Range Rover Velar: Range extender
A new Range Rover model is always a landmark, but William Scholes reckons the Velar might be the most significant yet
THIS is more like it. Every car company is getting into the SUV and crossover game these days but most of their offerings, truth be told, are poor facsimiles of the real thing, writes William Scholes.
That's why the car on this page is a Big Deal. More than just another new SUV, it's a new SUV from Land Rover.
The marque has a stronger claim than just about any other to inventing the genre with its original, iconic Range Rover.
And just as that vehicle has come to define the template for what a posh, outrageously capable, comfortable, luxurious and very expensive SUV should be, so the Range Rover Sport and the Evoque have been similarly influential.
It means that when Range Rover launches an all-new model you can be sure the rest of industry will sit up and take notice.
But even the most automotively blind observer would sit up and take notice of the Velar - for that is what this newest Range Rover is called - never mind the folk from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi; just look at it.
It looks like it has driven off a motor show stand, a slice of the future that can be parked on your driveway, today.
The Velar's slender lamps, exceptionally tight panel gaps, clean flanks - it's remarkable what flush door handles can do to the aesthetics of a car - and its strikingly simple detailing and elegant proportions emphasise the modernity of the design.
This means it renders most other SUVs derivative and old fashioned, including stablemate Jaguar's over-lauded F-Pace.
The Range Rover Velar looks like it has driven off a motor show stand, a slice of the future that can be parked on your driveway, today
The Range Rover Evoque has always looked fussy to me - its diminutive size meant the canvas was too small for all the design ideas at play - and it is easy to imagine it now looking plain awkward when viewed in a showroom alongside the Velar.
The Velar's clean style is echoed inside, where Range Rover's best interior in years is to be found. It's notable for having two 10-inch colour touchscreens stacked on top of each other and the traditional leather trim can be swapped for a high-end mix of wool and polyester. Very modern, very Velar.
Land Rover says the Velar is designed to slot into the space that it believes exists between the Evoque and the Sport.
It's about as long as a Sport but much lower, being only a shade taller than an Evoque, and its prices start somewhere between the two - though Range Rover prices can be of the 'how long is a piece of string?' variety once you start visiting the options list...
Notionally, you might think the Velar's SUV-as-grand-tourer pitch puts it up against the hideous BMW X6 or whatever jumble of letters and numbers Mercedes-Benz's rival contrivance is called this week. But they are 'Man at Lidl' compared to the Range Rover's Savile Row tailoring.
It's difficult to think of any direct rivals, which is another way of saying that Range Rover has created a new niche within the SUV and crossover sector, but it is easy to imagine potential buyers cross-shopping cars as diverse as one of Audi's fast estates, a Porsche Macan or, of course, another Range Rover.
For now, Range Rover is offering the car in three trim levels: Velar, R-Dynamic and a fully-loaded, on-sale-for-one-year-only First Edition.
The £80k-plus First Edition comes with pretty much everything you can think of, plus some things you probably haven't.
'Activity key', anyone? This replaces the key with a waterproof wristband, which Land Rover says is ideal if skydiving is your hobby.
And in exchange for £5,280, you can have your First Edition painted in 'flux silver', which uses aluminium flakes to produce a matt finish.
The Velar and R-Dynamic models can be ordered with a choice of three 'specification packs' in S, SE and HSE flavours.
As you climb the trim hierarchy, larger wheels - all the way up to 22-inchers - better seats, premium sound systems and a greater selection of driver aids and gadgets come within reach.
Range Rover is offering the Velar with a total of six engines, three petrol and three diesel.
Most are four-cylinder units, though the most powerful version of each fuel type is a no-nonsense V6.
These are helpfully badged P or D, according to the fuel, followed by their metric power output.
The Velar showcases not only what future Range Rover cars will be like, but also starts to reshape our expectations of what an SUV is
In other words, a P380 is the one you really want, but a D240 is probably the best real-world balance between performance and economy. Or relative economy, in any case.
Whatever engine you opt for, it is paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive. Epic off-road ability is a given.
The First Edition models also benefit from air suspension, an active rear locking differential and even smarter versions of Land Rover's electronic off-road systems, such as Terrain Response 2.
None of this comes cheap, emphasising the fact that the Velar is very much a bona fide Range Rover as well as a premium product.
By way of example, a D240 S starts at £53,720, which jumps to £57,660 for an SE and £64,160 for the HSE version.
R-Dynamic versions are around £2,500 more expensive than the 'standard' Velar, courtesy of their sportier trim, which includes a novel and rather stylish 'burnished copper' finish to the bumpers, bonnet vents and side vents.
New Range Rovers are always landmark cars, but the Velar feels like it is even more important than the Evoque or Sport. It is certainly one of the most desirable cars on sale today.
Velar, in case you are wondering, is the name that was given to the prototype of the original 1970 Range Rover by the engineers who developed it.
The name is the only retro thing about the 2017 Velar. It pays homage to its illustrious predecessor in the best way possible - by showcasing not only what future Range Rover cars will be like, but also by starting to reshape our expectations of what an SUV is. In rethinking the essence of Range Rover, the Velar is a back to the future car.
AT A GLANCE
Range Rover Velar
Price from: £44,830 (Velar D180) to £85,450 (First Edition P380)
D180: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive, 178bhp, 317lb.ft; top speed 125mph, 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds; 52.5mpg (combined), 142g/km; £200 in first year, then £450 annually; 30 per cent
D240: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel twin-turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive; 237bhp, 369lb.ft; top speed 135mph, 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds; 48.7mpg (combined), 154g/km; £500 in first year, then £450 annually; 32 per cent
D300: 3.0-litre V6 diesel twin-turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive, 296bhp, 516lb.ft; top speed 150mph (137mph when fitted with 18-inch wheels), 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds; 44.1mpg (combined), 167g/km; £500 in first year, then £450 annually; 35 per cent
P250: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive, 247bhp, 269lb.ft; top speed 135mph, 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds; 37.2mpg (combined), 173g/km; £800 in first year, then £450 annually; 36 per cent
P300: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive, 296bhp, 295lb.ft; top speed 145mph (137mph when fitted with 18-inch wheels), 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds; 36.2mpg (combined), 178g/km; £800 in first year, then £450 annually; 37 per cent
P380: 3.0-litre V6 petrol supercharged, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive, 375bhp, 332lb.ft; top speed 155mph (137mph when fitted with 18-inch wheels), 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds; 30.1mpg (combined), 214g/km; £1,200 in first year, then £450 annually; 37 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet tested