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The Velar is a real deal Range Rover but with added style

The trail ahead of me is steep and heavily rutted. My friend in a Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro went before me and made it look easy, though I know that’s not the case. Still, the vehicle in which I’m sitting bears badging that traces a path filled with heritage, history, and heaps of mud and dirt along the way. This is a Land Rover. That means the path in front of me can go anywhere I’d like it, within reason. I’m just worried that the level of “reason” afforded me isn’t quite what it used to be… because this particular Land Rover is the new Range Rover Velar.

Is this a quest for more style over true capable substance? Thankfully, the answer is no. The Velar likes to get its fancy skin covered in dirt and far from the beaten path.

Land Rover is using the Velar to explore what it views as a white space within its lineup. That is, a space where a customer need can be met with a vehicle that doesn’t yet exist. The Land Rover family is comprised of three pillars. Discovery, Range Rover, and Defender are the three points of the castle. On one end you have Discovery which is a sort of entry-level (with respect to Land Rover) off-roader that’s a good all-around machine. At the other end sits Defender, which is focused for more hard-core off-road adventures. In the middle sits Range Rover. Within Range Rover you have diversity as the Evoque has added a relative value entry into the refined off-road space. Climb the ladder from there and you’ll find the Range Rover Sport and full-size Range Rover. It’s in between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport where the Velar finds its niche.

Think of this then as a Range Rover Sport, but with its hard edges filed down. But just the styling edges as the expected Range Rover chops are there, and then some. Under-hood options vary between two four-cylinder options, one drinking diesel the other gasoline, or a supercharged V6. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger produces 247 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. A similarly sized diesel produces just 180 horsepower but a healthy 317 lb-ft of torque. Finally, the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 cranks out a much more substantial 380 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. All three are backed up by an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It’s the V6 you want here. While the diesel doles out delicious amounts of torque, it’s the 380 horsepower from the silky six that proves to be the most enjoyable offering. Especially because it represents just a $2k premium over the base starting price of all models ($77k vs $75k). Additionally, the V6 comes standard with air suspension. Hit the appropriate switches and the Velar now has 9.9-inches of ground clearance. That’s two more compared to the fixed suspension on the four cylinder models. You can now wade through 25.6-inches of water as well.

Over 80% of the structure of the Velar is comprised of aluminum. That’s how it manages to save some weight. This is still a luxury SUV with heavy wheels and tires, fancy electronics, and all sorts of top-tier technology inside. So a curb weight of just over 4,600 lbs isn’t out of line by any means.

Especially once you step inside the Velar and realize you’re basically driving a concept vehicle that somehow made its way into production. The cabin is stunning.

The center stack is blacked out until you fire up the Velar with a press of the Start button. Then the system comes alive and you’re greeted by a plethora of options, graphics, and menus. It’s not overwhelming but it is lovely to look at. A pair of knobs help control the most relevant options, and buttons on the steering wheel help keep you covered as well. But swipe through some menu screens and you can adjust the driving modes and overall demeanor. 

For me today, out on the trail, that demeanor is one focused on keeping up with other trucks and playing in the dirt. There’s no question I’m more comfortable than my friends in this group. A Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro and a first-generation Ford Bronco have come along to enjoy the trails that lead to Holy Jim in southeastern Orange County.

A few sections leave me a bit worried. I don’t want to reshape any aluminum. I don’t want to send bits of oil dribbling from the under bits into the Earth around me. I don’t want to turn an expensive wheel into something not quite round. I needn’t worry though, as the Velar plays true to its heritage. Dirt is welcome, as our water crossings, mud pits, and rocky rutted sections.

I’m quite aware that the percentage of owners willing to push their Velars away from strip malls and fancy restaurants is low. That’s a shame. While the interior space is incredibly forward looking, the actual mechanical engineering parts prove to be as capable as I’d hoped they would. 

This is a Range Rover with extra doses of style injected into its body lines. Yet all of that style still works. See the door handles? They’re recessed into the body. If needed, they can push through 4mm of ice in the event you’re driving somewhere quite cold. Yet they know not to close on your hand, should you place it between the door and the handle when they’re trying to close.

There are less expensive ways to go exploring. But if you have the means, there aren’t many ways to have fun in the dirt that are this comfortable and this damn good looking.

[Disclaimer: Land Rover tossed us the keys to the Velar and included a tank of fuel. Yes, we washed it before giving it back and no those aren’t scratches in the paint.]

  • Borkwagen

    Isn’t this mostly F-Pace, offroad hardware aside?

    • Jeff Glucker

      There’s plenty of F Pace under the skin, yes

    • crank_case

      As opposed to the old Land Rovers which are mostly recycled British Rail track, communism and apathy.

  • Sjalabais

    Are you baiting us? “All of this style still works”, noting a door handle that will make the door inaccessible five minutes after the warranty runs out.

    • Jeff Glucker

      Haha, I do fear the electronics… but “as tested” everything works and was working well

    • P161911

      If the door isn’t inaccessible, it will crush your fingers at the first knuckle. It will make owners of old ones of these instantly recognizable.

    • Zentropy

      I don’t see the point in the drawer-style door handles. It’s a complex solution for a problem that didn’t exist. Was it done just for the sake of styling? It certainly wouldn’t have appreciably helped aerodynamics, and the design only increases the potential for failure of a pretty important function.
      And why are they deployed in certain off-roading shots?

      • Sjalabais

        I couldn’t agree more. It’s style over substance, or form over function. Sturdy, solid door handles have been proven to be lifesavers in certain cases (random accident bystanders might manage to open a mangled door). That would be my first priority.

        Alas, certain Range Rovers are sold on style alone, and ‘verse readers are not a top target priority. I’m mostly impressed how well cars with a horrible reputation for reliability, with the visibility of a WW2 bunker, sell like hot cakes just because they look like toy cars. Kudos to that, I’ll pass anyway.

  • Derek Gibbs

    Great article! Looks like the makings of a fine 4×4 club. It also looks like someone needs to call Vintage Air so fancy people with climate control have less to brag about.

  • outback_ute

    In other words the running gear is more capable than the body it is contained in – clearance angles will be the first restriction on where you can go. Or maybe the non-offroad tyres, which at least can be changed. That sounds negative, but it is an improvement over other SUVs that are reactive-AWD, ie AWD kicks in once you have lost traction.

  • Zentropy

    I’m glad to hear it’s still a capable machine, but to my eye, Land Rover went all to hell with the introduction of the Evoque. Everyone went nuts over its styling, so LR infused it into their entire lineup. I personally think the Evoque looks ridiculously cartoonish, with a completely impractical greenhouse and a shrunken cabin that makes little use of an otherwise generous footprint. And while the other LRs aren’t quite so squashed, they’ve lost the conservative, squared-off looks that I always admired. They look like bloated Evoques. I’ll still stop to admire the trucks from, say, 2012, but the new ones don’t even catch my eye.

  • Seriously? Do you really think anyone is going to take this off a paved road?

    • Rover 1

      They don’t stay new forever. Even when the very first Range Rover came out, people asked why anyone would take such an expensive vehicle offroad. And the same comments apply every time a new one comes out.

  • It cheered me up to see that scratch! Well done!

  • Ross Ballot

    I’d still take the 4Runner TRD Pro.

    • outback_ute

      Also cartoon styling, just a different cartoon!

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