GAYDON, England – Making its debut to the world at the 2017 Geneva auto show, the all-new Range Rover Velar is the best effort we’ve seen thus far from Land Rover chief designer Gerry McGovern and his team, led by the Italian project leader Massimo Frascella (exterior) and his American wife Amy (interior).
The Velar is the next cornerstone product for Land Rover and is projected to be a volume model along the lines of the Range Rover Sport and Sir Range himself, with annual worldwide sales expected to be in the 60 to 80,000 unit a year ballpark. Why name it Velar and not Range Rover Grand Sport? “Because it isn’t simply a coupe version of the Range Rover Sport,” answers vehicle line director Kevin Stride. “The Velar designation dates back to the very first Range Rover prototypes which were badged Velar for V8-engined Land-Rover.”
Standard equipment on the Velar will include air suspension, 4WD, an automatic transmission (likely to be the existing 8-speed unit found on other Jaguar Land Rovers), and LED lights (laser matrix beams cost extra). Thanks to an adjustable air suspension, an active rear differential lock, and an upgraded auto terrain response system, the Velar should be able to mud wrestle as well as other Rovers. With its ride height in the fully jacked up position, wading depth increases to roughly 25.6 inches. On sealed terrain, the vehicle is automatically lowered by about 1.5 inches above speeds of 60 mph to reduce drag and enhance roadholding. The Velar will also come with a configurable dynamics setup via a DNA mode selector which invites you to personalize the suspension setting, steering calibration, throttle action, and transmission response. Even with its available 22-inch wheels, the settings should help it avoid a teeth-clattering ride. Fancy options like rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring will have to wait until the next full-size Range Rover bows in 2020.
Like the Jaguar F-Pace, Velar won’t be offered with a V-8 (so about that name… it’s also derived from the Latin to veil or cover). Out of the six initially available engines, four are 2.0-liter units from Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium family of engines. On the gas front, two fours rated at 250 and 300 hp will be joined by JLR’s now familiar 380 hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. The diesel lineup stretches from 180 to 240 hp for the 2.0-liter units to the 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 300 hp. It’s possible we’ll get at least one diesel option for the U.S., but that remains to be seen.
Velar will be offered in two trim levels, Dynamic and HSE. Both versions feature black D-pillars, near-flush-fitting head- and taillights, and a slick greenhouse with neatly aligned glassware. Emphasizing its sporty character, the Dynamic edition looks somewhat meaner and more aggressive. Black is used as contrasting color, the nasal air intakes are bigger and more sculptured, and the wheel design and tailpipe arrangements are less subtle. The HSE is of course more formal, luxurious, and stately. It comes with a body-colored roof, tasteful burnished copper accents, extra chrome, and an even more comfort-oriented interior. The HSE front end in particular looks laid back and superior in a cool and classy, yet totally subtle way, which may reappear in evolutionary form on the next Range Rover.
“The production car does not differ much from the first proposal submitted three years ago,” says McGovern. “Its shape is driven by reduction; it fuses refinement, innovation and that tailor-made look which is a splendid match for every occasion.” Key Velar exterior cues include flush door handles, narrow cutlines, a grooved wraparound beltline, and a much softer and rounder D-pillar treatment than on other Range Rover models. Measuring around 193 inches in length, Velar sits on a generous 114.1-inch wheelbase, making it about 4-inches longer than the F-Pace and 2-inches shorter than the Range Rover Sport. Thanks to its low roofline and uncluttered front end, the Velar’s wind tunnel reading of 0.32 is reportedly a best-of-brand. Made to 80 percent of aluminum, it is also notably lighter than its marginally bigger brethren. Part of its weight loss has to do with the fact that the Velar utilizes the slimmer, on-road-focused D7a components set that also underpins the XE/XF/XJ and F-Pace instead of JLR’s heavier, SUV-oriented D7u matrix.
The Velar’s cabin is airy, lavishly equipped, stylish, and functional. Gone are the ancient miniature touchscreen, the randomly arranged switchgear, the conventional instruments, and clumsy steering-wheel. Even the most expensive Range Rover looks a tad old-school and outmoded by comparison.
“The interior is best described as calm sanctuary,” says Amy Frascella with a smile. “The tailored technology is embedded in a modern setting. All controls are accessible and self-explanatory. Of course, you can still specify traditional materials like wood and leather. But we are also offering high-quality man-made fabrics and surfaces.” The dashboard is dominated by two high-density touchscreens. The larger, 12.3-inch TFT monitor thrones on top of the center stack. All secondary controls are accessed by touch, zoom, or swipe. Discreetly integrated in the large shiny black panel are the circular gear selector, the two discs that operate left and right A/C and heating, and a small volume adjustment knob. Supported by 4G connectivity, this state-of-the-art infotainment is said to be fast, precise, and versatile. The split-rim steering-wheel boasts small uniform touchpads instead of the previously used buttons, switches, and thumbwheels. Among the up and coming solutions under development are film-covered metal, ink-injected timber, basalt, and wood fused to bio-fabric and bio-resin.
While Jaguar is committed to launching the EV-only i-Pace, Land Rover has not yet signed off on an all-electric Velar, and right now there is no other EV-only powered model on the agenda. Insiders are predicting however that a modular plug-in hybrid application will eventually become available for most JLR models. In the case of Velar, the Solihull grapevine is suggesting a punchy 435 hp power pack made up of a 300 hp 2.0-liter four and a 100 kW e-motor, fed by a 30 kWh battery. The proposed plug-in crossover is expected to match or exceed the 75 mile zero-emission driving range the Chinese legislators will allegedly enforce by 2020.
“We don’t do ordinary,” emphasizes McGovern. “Velar is testimony to this statement. You see, a Range Rover must always be desirable, sophisticated, emotional, precise, rewarding. That’s why design and engineering have become one. The R&D chief Nick Rogers and myself form the creative team. We are the masters of change. Velar stimulates expectations, introduces exciting technology, looks after the environment, redefines luxury. Flexibility is key in this business, honing the status quo doesn’t cut it anymore.”