Gareth Butterfield tests the posh and pretty Range Rover Velar
I CAN remember the days when, if you walked into a Land Rover Showroom you’d have a choice of the Defender or a Range Rover. Simple, clear-cut options that were equally impressive as one another, but also worlds apart.
There’s still a Range Rover and a Defender in the line-up, but Land Rover’s range has expanded almost beyond recognition.
It begins with the “small” Evoque, then there’s a Discovery Sport, then the Discovery, somewhere in the mix is a Range Rover Sport and then there’s the full-fat Range Rover. And now there’s another one. The stylish Velar.
I guess you could call it a large Evoque. But you could also get away with slotting it just below the sport. Either way, Land Rover has found a gap in its Range Rover range we probably didn’t even realise was there. Not that that makes it a “niche” product. The Velar sits somewhere between a BMW X4 and X6, Mercedes GLC Coupe and GLE Coupe, and above the Audi Q5 – so it does have some strong competitors.
None of them, that said, will compete with the Velar off road. It might have glass-slipper looks, but it still has Wellington-boot capabilities.
Not that most buyers will explore its off-roading credentials, of course. As with the Evoque, style is very much at the fore with the Velar. Its looks borrow heavily from other models in the range, but it still carves its own path neatly with elegant lines, sharp windscreen rake and very clean lines. It’s arguably one of the most attractive Range Rovers in the line-up and that will score big points with the style-conscious.
Inside, it feels as if the style has been turned up another notch. It’s all-glass console layout is absolutely gorgeous, and surprisingly functional. Range Rover instrumentation and controls are starting to set new standards for simplicity and sheer functionality. They’re catching the nob-reliant infotainement systems napping and showing the world that touch-screens can work well.
True to family form, there’s plenty of engine choices to be had, beginning with a capable 2.0-litre diesel in 180bhp and 240bhp flavours, and a 2.0-litre petrol with either 250bhp or 300 bhp.
There’s also two V6s, a 300bhp diesel and a petrol supercharged 380bhp SV. They’re all mated to the usual, brilliant, tried and tested eight-speed auto box.
Adaptive suspension keeps the ride in check, and it’s happy to waft around on even bumpy roads with ease. It’s not a car you’d expect dynamic delights from, but it’s agile enough and the handling feels safe and predictable.
While the cockpit is a visual feast, the rear space feels less ample, largely thanks to the large driver and passenger seats. Five adults will be comfortable, that said, and the boot is long, if a little shallow. But on the whole capacious enough for most.
MPG and emissions figures are pretty good for the size of car, but the entry price for a Velar is around £45,000, so the taxman will catch up with you eventually.
That said, it’s difficult to pick out a rival that offers so much style and class for the money. Most buyers are likely to choose variants and options that will send the price north of £60,000 and at that money it’s very much a luxury item. But luxury is something it delivers in spades.
Far from being a baby Range Rover, or even a bloated Evoque, the Velar sits well in the line-up and brings with it its own individual strengths.
So if you’re after something bigger than an Evoque, smaller than a Range Rover, prettier than a Range Rover Sport although not quite as involving, but more luxurious than a Discovery Sport, this might be the Land Rover sweet spot you’ve been looking for.