I recently had a go behind the wheel of the Range Rover Velar, namely the emphatically quick and ostentatious P380 HSE. It has 1980s Ferrari levels of grunt, combined with agility that ensures it doesn’t all leach away in a maelstrom of wobbly, noisy indulgence. But I’m not here to discuss how fantastic it is. I’m here to talk about what it means.
Choosing the Velar name was a bold step. It was that name, as you probably know, that graced the castellated bonnet of the first publicly-beheld example of what would become the Range Rover. It was ground zero. The beginning. Genesis. By using that name, Jaguar Land Rover is inferring that its latest model is the very embodiment of what Range Rover means today. Of course, customer expectation has evolved somewhat since 1970 – the typical SUV buyer is very much in favour of showiness and glitz. But what if you want something that truly reflects the original?
The Land Rover online configurator takes us part way there, but there’s always scope for a little extra fiddling.
In principal, the configurator will get you off to a head start in your quest for Velar authenticity through the simple expedient of not selecting any options at all. Pretty much every box you tick takes you further from the elegant simplicity of the original, but opting to retain a body-coloured roof does at least keep you tenuously linked to that timeless aesthetic. But there’s one area that I really do think that Land Rover has missed a trick. Wheels.
Somebody posted a photo on Twitter recently, showing a Velar on the smallest 18-inch alloy wheel option, marveling that anybody should choose to underdress their statement car in such a way. And, of course, I rather disagreed. On smaller wheels, with a bit more tyre sidewall, the Velar suddenly gains a far more balanced set of proportions. The Micro-Machine look may be a winning one, but I see it as a rather immoral victory.
It’s just a shame the choice of 18-inch wheels isn’t a little more in keeping with the Velar heritage. How about this?
Yeah, it’s just a bit of Photoshop whimsy, but what if Land Rover offered a set of wheels – steel, alloy or even plastic trims, that really did tap into the look of the originals? I reckon their plain look is unobtrusive enough to fade into the background, allowing that sleek body to speak for itself. The wheel design itself is quietly iconic – Range Rover enough for traditionalists to appreciate, and sufficiently retro-tinged to suit those with a taste for the kitsch.
Or, if you think the old Rostyle wheel is a step too far, how about the anthracite three-spoke?
In fact, those wheels, which first appeared with the Phase Three in 1981, must have been somewhat ahead of their time because they don’t look entirely out of place here. Of course, they’re scaled up from the original 16-inches to today’s 18-inch norm (which means the mounting studs are rather disproportionately spread) but the three-spoke look isn’t wildly at odds with the Velar’s thrusting profile.
Actually with those wheels, on this car, I see SAAB more than anything else. Could it be that the original Range Rover alloys aren’t quite Range Rover enough for this most cutting-edge of Range Rovers?
In reality, looking to the past is broadly meaningless. The 1970 Velar need really be no more of an influence today than the weather on the week it was launched. Today’s Range Rover customers would, frankly, not buy the original, with its hose-clean interior and total absence of walnut veneer. No, today’s Velar is bang on the money. But a ‘heritage pack’ which might offer the features we’ve discussed, could appeal to the tiny, weeny percentage of the population that dig that kind of shiz.
(Images: Chris Haining/Redusernab with assistance from www.landrover.co.uk)