One Week With: 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar S
Style without sacrifice
No other SUV on the road looks like the 2018 Range Rover Velar. Closest in visual excitement would probably be the Jaguar F-Pace, which not surprisingly shares its basic platform with the Velar. But the Velar's rakishly raked roofline stands out—as do its door handles that, when the vehicle is in motion or parked and locked, automatically recede to be flush with the bodywork (and nearly invisible). Sheer style alone is undoubtedly wooing plenty of buyers into the Velar fold.
What I did not expect, now having spent some quality time at the Velar's wheel, is how little the dramatic exterior affects cabin space and versatility. You'd think that dashing roofline would cut into passenger headroom—particularly in back—but my six-foot self had plenty up front. Even in the second row, I could sit without the roof reaching down to bite me. Cargo room is a generous 34.4 cubic feet with the second row seats upright; fold them flat and the Velar can swallow 61.1 cubic feet of stuff. Driving home from Ikea with your new Flömqåvnik combination wet bar and futon has never looked so good.
My test vehicle was a Velar S, one trim up from base, with the optional "P380" supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 ($65,195). Though a number of even more luxurious trims are available, the S comes standard with such niceties as permanent all-wheel drive with Terrain Response adjustability, 19-inch alloys, perforated leather seats, two-zone climate control, keyless entry with pushbutton start, a sliding panoramic roof, a power gesture-activated tailgate, a 380-watt Meridian audio system, and two enormous color touchscreens center-stage on the dash. My tester sported only a few options, including a Drive Package ($570) with multiple active-safety systems, 10-way seats with heating front and rear ($1,020), and some interior dress up—boosting the sticker to $69,461.
Two 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines are available (one a diesel), but the supercharged six is likely the one you want. It's the torquiest and by far the most powerful—and given that the Velar checks in at around 4,700 pounds, you need the muscle.
The V-6 isn't the most melodious of powerplants—at times it can even get a bit strident—but it moves the Velar's prodigious mass without complaint. I never felt wanting for power. An 8-speed automatic is standard with every engine and delivers smooth, smart gear changes.
Ride quality from the adaptable air suspension (standard with the V-6) is smooth and well-damped, as you'd expect from a Range Rover, though the Velar's chassis feels biased toward the sportier side of the spectrum. The 19-inch tires aren't particularly low profile, so they're like not the culprit in contributing to the extra ride firmness. Depending on model, you can equip a Velar with 22-inch meats—which you might want to consider carefully if ride plushness is a priority.
The Velar's cockpit is nothing short of gorgeous, with top-notch materials, handsome aluminum and wood trim, a digital gauge cluster, and those two dazzling 10-inch color displays—what Land Rover calls its InControl Touch Pro Duo system. For visual impact alone the InControl screens are simply sublime; they do away with almost every conventional button or switch and present selected information clearly and stylishly. Beautiful.
That said, actually using the touchscreens can be frustrating. Many desired controls are buried in various menus and sub-menus, and the touchscreens themselves are slow to respond and occasionally fail to respond at all. A careful, decisive touch is required—not always so easy to do when on the move. Curiously and confusingly, the two rotary dials under the bottom screen are used to adjust everything from climate-system temperature to fan speed and seat heating. The driver's-side can also adjust the settings of the Terrain Response system. More than once, I felt the air suspension dropping as I accidentally changed driving modes when I was merely trying to summon a little more air in my face. For sure, a longer stint with the vehicle and more practice using InControl would undoubtedly make things easier. But the system clearly trades user-friendliness for dramatic design—and suffers for it.
Infotainment quibbles aside, the 2018 Range Rover Velar succeeds in delivering a top-tier driving experience surrounded by smashing good looks that sacrifice Land Rover's trademark capability and usefulness not at all. Most likely you wouldn't dip your lavishly trimmed Velar into a bog, but if so inclined you could do so knowing the Velar would get you through. That combo of visual glamor and multi-mission can-do is tough to beat—and rare. I mean, how often have you ever heard someone say, "Wow. What a beautiful tank."
2018 Range Rover Velar S Specifications
|PRICE||$65,195/$69,461 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L DOHC 24-valve supercharged V-6/380 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 3,500|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||22/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||189.1 x 76.0 x 65.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|