With motor show concept looks and lashings of charisma, the Range Rover Velar is like no other SUV on the market.
Plugging the gap between the Evoque and Sport, the big question is whether the Velar is just eye candy or worthy of the legendary Range Rover badge?
Before we get cracking, let’s start with that out-of-this-world moniker. You see, Velar (pronounced vel-ar) has some serious history because it was the name given to the prototype of the original Range Rover in the late 1960s.
The Velar also happens to be the most aerodynamic Range Rover ever with a drag coefficient of just 0.32. Sleeker than its siblings, it’s drop-dead gorgeous and even features flush door handles that pop out when you press ‘unlock’ on the key fob.
Almost as long as the Sport, but nearly as low as the Evoque, the Velar has considerable road presence with a long bonnet, short front overhang, long swept-back tail and steeply-raked windscreen.
Overall, the effect is futuristic and sporty, instantly making the chunky, coupe-like approach of some German manufacturers look old hat.
Step inside and the new Velar is a revelation. Range Rovers have improved no end of late with the latest InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, but the Velar goes a step further and embraces the new minimalist trend.
The centre console is a streamlined affair, almost totally without buttons, switches and dials. It’s dominated by two 10-inch high-definition touchscreens – part of the new InControl Touch Pro Duo system.
The upper touchscreen can be split into three panels – for navigation, media, and phone – and the whole screen can be tilted up to 30 degrees.
The lower touchscreen controls climate control and Terrain Response, and just for a bit of variety, buttons doubling as dials are used to handle everything from seat heating to Hill Descent.
Traditionalists will be pleased to know that the rotary transmission controller still rises majestically from the panel between the seats when the ‘Start’ button is pressed, while the whole interior oozes quality.
Despite its sleek profile, the driving position is still suitably lofty and there’s a great feeling of comfort, space and light up front. Ahead of the driver, there’s an (optional head-up display displaying features such as speed and basic navigation, plus a 12.3-inch customisable digital dashboard.
It’s spacious behind too, but not in the limo sense found on the Velar’s bigger brothers, so passengers six-foot or over may struggle for legroom. On the plus side, the boot is a decent 673 litres, rising to 1,731 litres if the rear seats are folded.
Priced between £44,830 – £85,450, there’s a solid choice of petrol and diesel engines available for the Velar, all mated to a smooth-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
The range starts with a 178bhp and 237bhp versions of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, plus a 296bhp V6 twin-turbo diesel.
There’s also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit with outputs of 247bhp and 296bhp, plus a 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine which produces 375bhp.
I tested two versions of the Velar, fitted with the 247bhp and 296bhp diesels. The smaller of the two is capable of a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds, a 135mph top speed, fuel economy of 49.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 154g/km.
Badged the D240, it’s perfectly respectable and probably the best choice for performance and economy. A little gruff initially, it soon settles down and is well insulated, with good cruising ability.
The 296bhp V6 diesel (D300) is the pick of the engines, providing superb grunt. It’s swift (0-60mph in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 150mph), while fuel economy is a decent 44.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 167g/km. The D300 is a class act, smooth and throaty with plenty of torque, long-distance driving is a sheer pleasure.
The Velar will waft along happily in Comfort and Eco drive modes, but you’re always aware that it’s a fairly big SUV when it comes to stopping distances and cornering on more challenging roads.
However, switch to Dynamic mode and it will put a smile on your face. The suspension stiffens up and body roll is well controlled, the engine seems even more eager and it generally feels more agile.
Naturally, being a Land Rover at heart, it also has all-terrain drive modes – Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud and Ruts, and Sand. It may not quite match some of its siblings for off-road extremes, but there’s everything you’d expect with permanent Land Rover All Wheel Drive, Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Terrain Response as standard.
Meanwhile, driver assistance features, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Reverse Traffic Detection and Lane Keep Assist, helped the Velar achieve a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
It’s practical too. If you need to tow a horsebox, caravan or trailer, it has a braked limit of 2,400-2,500kg, depending on engine choice.
Verdict: The Range Rover Velar isn’t just the coolest looking 4×4 ever, its futuristic interior is nothing short of a revelation. If you have the cash to splash out on a sumptuous SUV that dares to be different, this is the car for you.