Range Rover, the epitome of the refined country gentleman who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when the situation calls for it, has changed tack a little of late. Enter the Velar.
Words by Stephen Smith
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For years the Range Rover stood alone in the Land Rover stable, one model with its own nameplate and a lofty view of it’s lesser stablemates. Then in 2004, it was joined by the Range Rover Sport, a slightly smaller vehicle based on the Land Rover Discovery and every bit as capable on road and off it.
The Evoque was the next to arrive, in 2011, and it slotted in at the bottom of the illustrious ladder, as the Range Rover for people who didn’t need the off-road capabilities. Now the Velar has been launched, slotting into the lineup between the Evoque and the Sport, and it is a vehicle that focuses on style and pizzazz rather than mud and adventure.
To launch the Velar, Range Rover used the phrase ‘signature style’, which perhaps suggests that this is a vehicle that is going to be based more on its looks than anything else. In this arena the Velar can’t really be faulted – it’s handsome and sleek, with the sort of presence that comes only at great cost.
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It even has power door handles that retract into the body to improve the sleek lines. Unlock the vehicle and they emerge to allow you entry. There was apparently an engineering team whose sole project was these flush door handles, which have been tested under conditions of -20°C, covered in 4mm of ice. It’s an incredible achievement, and credit to the technological prowess of the Land Rover’s engineers. I just don’t see why they’re necessary. Knowing my luck, if I was in my Velar somewhere where the temperature had dropped to -20°C, I’d get locked out, the battery would die, and I’d be at the mercy of the elements until I went the way of the battery.
As far as engines go, there are four options available locally in six different states of tune, aligned to the new Landy naming conventions of P or D for petrol or diesel, and then the horsepower output. So there’s the 2-litre P250 (184kW), the 2-litre P300 (221kW), the 3-litre P380 (280kW), the 2-litre D180 (132kW), the 2-litre D240 (177kW) and the 3-litre D300 (221kW). My pick would be the D240, for the elegant sufficiency of power and torque combined with sublime refinement. All Velars have an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
The interior is pretty much as good as anything on the road, and the infotainment is built around a system that uses two touch-screens that control everything from the climate control to the massaging seats. It’s all top notch.
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The Range Rover built its reputation on the back of monumental off-road prowess, and it’s hard to see how the Velar will live up to those standards. It probably doesn’t need to. But on the vehicle’s launch in a damp Western Cape, we weren’t able to test the vehicle on anything more challenging than dirt roads, despite it being equipped with a full range of off-road technology: terrain response, low range, locking rear diff, wading depth of 600mm (650mm with air suspension), maximum ground clearance of 251mm (with air suspension) and approach, departure and ramp angles of 28.89°, 29.5° and 23.5° respectively.
In fact, I’d say that the biggest challenge for off-roading will be finding a tyre that can keep up with the rest of the Velar’s arsenal. The smallest rims available are 18-inch on the base model, and 19-inch on the S or above. Even on the 18-inch wheels, which take a recommended 235/65R18 tyre, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a decent all-terrain LT tyre.
All of my off-road theorisings, though, are probably inconsequential. With the expansion of the Range Rover stable, sales have almost tripled since 2009 (from 22 000 units to over 60 000), which shows that the wealthy aren’t affected quite like we are by a recession. And with the Velar, they’re going to increase even further. Prices start at R947 700 and go up to R1 356 900 for the supercharged P380 HSE. At the prices, it will be interesting to see if the Velar cannibalises sales from the Land Rover Discovery, which starts at R980 000, and the Range Rover Sport, which starts at R1 079 500.