The Range Rover portfolio is an intriguing one. At the entry point you have the successful Evoque, which has made the Range Rover nameplate accessible to an even wider audience.
Move up a rung and you arrive at the latest entrant to the elite range: the Velar, although it is not the first time the name has been used. Velar was the name for the prototype of the first Range Rover. Above that you get the Sport and, even higher, the perennial Range Rover big body. These all pander to buyers who, above all, want the premium status and capability that comes with the nameplate.
The Velar seems to bring the latest technology to the fore, thanks to the two-tier touchscreens, the top displaying the infotainment screen and the bottom other vital information such as the Terrain Response and climate control settings.
Styling is one of its fortes, cutting a sporty pose thanks to the wide stance and low roof line and the long nose. The large front mesh grille flanked by thin headlight clusters makes it instantly recognisable as a Range Rover. The rear seems to polarise opinion, but I like the tapered lights.
The cabin offers good headroom and the boot, measuring 558l (1,616l with rear seats folded) is more than sufficient to swallow holiday suitcases and then some. Finishes, save the cowl over the instrument cluster, are of good quality. The digital screen adds an air of sophistication and the rest of the cabin is minimalist without looking sparse and low rent.
On test here is the D240 model, which is the 2.0l, twin-turbo four-cylinder from the Jaguar Land Rover Ingenium engine family and boasts, at least on paper, good power figures.
The 177kW and 500Nm are nothing to be sneezed at. The editor was impressed by the engine when he drove it at launch in the Western Cape, so I was keen to see how it fared on the Reef. Allied to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the engine idles gruffly, as do most four-cylinder diesel engines, but things are quiet in the cabin.
While on paper performance of the vehicle places it above many of its segment rivals, I felt the engine lacked initial get-up-and-go. There is turbo lag when accelerating from standstill and things only get going once the tachometer needle sweeps past 2,500r/min and all 500Nm are shuffled to the ground.
Around town, power delivery is a pendulum, yo-yo effect where there’s initially nothing and then, suddenly, a spike. But all is forgiven once on the open road and the turbos are spooling up. This makes for a consummate long-distance cruiser with good reserves of overtaking pace. The ride quality is comfortable, while the steering is light and makes for easy manoeuvring around town.
Being a Range Rover, the vehicle also impresses off the beaten track. Switch the Terrain Response system into Gravel mode and the Velar’s dual purpose becomes even more apparent. It traverses the rough stuff with gay abandon and the suspension does its level best to keeps things tidy and comfortable in the cabin.
Larger than the Evoque, the Velar eloquently bridges the gap between the former and the Sport model to offer something more practical and versatile. While some might argue that the latest Discovery 5 makes a strong case for itself, I feel that the Velar has an air of a sense of occasion that the Disco doesn’t quite attain.
Also, the fact that it bares the Range Rover nomenclature means that it plays on a rather elite side of the Land Rover spectrum. While the model on test here looks healthy on paper, I would opt for the 3.0l V6 turbo diesel, which puts out 221kW and 700Nm, which around town should require less judicious throttle inputs and the fact that it comes with better refinement sweetens the deal.
The Velar is a superb package for those looking beyond the mundane SUV crop.