New Range Rover Velar the best looking SUV on market

Velar is no doubt stunning, but is there substance behind the obvious style?

Make: Range-Rover

Model: Velar

Year: 2017

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: September 28, 2017

Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 06:45

   

There’s a Leitrim link to the Range Rover Velar. The family of the designer who arguably revived the fortunes of the Land Rover line-up and added pizzazz to the Range Rover range hails from the northwest. Coventry-born Gerry McGovern spent rain-sodden summers in his youth encamped with grandparents up in the wee county.

While we might struggle to see the influence of Drumshanbo in the latest Land Rover Discovery’s design, it’s fair to say McGovern has redefined what was a posh tractor for the green-wellied brigade into a range of vehicles that sparkle with social standing in the most leafy suburbs of the western world.

McGovern has restyled the entire Land Rover range by now, from the flagship Range Rover through to the latest Discovery and even the relatively new Discovery Sport.

But it was McGovern’s Evoque that really changed perceptions of the brand. This was less of a car than a mobile fashion statement. It became an overnight success, although perhaps a victim of sailing too close to the fashion world, it is starting to look a little out of fashion even at this stage. And its success amongst female buyers has turned some men away from the car. As one wit in the office said, for middle-aged men the Evoque is the motoring equivalent of leather trousers.

Country estate or catwalk?

So what of the latest addition, the Velar? Is it for the country estate or catwalk? And is there substance behind the obvious style?

There is no questioning the head-turning appeal of this car. Despite several days of driving – clocking up 1,200km in the car – I still found myself giving it a final admiring glance as I walked away from it in car parks or on the driveway.

Pitted against the likes of the BMW X3 or the Audi Q5, this car blows them away when it comes to styling. It’s the best looking car in its class by some margin.

The styling is also surprisingly deceptive. Despite the intimidating front nose that scares away superminis from the overtaking lane when you approach from behind, the truth is that this is little taller than any of its rivals. In fact its roofline is lower than that of the BMW X3. Where it does offer more compared to rivals is in its length – nearly 5 metres long – allowing it to boast great legroom in the back and a whopping big boot with 673 litres, again more than its rivals.

Inside and despite ongoing qualms about the electrics in British cars – Land Rover executives are at pains to assure us that historic issues with electronics and electrics are just that, historic – the Velar resembles more a futuristic concept than a production car.

Inside, the Velar looks very luxurious and futuristic
Inside, the Velar looks very luxurious and futuristic

Never mind the digital dash display; that can be found in many modern mainstream family cars these days, such as the Peugeot 3008, this year’s Car of the Year. And forget about the iPad-like touchscreen seeming attached to the centre of the dashboard. Whenever a first-time visitor enters the Velar, all eyes fall upon a new lower touchscreen hovering just above the car’s transmission dial.

The graphics in this new additional screen are straight out of the concept cars. It’s sophisticated, stylish and futuristic, very much in keeping with the image of the car itself. It’s a major talking point, even if its functions are relatively formulaic. For all the tech-world glitz, this screen controls the cars driving settings and the air-con. What was previously a couple of dials and few buttons is transformed into a high-tech talking point.

High-quality upholstery

The screens are the work of Land Rover and Panasonic engineers and they give the Velar an edge over the tech-savvy German premium rivals. It even surpasses the efforts of Volvo’s electronic engineers. The same can be said of the cabin, crafted with new high-quality upholstery that really does give it an air of refinement. As with the daddy of them all, the Range Rover, you don’t so much munch the motorway miles in this car as waft along.

Driving it all is a selection of four engines: two petrol and two diesels. The diesels are a 2-litre with 180bhp or 240bhp, or a 3-litre 300bhp. The petrol options are either a 2-litre 250bhp or 3-litre 380bhp. All are fitted with the impressive 8-speed ZF transmission that works a treat with all its cars.

Our test car was powered by the 240bhp diesel unit, the upside being a smooth motorway cruiser, the downside being a lack of real kickdown performance. A 2-litre diesel may seem a little small for a car of this size, but it’s ample for most of the Velar’s requirements. The official stats claim this Velar will deliver a respectable 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds, and a fuel economy figure of 5.8 l/100km (48.7 mpg). In reality we managed an average of 8.6 l/100km (32.8mpg) in our 1,000km cross-country runs.

For all the suburban appeal, the Velar retains its off-road credentials. It’s a Land Rover after all, so you get a wading depth of up to 650mm if you opt for the electronic air suspension. It’s a capable off-roader and while there is no low-ratio transfer box, which may disappoint some of the more avid horsey set, the Velar’s system does boast a sophisticated set of algorithms to give a range of ride-height and drivetrain options for different terrains.

Engaging

On tight country roads, the ride is pliant, if not as engaging as its Jaguar sibling, the F Pace, or the BMW X3, and it’s not as much fun to drive as the larger Range Rover Sport.

The grand plan is that the Velar now sits snugly between the Evoque and the more meaty Range Rover Sport. That pits it in a price category starting at €62,240 but rapidly rising towards €80,000-plus in the blink of an eye. Move up from the entry grades and it overtakes the price of many supposed rivals. It’s a lot of cash outlay for a car that, when you take away all the tech paraphernalia, isn’t that much better than its rivals.

Its looks will lure many to make the extra dip into savings or borrow more, but what you are paying for is largely design and fashion style. From the funky flush door handles, which frankly become more of a nuisance when the novelty wears off, through to the impressive touchscreen, with rather mundane functionality, the Velar is testimony to the credo of Gerry McGovern over that of the old-school Land Rover set who rated off-road capability above all else.

Lowdown: Range Rover Velar 2.0 240bhp SD4 Dynamic S

Engine: 1,999cc four-cylinder diesel putting out 240bhp and 500Nm of torque

0-100km/h: 7.3 seconds

Fuel economy (official): 5.8 l/100km (48.7mpg)

Emissions (motor tax): 154g/km (€390)

Price: starts at €62,240 (test car is €80,365)

Our verdict: The best looking mid-range SUV on the market, but form certainly leads function

Our rating: 4/5