The newest addition to Land Rover’s selection of go-anywhere luxury SUVs and crossovers, the 2018 Range Rover Velar, is gorgeous. Don’t take my word for it. Automobile’s own design critic Robert Cumberford dubbed it the “most serious and mature design in the entire company portfolio.” The World Car Awards named it World Car Design of the Year. Or you could always just look at it for yourself.
But beauty, as they say, is only skin deep. There needs to be some substance to back up the aesthetics, or your romance with the Velar is likely to be short-lived. Fortunately this looker also has a graduate degree, likes to go for hikes, and enjoys dancing on the weekends.
Before we translate that dating-site blurb into features, capabilities, and dynamics, let’s take a look under the beautifully formed aluminum exterior and leather interior. Beneath the Velar’s sleek, curved bonnet you’ll find Land Rover’s 247-hp, 2.0-liter Ingenium turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which drives all four wheels through a polished ZF eight-speed transmission, enabling 0-60 mph runs of just 6.4 seconds, according to the manufacturer. Range Rover also offers a 180-hp, 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder and a 380-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged gasoline V-6.
Two suspension options are offered on the Velar: an adjustable air suspension that enables ground clearance of up to 9.88 inches or a coil-spring suspension that delivers 8.38 inches of clearance. Our Velar R-Dynamic was equipped with the coil-spring suspension, which delivers a remarkably comfortable and composed drive, even when slicing aggressively through dense city traffic or rounding 90-degree corners with all the pent-up frustration a 40-minute, two-mile commute can muster despite its lack of adjustability, ground clearance, and fording depth (23.62 inches versus the air-sprung version’s 25.59 inches). Want to tackle a canyon road on your way to the end of the pavement? So does the Velar. It drives more like a mildly sporty wagon than a crossover.
In fact, if you squint just a bit—and maybe trade the blacked-out lower section of the sides for body color—the Velar is nearly a wagon. It’s just a wagon packaged in a way that Americans, too, can love. That’s not damnation by faint praise; it’s more of a backhanded compliment—or an outright compliment if you’ve got your mind right on the excellence of wagons.
With those 8.38 inches ground clearance, this Velar gives up just over three-tenths of an inch to the Subaru Crosstrek, a decidedly hatchy-wagony thing at the other end of the economic spectrum. But with the Range Rover’s electronic wizardry, in the form of Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control 3, the Velar is no more doomed to mall-crawler duty than any other offering in the Range Rover line.
If there’s a beef to be had, it’s that the rackety, rumbly Ingenium four-cylinder is completely at odds with the Velar’s sumptuous interior and excellent ride comfort. At idle, the four-banger shakes enough to put a palpable shimmy in the whole vehicle. Rev it up and it wheezes its way to speed, albeit with good pace—the engine’s 269 lb-ft of torque are well-used.
On top of that, observed gas mileage driving around Los Angeles for a week never moved much out of the 12-14 mpg range—far short of its 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined rating. For a potent V-8, that’s a fair compromise. For a quick-but-not-amazing turbo-four, it’s disappointing, especially given the Velar’s aero-slippery design (it’s Range Rover’s most aerodynamic vehicle to date) and relatively spry 4,217-lb curb weight, which puts it on par with some larger—yet more efficient—sedans. Fortunately, the diesel or supercharged V-6 engine options offer the more efficiency-minded or more performance-oriented some alternatives, as noted in our first drive review of the Velar.
Left out of the equation so far is the matter of value. Configured with the R-Dynamic package, our Velar SE’s base price of $61,095 (including $995 destination fee) commands a premium of more than $10,000 compared to the same model without the R-Dynamic treatment. That’s a fair bit of coin for what amounts to little difference, but the addition of the 360-degree parking aid, interactive driver display, some copper- and dark-gray-colored trim on the outside, and shiny pedals shift paddles on the inside. Still, for a design-forward vehicle that’s eminently conducive to a more serene commute, no matter the terrain, it seems a fair price, even if some of the less-attractive competition comes in around ten percent cheaper.
Of course, our example of the Velar R-Dynamic SE wasn’t left in base configuration; it was salted with extras including $3,050 20-way adjustable heated and cooled seats with driver and passenger memory; the $1,840 full extended leather package; the $1,495 Drive Pro package, which includes a driver alertness monitor, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring; $870 for four-zone climate control and a cooled, lockable glovebox; $715 for Park Assist; $635 for an additional exterior black-out package; and another couple of thousand for odds and ends like a heated windshield and steering wheel, premium carpet mats, and other bits and bobs. The grand total? $74,895, including destination.
Whether the price makes sense given the Velar’s compact-but-not-too-small size and less than stellar gas mileage will depend on how high a priority you place on exterior style and interior elegance. But if you have the dosh and the desire, you really should give it a chance. After spending a week with it, it’s obvious there’s more to the Velar than just a pretty face. If it weren’t for the Ingenium four-cylinder, it’d be marriage material. And even so, it’d be a fling to remember.
2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE 2.0 Turbocharged Specifications
|PRICE||$61,095 (base) / $74,895 (as configured)|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/247 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 269 lb-ft @ 1,200-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||21/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||189.1 x 84.4 x 65.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.4 sec|
|TOP SPEED||135 mph|