With the Range Rover’s eponymous flagship model, the Sport and the Evoque, plus a host of special edition iterations dropping like Gatorade flavors, you might have guessed we would’ve hit Peak Range Rover by now.
But you’d be wrong. Jaguar Land Rover found a hole in the market for its top-tier Range Rover sub-family wedged between the Sport and Evoque, and created the Velar to fill it.
And we should all be glad that it did — as the Velar is going to shake up the segment with an elegantly minimized design language, all-new Touch Pro Duo tech package and a singular cabin layout that will define Range Rover for the next decade. As can be expected of any Land Rover, its off-road capability is predictably peerless.
To show off what will become one of the most important vehicles in the entire Jaguar Land Rover umbrella, Range Rover flew us to Norway’s craggy fjord country. The hook? That this remote area and its people are known for quickly adopting innovation while also keeping a boot firmly planted in its history. This marriage of heritage and futurism marks the Range Rover ideal, and it starts at just $49,900.
The Velar is built upon the same bones as the Jaguar F-Pace crossover, which means there has been some interesting back-and-forth within the Jaguar Land Rover engineering camp. First, Jaguar engineers spent countless hours applying Land Rover’s expertise on off-road capability and perfecting it on an automotive chassis, the same that underpins the Jaguar XE sedan. Therefore, creating the F-Pace made the company’s engineers experts in creating a more car-like ride for an SUV.
These advancements can be felt in spades in the Velar, as it boasts the most dynamic ride of any Land Rover ever. In its lowest setting — with the optional air suspension, the Velar can modulate its height by 86 millimeters — it is the lowest riding Range Rover ever. Yes, even more than the Evoque.
In previous Land Rovers, one could complain that an emphasis on off-road capability — even when the worst terrains most would face would be of the Whole Foods parking lot variety — would sometimes sacrifice drivability and comfort. But with the advances Jaguar Land Rover has made on that front through the F-Pace’s development, any complaints ring hollow. Motivated by a 380-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V6 in its top trim, the Velar can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds en route to a 155-mph top speed. Perhaps it’s not a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but the Velar has plenty of juice to get around. Its 332 lb-ft torque rating isn’t too shabby, either.
New Concepts in Luxury Interior
It’s not just the exterior of the Velar that thinks outside the traditional automotive box — the interior conceptualizes the idea of luxury unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory. Amy Frascella, the interior designer in charge of materials, introduced a new premium upholstery option made by the Danish firm Kvadrat made of 30 percent wool and 70 percent polyester. With a cost is equal to Range Rover’s famous Windsor leather, this material provides a premium alternative for those considering sustainability in their textiles. There’s also a material named Miko on the door panels made of recycled plastic bottles, and the First Edition model — limited to only 500 units — features cut diamond seats and side panels; a 22-speaker, 1,300-watt Meridian Signature Sound System; and a bright, multi-color HUD.
Then there’s the “Blade.” You could pen an entire article on the center console, dashboard and triple digital displays alone. Thousands of hours are burned through on almost any luxury car’s interior, but with the Velar those hours simply bore more fruit. In a single pane of piano black glass, the Blade curves up from the leather armrests to the dashboard to house Range Rover’s new Touch Pro Duo digital interface.
Devil in the Cupholders
Not to get caught up in details, but details are, after all, what elevates a Range Rover from the mire of luxury SUV pretenders. Never mind the Touch Pro Duo digital display — its slender flying buttress architecture, the high-def crispness, etc. Let’s elaborate on cupholders for a second. When you first enter the car there are none, just a shocking clean sweep of the Blade swooping up in a seemingly single pane of shiny black. Press the small “Land Rover” oval, however, and the black panel to the right of the gearshift dial opens up, exposing a cupholder.
Is one not enough? Push the leather armrests back and each half exposes another holder. It may take you a couple seconds to locate, but the intuitive engineering quickly transforms the center console from a superlatively clean unit into an utterly useful one, bristling with hidden storage spaces and the like. Yes, this is a small detail to be absorbed by, but the thoughtfulness that is invested in it is readily apparent.
Terrain Response 2
A Velar wouldn’t be a Range Rover without off-road credibility, and for that you can thank Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 traction control system. It is fine-tuned to transfer the power where it’s needed most, so when you drive on low-resistance surfaces the electronic brains of the car intelligently move the power where it needs to go.
“When you’re in mud, you’re going to get a lot more slip, so you need to distribute the power differently than when you’re on asphalt,” explains the Velar’s chief body engineer Rob Scott. “Same with sand — basically the brains of the Velar has to observe the resistance of the ground surface, and the difference between the different surfaces, to figure out where to put the power and distribute it.”
If you’re not seasoned enough of an off-road expert to know if the Velar would perform better in “Sand” or “Mud & Ruts” mode, simply press the “auto” button on the screen and the Velar’s big brain will do all the thinking for you. A complex algorithm spinning in the car’s CPU will determine which setting is most useful given the circumstances.
Unlike many “luxury SUVs” that only claim to be real 4x4s, the rear-wheel-drive-based Velar can also send 100 percent of its power to the front wheels. Throw in dirt-oriented systems like Hill Descent Control and All Terrain Progress Control — a sort of low-speed cruise control for off-road terrain — and you have a high-end sport utility vehicle that doesn’t skimp on the utilit
Photo Credit: © 2017 Land Rover