Land Rover Range Rover Velar — Stylish and capable

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Land Rover is expanding its Range Rover lineup to include a new, stylish mid-sized entry called the Velar, which was the name used for the original Range Rover prototype back in the late 1960s. It’s designed for comfortable on-road driving to compete against the ever-expanding list of segment competitors.

It also carries all the Land Rover off-road credentials just in case you decide to take Range Rover's off-road reputation seriously. It sports off-road chops to the tune of a 9.9-inch ground clearance and 25.6-inch wading depth when equipped with the optional air suspension.

The Velar slots into the four-vehicle Range Rover lineup between the compact Evoque and the larger mid-sized Sport. The Velar has sufficient room for five adults while offering a generous 34.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. At the same time, it has a very useable 5,500-pound towing capacity.

What really sets it apart from its larger Range Rover and Range Rover Sport stablemates is its sleek, chiseled styling with character lines that seem to converge at the rear imparting a sensation of motion, a so-called floating roof design, and ultra-thin LED headlights around a more rakish Land Rover grille. Included in the styling exercise are electronic door handles that retract when not in use enhancing the Velar's aerodynamic stance (the handles extend outward from the door when summoned with keyfob or by pushing the button on the handle).

Velar comes with three engine configurations — a base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 247 horsepower, a 2.0-liter diesel four cylinder generating 180 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque and a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 capable of 380 horsepower. It has been instrument tested by the manufacturer at 5.3 seconds from 0-to-60. All engines are paired with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

We think to get the true Range Rover experience you will need to opt for the supercharged V-6 even though the 4-cylinder gas engine is less costly and is EPA-rated at 23 mpg combined city/highway, three more than the V-6. Both engines require premium grade gas. Although the Velar styling embraces motion, the SUV tips the scales at a rather hefty 4,358 pounds.

We were not only pleased with the off-the-line urgency of the six-cylinder, we were very satisfied with its handling and cornering abilities, its pleasant on-road suspension tuning and its lack of wind and road noise.

The interior is truly modern, a stunning exercise in cutting-edge design. And it comes with high-quality materials including contrasting shades of leather in the seats, and wood and aluminum trim uniquely incorporated into the dashboard, center stack and door panels.

The use of physical buttons has all but been eliminated with Land Rover's new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Two 10-inch high-definition touchscreens integrate seamlessly into the cabin architecture reducing the complexity of the dash and enhancing a sense of elegant simplicity. The only major buttons or switches remaining are the headlight switch, the rotary transmission gear selector and the window switches.

The upper screen primarily handles audio, navigation, and settings functions, while the lower display swaps between climate controls and driving-mode settings. It's a stunning sight. But there's a downside to this sleek design — a big downside — normally simple settings such as working the climate controls or changing a radio station becomes unnecessarily difficult. We also found that the upper screen "washes out" in sunlight. A couple of times, we had to cup one hand over the screen to take the glare off the backup camera, which was nearly impossible to see, as we steered the car with the other hand.

The passenger compartment is large and comfortable. The front chairs are all-but perfect and sightlines are good. Rear-seat passengers have adequate legroom. Loading the cargo area can be aided by a switch that lowers the vehicle using the air suspension system.

There are five trim levels — Standard, S, SE, R-Dynamic SE and R-Dynamic HSE — starting at $50,895 including destination charge. While the base model comes with only the 4-cylinder engine, move up one grade to the S at $55,695 and you have a choice of all three engines. The S comes standard with leather seats, an 11-speaker Meridian sound system, navigation, a power rear liftgate, and auto-dimming and power-folding door mirrors.

The range tops out with R-Dynamic HSE for $78,095. But even in that configuration there are enticing options available. For instance our R-Dynamic HSE test car carried a bottom line price of $86,190 including destination charge with such options as four-way climate control, an advance terrain response system, active rear locking differential, and black exterior package.

Base price: $50,895; as driven, $86,190
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 380 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 322 pound-feet @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 113.1 inches
Length: 189.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,471 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Towing capacity: 5,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 34.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 18 city, 24 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 5.3 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace, BMW X3

The Good
• Energetic V-6 engine
• Attractive styling
• Off-road capable

The Bad
• Considerable glare on top information screen

The Ugly
• Some controls are not user friendly