With a half dozen model ranges available in Land Rover’s Range Rover stable, you would think there would be little need for the Velar, a completely new model named after the few original Range Rover prototypes made back in the ’60s. To keep the then-radical concept of a somewhat luxurious full-time all-wheel-drive wagon secret, one of Rover’s engineers created a fictitious car company and registered those 30-odd vehicles as Velars, a subterfuge honored almost 50 years later in this new model’s name. And if there might not be any absolute need for this model, there is certainly a desire for it by the company and its customers alike. It is seen by its purveyors as a particularly avant-garde design. I don’t see it that way, but I do see a carefully designed, quite surprisingly aerodynamic box with a lot of consumer appeal as a road car.
What was apparent to anyone admiring the car at the 2017 Geneva auto show, where it was first shown earlier this year, is that Gerry McGovern, the clever SUV specialist who heads design at Land Rover, has taken the Edmund Rumpler approach to aerodynamics. Rumpler’s almost century-old Tropfenwagen design had a severe vertical windshield profile but was a pure teardrop in plan view, apart from exposed wheels sticking out from the seven-passenger body. McGovern used the “fastest” windshield I can recall seeing on an SUV, but he also tapered the body inward toward the rear over the entire length of the passenger compartment from the A-pillar aft in both plan and profile.
In its formal sophistication, the Velar is the antithesis of the original Land Rover Defender, which ceased production last January after 68 years on the market and was almost surely the highest-drag, least-slippery passenger car in production during its lifetime. There’ll be a successor to the Defender sometime soon, but its shape is likely to completely reverse previous practice apart from having an aluminum body, as all Land Rovers did from 1948.
Even though it’s the most aerodynamically efficient model in Land Rover’s history, the Velar isn’t the most luxurious or prestigious Range Rover, nor is it the sportiest. But I think it’s the most serious and mature design in the entire company portfolio. It’s a product capable of prodigious off-road feats but clearly aimed toward on-road urban and suburban use. As is the Jaguar F-Pace with which it shares platform elements, it’s a sensible and economical way to extend Jaguar Land Rover’s industrial investment. The two base companies that could not stand on their own despite the many virtues of their cars seem to have come up with a winning hand under the apparently benevolent management of India’s Tata, which has let its staff do what it was able to achieve all along had it been properly guided. May this long continue.
A. The transverse radius across the top of the hood is just soft enough to satisfy European pedestrian safety requirements yet remain visually crisp.
B. The nicest bit of surface development on the exterior allows the top line to fade into the hood’s top, while the side profile crease dips to emphasize the fender profile.
C. The aerodynamically advantageous Kamm-like roof profile shows up nicely in this view.
D. The slight bevel below the windows runs all the way around the car to the opposite front fender, where it turns down into the daylight running lamp’s rear point.
E. Taillights repeat the odd little body side joggle seen on the front end and front doors.
F. This line is not dead straight but subtly arched upward from the upper ends of the lower grille.
G. A strictly horizontal line provides a datum reference for the graphic composition of the entire front end—ultimately quite simple and clean.
H. This unobtrusively protruding lip above the lower grille sets a baseline for the entire Velar, the only such element that’s easily visible.
I. Notice that the bottom of the body side paintwork is parallel to the top fender profile but sharply upswept with reference to the ground plane and base of the body structure.
J. Barely discernible is the blacked-out lower part of the body structure, parallel to the ground but highly skewed up at the rear at the paint intersection line.
1. The padded shelf carrying all the way across the instrument panel is so plain and so straightforward that you can admire the restraint exhibited in the understated interior design. It represents true elegance.
2. Putting the steering wheel controls in separate panels seems like a good idea, easily apprehended by a new driver and easy to live with once you’re accustomed to it.
3. Maybe this 10-inch trapezoidal outline is too understated. It’s frankly rather boring.
4. The HVAC panel is admirably clear—easy to understand and manipulate.
5. The three-part instrument cowl also represents traditional British understatement.
6. Nose the Velar up to a wall, and this transverse flange will be the part that touches.
7. The Velar’s wheels look amply strong but are styled much more for the road than for outback dirt trails, a nice compromise between the vehicle’s different roles.
8. Flush door handles are a touch of luxury unexpected on an SUV.
9. A huge dark volume under the tail, augmented by an upward kink in the side treatment, slims the painted portion of the rear body to sedanlike proportions.
10. There’s no pretense of the Velar being a sublimated delivery truck. The internal volume is voluntarily reduced to give a sporty line, and the roof is extended for aerodynamics.
A. Seen from above, the front end is almost as round as a Porsche 918, with similar penetration benefits.
B. From about here, the body shrinks in height and width as it flows rearward.
11. The generous dimensions of the outside rearview mirrors are an admirable part of what is meant to be a very practical vehicle.
12. The band that carries the taillights and the badge artfully bisects the upper two-thirds of the tail, providing a very clean graphic composition with a strong lateral line on its upper edge.
13. Unfortunately, the liftover height for the rear compartment is quite high, a practical problem with most SUVs.
14. Exhaust outlets are nicely shaped, essentially separated from the body, visually even more than physically.
15. One of the most original ideas on the Velar is this arched section carrying the exhaust tips completely away from the painted body panels, isolated in a dark mass below.
16. That dark mass is nonetheless artfully shaped to control the flux of air at the rear of the body form for aerodynamic efficiency.