2018 Range Rover Velar First Review
It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Southern California, and there’s a line of Range Rover Velars making their way to a trail near Palm Springs. We’re at about halfway in line at the trailhead in a V6-powered Velar, and are ready to take arguably the best-looking vehicle Range Rover has ever made over a boulder-strewn trail. If you looked at the Velar’s sleek styling, you wouldn’t expect off-road capability, but the Velar proved its mettle in the dirt. This combination of beauty and brawn is what defines Range Rovers, and the Velar is a fine example of the direction in which the company is heading while staying true to the company’s roots.
A Design Statement
While the Velar isn't only about good looks, it's certainly easy on the eyes. Range Rovers are known for a combination of styling and capability, which separates these models from the rest of the luxury SUVs on the market. The Velar--named after the code name of the prototype Range Rover Classic from the late 1960s--takes the attractive lines of the flagship Range Rover and pushes them into the future.
Inside, the Velar greets you with what initially appears to be an extremely simple cabin. White leather seats, dash and door panels with black accents, and several surfaces along the center stack and dash that are glossy black. Push the start button and the cabin comes to life, with a dual 10-inch-screen infotainment setup and a digital gauge cluster. The top screen of the InControl Touch Pro Duo is where you control navigation, phone and media, and the bottom screen is where you access climate control, among other features. While it isn’t as intuitive as systems in other vehicles, it gets easier after a little time. Below the lower screen are two knobs that serve different purposes depending on what’s on screen. They can control temperature, drive modes, seat heaters/coolers, and more. The Velar’s interior is elegant and spacious, and after a full day’s drive, the seats proved quite comfortable.
The Velar looks like a mix between the smaller Evoque and the larger Range Rover, and is slightly smaller than the Range Rover Sport. So why did Range Rover put a vehicle in its lineup that’s almost the same size? The Range Rover Sport can seat up to seven, and doesn’t offer all that sporty a drive. The Velar is less expensive and sportier than the Sport–yet doesn’t feel as highly strung as the Evoque. And the Velar is a more direct competitor with the Porsche Macan and Audi Q5 than the Sport. So even though there are two models in Range Rover’s line that are similarly sized, they are aimed at different buyers.
On the Road
Once we exited the trail, we had the chance to drive the Velar on streets and freeways, with all three available engines. First up was the supercharged 3.0-liter V6. This engine, which puts out 380 horsepower, is backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission. Our test vehicle came with electronic air suspension (standard) and 21-inch wheels and tires. While 380 horsepower is by far the most power you can get in the Velar, it is hampered by the added weight of the air suspension system. The Velar is certainly faster with this engine than with the other two, but it isn’t as fast as you would expect, nor can it be considered quick. For reference, Range Rover estimates a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds with this engine; that’s only 1.1 second faster than the Velar with the much less expensive 2.0-liter turbo four. That standard air suspension also works against what the Velar is capable of: when driving on twisty roads, it doesn’t offer much feel in corners, the ride is firm, and handling suffers. The adjustable air suspension is more helpful for people that will tow or go off-road.
Next up was the diesel-powered Velar. With a tempting combination of high torque and excellent fuel economy, the 2.0-liter turbodiesel Velar is considered the midrange engine in the lineup. While there’s only 180 horsepower, power delivery feels effortless with the diesel, and this Velar feels lighter than the V6-powered model we just drove. This was also our first exposure to the standard coil-spring suspension, which provided more feedback in turns and was also more comfortable on the open road. Diesel isn’t the most popular option at the moment, but the power plus fuel economy as good as 30 mpg on the highway makes it the sweet spot in the Velar lineup and is definitely worth a look.
While Range Rover anticipates that most buyers will choose the V6, potential Velar buyers would be wise to sample the entry-level engine, a 247-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. While not as quick off the line as the other gas engine, the 4-cylinder has plenty of power, and like the other two engines, uses an 8-speed automatic transmission. The lighter weight and more natural feeling coil-spring suspension make the 2.0-liter an excellent choice for those who don’t want a diesel.
Loaded with Features
As the Velar is a mix of off-road capability and elegant luxury, so is its extensive list of features. If you want to get air suspension, which can help the Velar overtake obstacles on the trail, it comes standard with all V6-powered Velars and isn’t offered with the other engines. Off-road features such as Terrain Response 2, an active rear locking differential and hill descent control are available. If you want to tow 5,500 pounds, you can get the V6 engine, and Advanced Tow Assist makes it easier to steer when backing up with a trailer in tow. Lane departure warning, blind-spot assist and autonomous emergency braking come standard. Adaptive cruise control with intelligent emergency braking, park assist, a surround camera system, and reverse traffic detection are offered on higher trim levels. The standard Velar rides on 19-inch wheels and tires; 20- and 22-inch wheels are also available.
Which brings us to the price. There are five trim levels, starting with the Velar. That comes with the 2.0-liter turbo gas 4-cylinder, and starts at $50,895 including destination. Move up the line to the S, SE, R-Dynamic SE, R-Dynamic HSE and the First Edition, and prices rise steadily–the First Edition starts at $90,295. The 2.0-liter gas engine is offered in all models except the SE and First Edition, the diesel can be had in the S, R-Dynamic SE and R-Dynamic HSE, and the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is offered in every trim level except the base model.
The Velar shows off a new interpretation of Range Rover’s classic lines and offers a modern, elegant interior, without sacrificing the off-road chops that set Range Rovers apart from other luxury SUVs. It doesn’t have the pure sporting nature of a Porsche Macan, but should appeal to those who want the unique mix of capability and good looks that this Range Rover has to offer.