A Land Rover GTi?
Not quite, but the Velar is the marque’s sportiest model yet – Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300 –
It was, I guess, inevitable. While every manufacturer seems hell bent on invading Land Rover’s traditional turf, the time when it would seek to repay the compliment was always going to come. And this new Range Rover Velar is it.
It is Land Rover’s most sporting car to date, a £70,000 Range Rover as tested here, with no low-ratio transfer box and a tonne’s less towing capacity than many bigger yet cheaper models. And for all its badges, it sits on the same platform as Jaguar’s XE and XF saloons.
Actually the car with which it has most in common is the Jaguar F-Pace SUV, whose runaway sales – at least by Jaguar’s historically modest standards – prove very well that breaking out of your traditional comfort zone is no bar to success if the product is right. The Velar shares not only its platform, but its powertrains and suspension too, though the latter has been tuned to provide additional wheel travel and ride quality more becoming a Range Rover.
To my eyes the Velar looks stunning and will likely prove a source of considerable relief to those who thought, after the Horlicks made of the back of the Discovery, that Land Rover’s design studio had lost the plot.
But does it work? There are aspects that concern me, particularly how long it will take for use of the all-electronic touchscreen interior to become truly second nature: I did 600 miles over a weekend and was only starting to come to terms with it by the end. I didn’t much care for the seats, either.
But the bigger picture revealed a car of immense class in both appearance and operation. Others have been very critical of the 2-litre four cylinder diesel that will populate most Velars, but I’ve not driven it yet; what I can tell you is that the 3-litre V6 diesel provides effortless progress aided by a near-perfect eight-speed automatic transmission. Noise levels in the cabin are limousine low while the ride quality on optional air suspension was superb at speed albeit a little lumpy around town.
More than anything, however, the Velar felt finely judged in the distance Land Rover has allowed it to stray from its core competences. Its handling is just about good enough to make it worth taking the old road next to the new dual carriageway and, while I’d say a Porsche Macan or even a Jaguar F-Pace are more involving, people with modest expectations of Range Rovers in this regard will be impressed and perhaps even a surprised at how composed and accurate the Velar feels.
A pity, then, that it is so very expensive, this model costing more than a bigger, vastly more potent, Porsche Cayenne Diesel S V8. Even an ‘S’ model Velar – the next-to-bottom trim level – costs more than 50 grand with a 177bhp four-pot diesel or, put another way, more than Porsche asks for a class-leading Macan Diesel S, with a 254bhp six cylinder motor. But Land Rover’s aspirations for the Range Rover brand are not just to push it further out, but up as well, a point well proven by the Velar. Is it worth it? For those looking for a car of genuine substance matched to unparalleled style in this sector, I’d say an unquestionable ‘yes’.
Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300
Price £70,530 Engine 3.0 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged Power 296bhp@4000rpm Torque 516lb ft@1500rpm Weight 1959kgPower to weight 151bhp per tonne Transmission eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 0-62mph 6.5sec Top speed 150mphEconomy 44.1mpg CO2 167g/km