2017 Range Rover Velar review: a smartly styled step forwards
Land Rover’s new mid-sized model is more than just another iteration of its existing line-up
The new Range Rover Velar is the fourth member of the ever-expanding Range Rover family, filling some of what Land Rover dubs 'white space' in its line-up.
Oh, shush, you cynical lot – sure, it looks a lot like its brethren, that's no surprise; yes, it sits dimensionally roughly betwixt the Evoque and Sport – but bear with us, for there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the Velar.
What is the Velar, then?
It's a luxury SUV that's designed to widen the appeal of the Range Rover brand. It combines sleek styling, modern tech, a selection of engines and a host of off-road systems in a new mid-sized – comparatively – package.
The Velar offers seating for five.
Several trim levels are on offer, with the line-up kicking off with the entry-level £44,830 2.0-litre diesel Velar. The version tested here, however, is the flagship 'First Edition' with a supercharged 3.0-litre V6.
This predictably costs significantly more, clocking in at £85,450, but it comes with plenty of high-end kit and is priced competitively when compared to the likes of similarly specified Porsche Cayennes.
What's the Velar like to drive?
It's quick, no doubt about it. The supercharged V6, which pleasingly emits a bit of blower whine when you load it up, is capable of propelling the Velar from 0-62mph in just 5.3sec. As you'd expect, there's plenty of in-gear punch on offer, so making swift progress across country is effortless.
A range of four- and six-cylinder engines are offered, helping further differentiate the Velar.
Traction's no issue, with power being metered out to all four wheels via a quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox. Floor the Velar from a standstill and, with little fuss – even on wet, muddy roads – it'll accelerate with authority. It's very easy to pick your course through corners, too, thanks to well weighted, smooth and accurate steering.
The only gripe is that, on versions like this with air suspension and huge 22-inch alloys, sharp bumps send a pronounced jolt through the cabin. This spoils the otherwise cosseting ambience, so we'd recommend trying one of the conventional coil-sprung versions or going for a smaller wheel and tyre combo.
Is the interior suitably plush?
Without a doubt. Everything you interact with feels of a suitably high standard; prominent trims are polished and smooth, the leathers soft and the controls tactile. It also looks superb and is a notable step up from previous iterations of Range Rover. There's plenty of room throughout, too, although the rear centre seat is a little firm and perched.
The Velar's interior and equipment list won't leave you wanting.
The attention to detail in many areas really helps generate that high-end feel; for example, the bezel surrounding the lower display panel blends smoothly into the transmission tunnel's surround – rather than just having a clunky, awkward panel gap at the bottom.
Sure, the lower down you get in the cab, the more low-rent plastics and rough edges you’ll find, but which owner is going to spend their weekend caressing the inner lip of the door bins? Exactly. The costs have to be cut somewhere, and it’s in these noncritical areas that Land Rover chooses to do so. This isn’t commanding Bentayga money, after all.
What’s the on-board tech like?
In theory, excellent. First Editions are packed to the nines with kit, including a 1600W Meridian sound system, matrix-laser LED lights, adaptive cruise control and – most noticeably – a three-panel digital display set-up for the driver's instruments, drive mode settings and media system.
As well as myriad displays, there are a series of on-board cameras to make off-road driving easier.
Drivers can configure the instrument cluster to display what they feel is most important, such as a full-screen navigation display, while the top central screen grants access to conventional navigation and media functions. The lower screen allows you to tailor the drive modes, as well as configure climate and seat settings.
You'll be glad to know that Land Rover hasn't totally abandoned physical controls, however. Two prominent rotary dials flank a central volume control knob, and these dials allow you quick access to key functions that are in use at the time – so if you've got the climate screen up, you can simply alter the temperature by twisting the dial, or change the seat temperature setting by pushing it in and rotating it.
We say this all works 'in concept' however, because while the vast majority of it was flawless during our test, there were a few hiccups along the way. For example, the useful and clear heads-up display in one car at some point decided that a '90s era test pattern was preferable to anything else.
Similarly, the navigation and main interface packed up a few times, requiring a stereotypical off-then-on-again session to sort it. Here's hoping that JLR get these minor issues dialled out in due course, as they do take the edge off an otherwise polished product – and cause some long-term reliability concerns to creep in again.
Is it any good off-road?
You may assume that this design and tech-focused Range Rover would stand little chance when it came to tackling rugged terrain. After all, few will ever be forced to straddle a molehill, let alone a berm on a snow-covered off-road course.
The truth of the matter is, however, that the Velar will deal with anything that most care to throw at it. It's got 251mm of ground clearance, can wade through 650mm of standing water and an advanced all-wheel-drive system.
A host of driver assistance features are standard, helping make the Range Rover easy to handle in poor conditions. The most impressive is 'All Terrain Progress Control', which is standard on First Editions. It's effectively off-road cruise control; you pick the speed and simply steer, and the Velar's systems do the rest.
So, if you're a fan of Land Rover's off-road history and credentials, fear not – as the Velar easily dispatches slick rocky ascents, deep rivers and muddy rutted paths with ease. Also, when testing the Velar's axle articulation, it was pleasing to note an absence of creaks or rattles – suggesting that it's inherently strong and bolted together properly.
Range Rover Velar: the verdict
Land Rover has delivered another impressive, engrossing product that ticks myriad boxes and feels like justifies its asking price. For some, it may seem derivative – but it does much to distinguish itself from its brethren.
In fact, if you were considering a Range Rover of some form, this is the one that we’d make a beeline across the dealer's showroom for. If its capabilities have been deployed to the fullest, however, you may well be forced to scramble to the top of the nearest mountain for it...
Range Rover Velar First Edition
A First Edition P380 will set you back £85,540.
2017 Range Rover Velar First Edition 3.0L P380: specifications
Engine: 2995cc supercharged 24v V6 petrol
Layout: Front-engined, all-wheel drive
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 375bhp at 6500rpm
Torque: 332lb ft at 3500-500rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 30.1mpg (combined)
Get a closer look at the Velar in this official promo video