PALM SPRINGS, CA – It’s taken a few years and a few models to get there, but in the all-new Velar, Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern and his team finally may have created the pitch-perfect Range Rover.
Slotting between the compact Evoque and the pricier Range Rover Sport, the premium midsize 5-passenger CUV offers buyers the sporty appeal of the Evoque’s clipped greenhouse and tapered rear roofline without straying too far afield from the commanding cues drawn from decades of safari-grade Range Rovers.
Tempering that stiff-upper-lip styling are hints of artistically stretched lines borrowed from sister brand Jaguar’s F-Pace, with which the ’18 Velar shares its underlying architecture and technology.
“Glamor, modernity, elegance, underpinned by strength, solidity and that fantastic presence,” McGovern intones in a video walkaround of the new model. “It’s compelling design, it’s tailored technology and it’s relevant innovation. They combine to create a vehicle that will truly resonate on an emotional level.”
During a recent test drive here, the Velar resonates on many levels, from the stylish interior and all-new infotainment system to the diverse powertrain offerings and low-speed cruise control for rugged trails.
Upon approaching the Velar, side mirrors deploy and flush handles automatically extend from the doors to invite entry. Inside, the Velar’s cockpit is artistic and functional, employing curved-glass screens from supplier Panasonic to create an integrated piano-black central control panel – dubbed the “blade” by designers – and second upper information screen.
The twin 10-in. (25.4-cm) capacitive-sensing screens, dubbed InControl Touch Pro Duo, eliminate the clutter of knobs and switches that have typified the brand and befuddled its well-heeled buyers for years. The upper screen provides access to navigation, audio and communication functions while the lower screen handles climate controls and the brand’s trademarked Terrain Response chassis and powertrain controls.
The optional 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) reconfigurable instrument panel offers an array of options, including full-screen mapping and driver-assistance views. A 5.0-in. (12.7-cm) panel is standard.
Leather is available, but JLR went the extra mile to source unique woven-wool interior fabric from Danish supplier Kvadrat. The material incorporates a new Cut Diamond pattern that is now a JLR signature look. Seating is tall and perhaps a touch too bolstered for American tastes, but is highly adjustable and features a variety of massages.
Technology is a tool in the Velar, with full-range cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and forward-collision warning all contributing to a more relaxed, premium driving experience. New steering-wheel-mounted touch controls include a left-hand module for managing audio programming and volume via an iPod-like circular interface while the right-side unit is devoted to adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping operation.
One negative is the inability of the navigation system to accept voice destination inputs, although an update is in the works to solve that shortcoming, says Mark Burniston, vehicle engineering manager for the Velar.
Two Gas Engines, Quieter Diesel Power Velar
Powertrains for the U.S. market include a range-topping 3.0L supercharged V-6 and two 2.0L turbocharged I-4s, one gas and one diesel, all sending power to the legendary all-wheel drive via a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.
Burniston says substantial work has gone into reducing noise and vibration from the 180-hp, 317-lb.-ft. (430-Nm) diesel powertrain, which is rather unrefined in its F-Pace application. Improvements include new active, fluid-filled engine mounts, thicker firewall insulation and better firewall sealing, a noise-canceling body-mounted damper, a retuned exhaust and a sound-insulating laminated windshield. Many of the improvements will be reverse-engineered into the F-Pace, Burniston says.
The result is a much more palatable diesel in the Velar D180, with clatter and harshness noticeably reduced, but the vehicle’s stop-start operation remains somewhat jarring at times.
The effort to quiet the diesel speaks to JLR’s commitment to the engine technology despite the expectation only 10% of Velar buyers will opt for the engine. JLR anticipates half of buyers will choose the V-6 with the remainder opting for the gasoline I-4.
Although the V-6 in the P380 is the strongest of the lot at 380 hp and 332 lb.-ft. (450 Nm) of torque, we wouldn’t be surprised if the 247-hp, 269-lb.-ft. (365-Nm) I-4 in the P250 attracts more takers who choose its combination of punchy performance, lighter weight, fuel efficiency and price over the flagship powertrain.
The all-new Ingenium 4-cyl. features direct injection, an integrated exhaust manifold, variable intake valve lift and a twin-scroll turbocharger to provide ample refined power at any speed, with maximum torque available from just 1,200 rpm.
All three engines provide good power at launch, but the gas engines are quickest to 60 mph (97 km/h), with the V-6 arriving in 5.3 seconds while the I-4 turbo is 1.1 seconds slower. The diesel, which adds about $2,000 to the price tag, chugs to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. The transmission shifts crisply, without any unexpected or abrupt gear changes.
The Velar and F-Pace share the same aluminum-intensive chassis and structure. However, the Range Rover’s double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension is tuned for on-road stability and smooth ride combined with more ground clearance, increased suspension travel and off-road prowess. Air suspension underpins V-6 models while coil springs are standard on 4-cyl. versions.
“The suspension is set up to be more compliant (compared with F-Pace),” Burniston says. “Relatively speaking, it’s a more-softly riding car. It’s more supple, and there’s a bit more suspension travel on the front suspension, which benefits the ride as well.”
On road, the Velar’s ride is as tranquil as a Monet painting with ripples brushed smooth and any sharp edges softened, while the electrically assisted power steering is light and eliminates any mechanical feel that might suggest you’re driving a rough-and-ready off-roader.
Land Rover engineers make every effort to carry that deluxe character into the kind of severe terrain most Velar owners will never see. We rolled over miles of dusty rock-strewn trails as the suspension kept jostling at bay and head toss to a minimum inside the clean and quiet cabin.
The Velar offers impressive off-road capability in general, but one of the more spectacular features is its All-Terrain Progress Control – essentially low-speed cruise control for rumbling along ragged trails or clambering over major obstructions. ATPC operates from 2.2 mph (3.6 km/h) to 18 mph (29 km/h), with speed controlled by merely tapping the cruise control switch on the steering wheel.
We’re not sure we’d take our aluminum-bodied luxury CUV deep into the backcountry, but Velar owners can be confident the latest Range Rover will tackle the boulders and boulevards with aplomb – and in style.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'18 Range Rover Velar P250 Specifications
|Vehicle type||5-passenger, 5-door premium midsize CUV|
|Engine||2.0L direct-injected, DOHC turbocharged all-aluminum 4-cyl.|
|Power (SAE net)||247 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque||269 lb.-ft. (365 Nm) @ 1,200-4,500 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||83.0 x 92.3|
|Wheelbase||113.1 ins (2,874 mm)|
|Overall length||189.1 ins. (4,803 mm)|
|Overall width||84.4 ins. (2,144 mm)|
|Overall height||65.6 ins. (1,666 mm)|
|Curb weight||4,217 lbs. (1,913 kg)|
|Base price||$49,900 (not including $995 destination and handling charge)|
|Fuel economy||21/27/23 mpg (11.2/8.7/10.2 L/100 km) city/highway/combined|
|Competition||Audi Q5, BMW X4, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan|
|Solid entry in mid-CUV segment||Is Velar good enough to battle tough competition?|
|Stunning HMI and displays||Still lacks voice navigation capability|
|Land Rover off-road prowess||Few Velars will ever leave the tarmac|