Range Rover’s Velar feels classy and timeless, with pools of polished, seamless black glass that rival even Steve Job's creations. Charles Rangeley-Wilson tried it out.
If you were already confused about the proliferating number of Land Rover/Range Rover models, they’ve gone and built another. Once upon a simple time, there was the Land Rover, one model only, good enough for The Queen and 23 years of uncomplicated, go-anywhere motoring. When choice came, it was straightforward and binary. Land Rover or Range Rover. Rough or smooth.
Ten years later, the Discovery plugged a widening gap between the two, the car that started it all was re-christened the Defender and we could still get our heads around the line-up. Defending home territory, discovering new and ranging between the two – that kind of thing. More or less always, there were pheasants involved.
Now? There are four different types of Range Rover, three of the Discovery. Five of those seven are soft-roaders, with urbane names such as Evoque, and they’ve temporarily dropped the mud-plugging vehicle that defined the marque. All is changed, changed utterly.
‘It’s clean, balanced and extraordinarily elegant for an SUV.’
From where I’m standing, the biggest gap in the range is now Defender-shaped, but while we wait for that to be fixed, Range Rover has found another no one knew was even there. Then again, so did Steve Jobs. Room, anyone, for an iPhone on wheels? Meet the Velar.
Self-termed the ‘avant-garde’ Range Rover (distinct from the ‘ultimate’, the ‘most dynamic’ or ‘the most compact’), the Velar is quite a thing to behold. It might have the styling DNA of its stablemates, but, somehow, everything comes together better in the Velar: it’s clean, balanced and extraordinarily elegant for an SUV.
It gets better on the inside, too, where you’ll find a concept car that’s made it all the way to the showroom floor. Vast sweeps of touchy-feely futuristic textiles are inset with pools of polished, seamless black glass. Press the start button and the roof lining peels back to reveal a front-to-back panorama of sky. Destination Pluto.
The Velar is a car, of course, so you must have a wheel and pedals, but you get the idea the designers would have done away with those and taken to the skies, if only they could have.
‘Velar feels classy and timeless: a Citroën DS for the 2010s.’
Obviously, nothing dates like a vision of the future, but, right now, the Velar feels classy and timeless: a Citroën DS for the 2010s. Those pools of glass are vast, high-resolution touchscreens, split three ways between the dashboard and the centre console, upper deck and lower. The motoring industry seems in thrall to the touchscreen now, so, one day, I’ll have to stop my antediluvian griping about a system that requires fiddly, distracting coordination between eye, fingertip and glass when you should be driving.
The Velar’s is one of the best, at least. You can customise what goes where, put the important stuff in your sightline and navigate your way round the primary controls with a combination of fingertip on glass, integrated buttons and dials.
Not forgetting that this luxurious entertainment suite is actually supposed to move, I ought to add that I liked the way it drove. Except when cold or really pushed, the 240bhp Ingenium engine (shared with the Jaguar F-Pace) defies you to believe it’s a four-pot. Or only two litres.
The ride is silent and smooth. I’d specify the air suspension, if it was my money (and 19in wheels, not those 21in bling-rings). For a little over £1,000, you get more control, adjustable height settings, extra wading depth and a better ride.
As for the name: it’s from velare, to hide, and was the name of a fictional car-maker from Croydon under the cloak of which the original Range Rover was developed. Obvious, when you think about it.
On the road: Range Rover Velar HSE D240
- Priced from £61,790 (£64,160 as driven)
- Combined fuel consumption 48.7mpg
- Power 240bhp
- 0–60mph 6.6sec
- Top speed 135mph
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