Don’t ask me what Velar means; something to do with your soft palette, but that doesn’t make me think of cars much. So to me it sounds like another made-up car name. I suspect though that Land Rover feels Velar sounds sexy and luxurious, which is certainly how this sport-utility vehicle looks.
There’s enough leather and aluminum inside to worry cattle and cheer miners. Velar’s streamlined looks with a swept-back tail that tapers from front to rear is distinctive in the sport-ute market. Well, Kia’s Soul has a similar look, but on a much smaller scale.
I like the Ranger Rover Velar’s looks and it was more fun to drive than nearly any sport-ute, with the possible exception of Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio, which goes for a sexier look and sportier performance.
Velar is a nice blend of luxury, good looks and power. Being a Range Rover, it also is extremely capable off-road, something I tested in deep snow in an empty parking lot. As my son would say, the Rover “crushed it,” meaning it easily trod through the 8-10 inches of snow and over 1- to 2-foot piles of frozen slush.
In fact, the Velar allows you to choose from a number of off-road options, including Automatic, which worked fine for traction on snowy roads. But Rover’s Terrain Response system allows you to choose Eco, Dynamic, Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud Ruts and Sand modes. I used the Grass/Gravel/Snow setting in the deeper parking lot snow field.
Adjusting the off-road modes is handled through a 10-inch touchscreen, one of two. This one is low on the center stack, just above the console. While choosing a setting is easy enough, the screen requires you to select from Climate, Seats, and Settings main screens. And that’s where the Velar’s interior starts becoming more complex than is necessary.
For instance, you must press several buttons each time you enter and start the car just to turn on the seat heaters. More annoying, the Rover doesn’t remember your settings after you turn off the ignition and return to it later. Even inexpensive cars with a simple switch for heated seats will remember what setting you left them on.
But I digress. Let’s stick with performance, Velar’s strong suit.
Power is plentiful. The tested Byron Blue (light metallic blue) test vehicle was the R-Dynamic HSE model, one down from the top-level First Edition that peaks at $90 grand.
While R-Dynamic HSE doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, it does come with an engine that is simply smashing. Standard is Rover’s horsiest offering, a 3.0-liter V6 that’s supercharged, giving it 350 horses and a torque rating of 332. Rover says its top speed is 155 mph and that it will do 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Velar also will pull up to 5,512 lbs., if towing is on your agenda.
An 8-speed automatic smoothly slips the Velar through its gears as it rockets up to highway speeds. That speed is mostly instantaneous too, as you aren’t waiting for a turbo to kick in. The Rover feels powerful and sporty.
Handling is excellent too, the Velar’s wheel delivers good feedback and the steering feels smooth and linear. Velar had no body lean in highway-speed turns and torque vectoring is handled through the brake system to further aid handling in corners.
Plus all this rides on a 113.1-inch wheelbase that is well sprung and dampened to give a luxury ride without too much float. This model does feature an air suspension though and depending on your adjustments that system can firm things up, especially in Dynamic mode. Some folks tell me air suspensions also are more prone to needing repairs.
No matter, you’ve got the spare cash if you can afford a Range Rover.
Also note that this HSE comes with 21-inch wheels and tires. They look like beasts and will cost a princely sum to replace when the time comes, as most assuredly it will if you keep your vehicles for 40,000-60,000 miles.
Inside, the Range Rover looks high-tech and stylish. There is leather on the dash, doors and seats. This one had a black dash top with a creamy-colored face and matching perforated leather seats. Trim on the doors and steering wheel is a satin aluminum that give the car’s interior a jeweled look, while both big screens are black, continuing the two-tone motif.
I wasn’t a fan of having two large touchscreens. The one for the radio/navigation system was fine and located atop the dash. The lower one simply took too much time to tune it to your preferences each time you entered the vehicle. I was always fiddling with it and that takes away attention from driving. The heated seats got hot, and these also have a massage feature, but trying to adjust that should not be done as you drive.
Depending on the sun’s angle the reflections on that lower screen sometimes made it hard to see and adjust. Give us a few knobs and buttons that are easy to see and use! Hyundai regularly does a great job with that.
While the driver’s seat had oodles of electronic adjustments I never could get it to be very comfortable. The front of the lower cushion pressed up too much into my thigh and the butt pocket’s rear edge was raised so it pressed on my tailbone. Certainly you can move the seat in any direction you want, plus there’s a power tilt/telescope steering wheel here, so finding a good driving position is easy enough.
The seats have three levels of heat and 3 was very hot. The massaging function has 5 levels, but anything more than 3 seems excessive. Some people loved the seats, some found them irritating.
A couple other irritants, while I’m on the subject; the push-button start is behind the steering wheel on the dash but canted to one side so you don’t press straight in on it. Plus it’s hard to see. And I know you’ll be surprised by this, the sun visors do not slide, or extend. No excuse for that in a luxury vehicle.
The steering wheel is black and tan leather with a metal trim strip that faces the driver. The down side to that metal is that it’s bloody cold in winter and feels it even when the steering wheel finally warms up, which is not fast. I was halfway to work, a 12-mile drive, before the wheel felt warm enough for me to remove my gloves, which I decided against because that metal strip was still chilly. First-world problem for sure, but that metal strip needs to go.
On the plus side is a giant sunroof and a bevy of safety-related equipment, including blind-spot warning, lane departure, park assist, smart cruise control, intelligent emergency braking and more.
There’s room in the second-row seats for two riders to be comfortable, but only if the front seat folks don’t move their seats too far back. Leg and knee room is a bit snug, and there’s no third-row seat here. Behind the second row though are dandy tie-downs in the cargo bed, plus a motion-sensing power hatch. I never could get it to open for me without pressing the key fob though.
On to practical matters like gas mileage and price. I got 20.6 mpg in about 80% highway driving, including a roundtrip to Chicago. The EPA rates the V6 powered Velar at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Premium fuel is preferred.
Price? This HSE model starts at $78,095, including delivery. The bright spot, if you see it as such, is that the HSE had not options, so stayed at that price.
Certainly you can get into a Velar, which slots into Range Rover’s lineup between the Evoque and Sport, for much less. A base model lists at $50,895, but that has just a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 247 horsepower. Gas mileage is better at 21 and 27 though.
Move up to the S model and a turbo diesel is available at $57,195. Few luxury utes offer a diesel these days and this one creates a massive 317 ft.-lbs. of torque along with 180 horsepower. The EPA rates it at 26 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. If you fancy the racy 380-horse V6 though, it’ll cost you even more. The S with a V6 starts at $65,195.
There are several other trim levels before you hit the tested Velar’s bodacious price tag, so you really do have a lot of choices if you love the Range Rover’s looks and can accept lesser power and amenities. The folks at the country club probably won’t notice!
FAST STATS: 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE
Hits: Excellent handling and off-road ability, strong power, good ride and sporty looks. Loaded with safety and electronics, including blind-spot, lane-departure, park assist, and heated seats and steering wheel. Giant sunroof, power hatch and power tilt/telescope steering wheel.
Misses: Uncomfortable seats despite many adjustments, overly complex interior with over-busy climate/seat touchscreen controls, awkward push-button start placement, and sun visors don’t slide or extend.
Made in: Solihull, England
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6, 380 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,471 lbs.
Length: 188.9 in.
Wheelbase: 113.1 in.
MPG: 18/24 (EPA)
MPG: 20.6 (tested)
Cargo: 34.4 cu.ft.
Base Price: $78,095 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $78,095
Sources: Land Rover, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage and Robby DeGraff