I’m not a fan of SUVs. I think they’re big and cumbersome. They hog the road and barely squeeze down narrow roads. They consume too much fuel, they’re not much fun to drive, and of course they cost much more than something sensible like a hatchback.
But then I climb up into the new Land Rover Range Rover Velar, sit down on my plush leather throne, push the start button, and all of those concerns just melt away. Maybe that’s why SUVs are so popular right now; perhaps there are millions of people out there who hate SUVs until they actually sit in one.
Yes, the Velar still feels like you’re driving a tank—but it’s your tank, an exceptionally comfortable and powerful tank that will barrel down highways, bounce along B roads, and bound up a gravel escarpment with confident nonchalance.
Yes, it’s big and cumbersome—but the turning circle is decent, the bonnet is reasonably short, and there are various cameras, sensors, and driver assistance systems that all combine to make the Velar feel surprisingly sprightly.
Yes, the Velar consumes too much fuel—but Jaguar Land Rover has managed to produce a wonderful supercharged V6 power unit that provides an ample 380 horsepower, yet displaces just three litres and manages a decent real-world mileage of 24mpg (11.8 litres per 100km) through a mix of highway, village, and spirited country driving. The 510hp V8 on the Range Rover Sport, while undoubtedly more powerful and burbly, averages just 15mpg in real-world mixed driving.
Which leaves just the exorbitant price, and whether it’s fun to drive. Oh, and the tech of course! Let’s dive in.
Driving the Range Rover Velar
You can tell that Jaguar Land Rover has tried to make the Velar an exciting and dynamic drive, with computer-controlled air suspension and locking differentials and in some cases a hugely powerful engine. And the Velar does feel good for an SUV. But no amount of techno-engineerological wizardry will ever make an SUV feel like a sporty sedan or coupé. That 380hp supercharged V6 engine roars as you floor the accelerator—it really does sound good!—but it never feels like you are actually moving fast, despite a 0-60mph time of almost five seconds.
Cornering is good, though. The Velar is light for an SUV (just 1900kg), and has a fairly low centre of gravity thanks to an aluminium space-frame and low roofline. Throw in the aforementioned fancy suspension, and no doubt some other computery bits behind the scenes, and the Velar really flies through corners. It doesn’t feel top heavy, and there’s hardly any roll.
The Velar’s ride-quality is, as you’d expect, very smooth. You still feel the surface of the road—you don’t just ride over the top of everything—but bumps and potholes and changes in camber are softened enough that every movement seems considered and controlled. The model I drove had giant arch-filling 22-inch alloys, which looked great but no doubt made the ride a little firmer than the 18- or 19-inch wheels that are also available.
The driving position is good but not great. As with most SUVs you feel high up and safe, but your forward vision is hampered by a large pillar, which is exacerbated by sitting quite far back from the windscreen. If you’re at a junction, or turning a corner with a big kerb, there’s a significant blindspot to be aware of. The view from the passenger seat is fantastic, but again there’s a huge expanse of dashboard between you and the front of the car. The top-end leather interior of my Velar looks and feels luxurious.
You can off-road the Range Rover Velar—its all-terrain capabilities are in between the Evoque and the Sport—but very few owners will. The Velar has a max wading depth of 650mm and will easily take you up (and down) all but the steepest of hills. Four-wheel drive, torque vectoring, and an active rear locking differential keep the Velar moving impetuously forward.
Other things—the dual-zone climate control, heated massage seats, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, and various other creature comforts—all work perfectly, as you’d expect from a luxury car that costs this much.
But the tech… ah. Alas, there we finally have a problem.