Hey muscle, meet elegance!
This could well be the most elegant and stylish SUV of its kind. Say hello to the Range Rover Velar, the newest addition to one of the world’s most revered SUV families, which sports a new design language coined ‘reductionism.’ That’s marketing speak for keeping the design as neat and simple as possible. And I have to say, it works.
The Velar looks stunning from every angle. The minimalist design is a mix of clean lines, tightly-skinned surfaces, and brilliant detailing that come together into an incredibly well-proportioned and cohesive shape, uncluttered by any extra design elements. In fact, in the interest of keeping the smoothness of body surface uninterrupted, the Velar gets flush door handles which pop out when you unlock the car; you won’t look at car door handles the same way ever again.
The Velar is the latest addition to Range Rover line-up and slots between the Range Rover Evoque and Sport. It is marketed as the most ‘road-biased’ SUV Land Rover has ever made. What that means is that it’s the most car-like SUV from a brand known for its hardcore off-roaders, but before we check out that claim, we have to first climb into the sumptuous cabin.
The cabin makes for as much eye candy as the exterior: the dashboard is minimalist in design too, with the prominent and exquisitely crafted leather-wrapped slab running laterally across it devoid of any buttons or knobs. The standout feature of the centre console is, undoubtedly, JLR’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, a pair of neatly-stacked, high-definition touchscreens meant to replace almost all buttons. The top screen is electrically-adjustable for angle and is meant to control routine functions like navigation, phone or audio, while the lower one is your go-to panel for less-frequently altered settings such as climate control and drive modes.
The predominance of touch controls extends to the steering wheel – the buttons here have touch-sensitive surfaces for media control; it’s quite cool to whirl your thumb on a button to adjust volume, just like on the earlier-generation iPods.
In terms of seating, the front seats are arguably the best place to be: large and comfortable, offering a commanding view of the road. The rear is a little tight for Land Rover standards and is best suited for two; the optional full-length panoramic sunroof does contribute generously to airiness though. Boot space is best described as adequate, with a full-sized spare sitting under the boot floor.
On the road
The Velar is offered with three engine options in India – a tried-and-tested 180hp 2.0-litre diesel and 300hp 3.0 V6 diesel, and a new 250hp 2.0 petrol.
We’ve driven the 2.0-litre petrol and range-topping V6 diesel but it’s the petrol that surprised me with its peppy nature. Prod the right pedal and the Velar responds smartly, and though it’s not neck-snappingly quick, it offers a strong build up of speed in a smooth and linear way. The V6 is also very refined, breaking into a muted, pleasing growl only when pushed to its 4500rpm rev limit. The massive pulling power of this big diesel makes overtaking an non-event. On occasion, though, the eight-speed gearbox does get a bit jerky whilst shifting gears automatically but there is always the option to take manual control and via the steering mounted paddles.
The Velar has excellent stability which gives you confidence at high speed, but it isn’t as agile as, say, a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-Pace. Also, the Velar doesn’t offer the same plush ride quality of larger Range Rovers: at low speeds the suspension feels a bit too firm and there’s a pronounced side-to-side rocking movement on broken roads. The 19-inch wheels make light work of potholes, but they look ordinary and too small. I would opt for the smarter looking 20-inch wheels, which are in keeping with the design.
The Velar’s price ranges from ~78.83 lakh to ~1.37 crore (ex-showroom India). It isn’t cheap, even as luxury SUVs go and there are better value-for-money options out there. What you get for the money though, is designer looks, a high-tech cabin and good levels of comfort, refinement and performance. Moreover, it is easily one of the most desirable SUVs on the market right now, and that’s what you’re charged a premium for.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
From HT Brunch, February 25, 2018
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch