turbocharged diesel pumping out 180 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque.
Assisting the Velar charge off the line is its permanent all-wheel drive system, which in Dynamic mode makes things interesting. It does the requisite tightening of the suspension, makes throttle response more lively, and quickens the steering.
Of course if you feel the need to venture off riad, the Velar’s Terrain Response driving modes are at your disposal, however now selected by tapping an image on a touchscreen surface in the lower part of the console. Not exactly ideal for setting changes on the fly, but it does look spiffy. And let’s face, most of the Velar’s buyers are going nowhere near a rocky terrain.
The interior is stunning. Our tester’s ‘light oyster’ leather interior was gorgeous, set off with what Range Rover calls ‘Ebony Windsor’ perforated leather highlights, and and alcantara like headlining. The car has knobs, but most everything is accessible via touch – whether the main infotainment touchscreen up top, the one below controlling drive modes and the climate control, or the steering—yes, the steering wheel.
Touch sensitive controls appear on the both sides of the wheel, accessible by your thumbs. Based on the mode you’re in, the functions on the buttons change (from sound system for instance, to phone commands). It’s all very slick; however I can tell many people might find it hard to deal with if they’re used to analog switches and buttons.
Off the line, the Velar R-Dynamic HSE produces prodigious power—your head snaps back if you give it enough gas. Indeed it feels like the Velar has ‘oomph’ across its power band, as the supercharged V6 has all of its 317 lb-ft of torque available at 1500 rpm.
The ride was smooth and Range Rover comfortable, and in its normal setting road harshness was dealt with, as our tester came fitted with the electronic air suspension. We encountered some snow and slush, and using the lower screen of the Velar’s dual screen display allowed us to switch the Terrain Response System to conditions like snow, loose gravel, grass, etc. The Velar’s permanent all-wheel drive coupled with its Terrain Response System is confidence inspiring up here during the East Coast’s winter months.
Then there’s the price
Of course, all of this comes at a price. Our R-Dynamic HSE tester starts at $77,100, and optioned out with things like the On/Off Road package, active-rear differential, full extended leather, and R-Dynamic black exterior package pushed the sticker to an eye-watering $87,110.
Now we all know Range Rovers are not cheap, but from my point of view this would be an extraordinary amount of money to pay for this vehicle (though it is a wonderful vehicle). My recommendation would be to start with a Velar S with the supercharged V6 engine (with MSRP starting at $65,195) and select the options you want there.