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Test Drive: 2018 Range Rover Velar

Behind the wheel of the new SUV, on- and off-road in Norway

“Design is a balance of things,” says Land Rover’s Design Director and Chief Creative Officer Gerry McGovern, and that six-word maxim is personified in the brand’s newest vehicle, the 2018 Range Rover Velar. It inherits its name from the first Range Rover prototype, whose designers felt the Latin word (less the “e” at the end) meaning to veil or cover up was fitting for an all new vehicle. Then, as now, the Velar seduces. Today the seduction comes in a form that is sleeker, more refined and more elegant than its very capable stable mates. Meant to fill the gap between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport (which it does size wise), the Velar also raises the bar for the brand as a whole with its reductionist design. It has drawn a new line in the sand for the SUV category—a line that all others can only aspire to match.

The Velar is more than a tick-box on a product line-up; it’s a triumph of design for how it looks, feels and performs. While most Velars will lead lives pounding the city/mall/school pavement, this is a Land Rover with all of the off-road credibility the brand represents. That it does so with a serene and refined minimalist cabin and a striking presence only adds to its appeal. We were invited to put the Velar to the test in Norway’s scenic coast, driving in a range of conditions—city, country and an off-road course—all of which the SUV handled with finesse and aplomb.

Flush-mounted door handles make their first appearance on a Rover with the Velar, lending a more sophisticated and modern presence. Unlike others (like on the Jaguar, for instance), which require you to press on one side of the handle, these handles push out from the car as a whole, by sensor or by unlocking the car from the remote. Tested to push through icy layers in Siberian winters, they seemed to impress the Russian journalists who were alongside us. A bit chunky when exposed, they succeed in creating more streamlined, elegant lines.

Based on a shared platform with its sister brand Jaguar and its F-Pace performance SUV, the two vehicles are very different expressions, each true to their badge—the F-Pace a bit sportier and urban, the Velar a bit larger and more capable. It’s the Velar’s interior that you’re likely to notice most, with its sweeping dash, clean lines, multiple screens and fewer buttons. Ambient LED lighting provides options for any mood. Higher trim levels add a display in the dash and an optional heads up display, meaning you could have up to four displays. Each does their job, though, and it’s easy to configure them to your preferences, and the brand’s new “InControl Touch Pro Duo” is faster and simpler than previous systems.

Despite the system’s improvements there’s no excuse for not providing Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and hopefully that gets remedied quickly. The lower InControl panel allows you to manage the SUV’s terrain response settings, and an optional package (“Terrain Response 2”) provides an automatic mode that selects the best setting for the drive. With the optional all-terrain progress control system you can off road with near autonomy, letting the car handle steep ascents and descents, rocks, snow, mud and water. It may take the fun out of driving for some people but others will find comfort in the car helping you through difficult terrain. Taking your boat out? The advanced tow assist makes it easier than ever to manage. You’ll also find a LTE WiFi hotspot which can host up to eight connections, four USB ports and two 12v plugs—plenty to keep you and yours connected and charged while on the go.

Six engine variants are available—three gas and three diesel—though not all are available in each market. In the US you’ll find a four- and six-cylinder gas-powered engine and one diesel engine, and we’re likely to see a more powerful and sportier SVR edition in the future. Also available are a slew of driver assistance tools and options.

The high-end specs include a new perforated Union Jack leather pattern that can also be found on the speaker grilles. We’ve applauded the brand’s Meridian sound system. The base level is good and the Signature package, with its 23 speakers and subwoofer are guaranteed to make the most of your commute or road trip. One of the most exciting interior options features a new fabric interior made in partnership with Kvadrat, their first production car partnership. We’re excited about fabric’s return as a premium material, and it looks and feels better than the leather in the Velar.

If you’ve admired Range Rovers but felt they were too big and too imposing, the Velar presents a new option for a category dominated by the Audi Q5, the Porsche Macan and the Mercedes-Benz GLC, one with serious off road credibility and a refined English reductionist design. The Range Rover Velar starts at $50,000 in the US, but most will probably land somewhere in the $60s, and adding all the extras can quickly get you close to $80k.

Images courtesy of Range Rover


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