In 1969, Land Rover was testing a vehicle that would change the world. Perhaps not the world, but the SUV world certainly.
No longer would you have to traverse rivers and mountains in a basic off-roader. The Range Rover brought luxury to those who needed it, but incredibly it did so without compromising off-road ability.
The prototype was named the Velar, which of course became the Range Rover, but now the company has resurrected the name for the fourth model in the Range Rover family. Originally expected to be a sort of supersized Evoque, the Velar has emerged as a brand new model, but one which also hints at future design changes for the larger Range Rover derivatives and probably the next generation Evoque too.
Unusually, the vehicle you see here is also not a concept. It will be revealed in the metal at the Geneva Motor Show in March and will be in showrooms in the fourth quarter of 2017. It has been pushed through by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) management, even ahead of the replacement for the Defender. Why? Because there is a massive gap in the pricing between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport and JLR wanted to plug it.
It shares a platform with the Jaguar F-Pace and will take on the Jag’s rivals such as the Porsche Macan and Mercedes GLE coupe. It will arrive just months after the new Discovery, but unlike the Disco 5, there will be a genuine revolution when it comes to the interior. The company has adopted what it calls a reductionist philosophy, which basically means removing as many buttons as possible and fulfilling the minimalist mantra.
To do this, the Velar is the first model to get the company’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment screens. This features two 10-inch high definition touchscreens which adopt something called secret-until-lit. This means they remain dark until you go to use them and when you do they provide access to not just a vast number of settings from climate control to infotainment and navigation, but also the off-road settings.
The Velar was expected to be a soft-roader, at least compared with its brethren, but the traditionalists need not fear because it gets the full Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control systems. It also has four-corner air suspension on six-cylinder models (standard coil springs on four-cylinder versions), ground clearance of 251mm and a depth of 650mm.
The firm promises it will be dynamic too, with an aluminium-intensive body, double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension combined with the air suspension.
Under that long bonnet will be the option of six initial engines, all mated to ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics. The Ingenium four-cylinder diesels will include 132kW and 177kW options but there will also be a V6 diesel boasting 700Nm of torque. Petrol power will initially come from a 184kW Ingenium four-cylinder as well as a supercharged V6 producing 280kW and claimed to reach 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds. Later a 221kW Ingenium four-cylinder will also be added and no doubt the guys in lab coats at JLR Special Vehicle Operations are already tinkering to come up with something worthy of an SVR performance badge.
In spite of its long profile, the Velar will have a wheelbase of 2,874mm which has been used to provide maximum space for five occupants. The wheelbase and that long rear overhand also translate into 673l of standard luggage space, ideal for that luxury picnic hamper and a few director’s chairs.
Towing is taken care of courtesy of a 2,500kg towing capacity but there is also more tech here, with an Advanced Tow Assist function. This system allows the driver to reverse the Velar with a trailer attached using the Touch Pro Duo rotary dial, with computers ensuring the driver has no need to counter-steer.
"Velar is now the compelling, stand-out design in the class, showcasing perfectly optimised volume, powerful, taut surfaces and a stunning silhouette," says Gerry McGovern, chief design office at Land Rover.
Has McGovern created a vehicle that threatens the Discovery? For some, possibly, particularly when it comes to the design, superb-looking interior and promising infotainment system. But the Velar is not going to match the Disco in all areas, particularly off-road ability and seven-seater space. It also might carry the Range Rover name, but it will never carry the status of the big daddy models, but like the Velar prototype of the 1960s, it could herald a whole new era for the luxury SUV.