Revised Velar takes another tilt at upmarket SUV sector
While not suggesting that the previous Velar was on a hiding to nothing, Iain Robertson was heartily disappointed by the original test example’s electronic failures, which were dismissed as ‘architectural miscommunication’…not good!
From private player to state-funded carmaker, before returning to the private fold again, Land Rover has actually spent more years of its timeline spending other investors’ money. State ‘ownership’ was not an easy cloak to shed. While the purse strings were fairly tightly controlled, aided in no small part by a defence department vehicle supply contract, apart from the stunning Range Rover and later Freelander, the company was a veritable design desert.
Funding was exercised simply to keep the wolf from the door. Governments should steer clear of manufacturing enterprises. Face it, they do not understand them, despite consisting of MPs that profess to know better…but seldom do. However, taxpayers’ cash was sluiced around the company in a directionless manner. While the glimmers of brilliance do exist, the comprehensive lack of follow-through exercised by Land Rover (and Jaguar Cars) has stymied all post-governmental attempts to make a real difference. BMW recognised the situation, nicked what it needed (which was good 4×4 technology) and flogged the firm to Ford, which truly never comprehended what it had acquired.
Yet, again, a corporate rape took place, to Ford’s benefit, before it sold the remnants to an Indian industrial conglomerate, masterminded by Tata, which was drawn to the glamour of British automotive engineering and a brand story that actually commenced around the time of the fall of the ‘White Raj’ in India. Despite Gandhi’s best efforts, the Indian peoples are immensely proud in many cases of their links to Great Britain…except that the UK is no longer ‘great’ and what they bought was a failed dream that required a darned good shakedown to make it worthy.
To be frank, I do not want to bleat on (again) about squandered opportunities, our nation has endured more than enough over the years. Land Rover is by far the greater ‘partner’ to Jaguar Cars, which remains an interesting tiddler in overall stature. It is fortunate that two brands can be better than one, when it boils down to economies of manufacturing scale. Whatever hardware Jag needs, Landy can also utilise it and vice-versa, even though a profusion of technology-shared models now exists, which has the effect of diluting potential market impact, for either brand.
It has been almost three-and-a-half years since the Velar name was resurrected from 1970 Range Rover prototype status, to model in its own right. Intended to fill a niche, which can be a dangerous move, between Evoque and Range Rover Sport, it became a signpost for technology with a massively elegant twist. Its flush door handles are now common to Evoque and its three-screen digital interfaces have been adopted across various models in JLR’s stock cupboard. The company has learnt how to share internally, largely without fear.
However, it was a far from trouble-free first generation. Dogged with recalls, warranty work and expensive unreliability, it is surprising that Velar remains in more than mere spirit. Yet, copious amounts of reparative work have been carried out behind the scenes at a leaner and more focused HQ for the brand. While ‘design by committee’ has seldom been an element of Land Rover’s remit, ‘acquisition by similar means’ has been very carefully ditched, hopefully never to return. Tata has rattled its beating stick on the rails and Land Rover knows that it needs to react accordingly.
The much-improved Velar offers its buyers a better balance of design and technology, now augmented with electrification. In fact, the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder P400e plug-in hybrid offers a smoother and more refined drive, developing a wholesome 400bhp and 472lbs ft of torque from its turbo-petrol engine and 105kW electric motor. It is capable of despatching the 0-60mph blast in just 5.1s and a 17.1kWh lithium-ion battery, located beneath the boot floor, can be charged to 80% capacity in a typical 30-minutes, using a fast DC charge-point, or 1 hour 40 minutes using a standard 7kW wallbox. Promising zero tailpipe emissions in its stated 33-miles EV mode, its fuel economy is rated at up to 130.2mpg, with CO2 emissions from just 49g/km.
On the other hand, both diesel and petrol straight-sixes are also available from the Ingenium range, the 3.0-litre capacity developing 296bhp in twin-turbo diesel form, or 395bhp as a super and turbocharged petrol, with the option of 48v mild hybrid technology. There is also a new entry-level 201bhp, 2.0-litre TD.
To get over the issues related to immature electronics, the latest PiviPro digital tech is designed to provide total ease of use, with a much simpler, separately powered interface that reduces the number of user interactions, with the primary aim of enhancing safety…reliability is now standard. Crisp graphics and speedy reactions are highlights of the new electronic architecture. Spotify is integrated, as is Bluetooth for two phones, not one.
The cabin is now a most serene place from which to view the world, with the equivalent of noise-cancelling hardware enhancing refinement levels. While steel springs and dampers are standard fayre, most owners opt for air suspension, which, dependent on chassis setting can range between magic carpet and sporty ride qualities. The Velar’s handling envelope is determinedly upmarket but that should not put off the enthusiastic driver, who will find that the car is immensely rewarding. A next-gen wearable ‘key’ obviates the need for a conventional key-fob, which is replaced at extra cost (naturally) by a digital watch. While Volvo has been first to market with a clean air ionisation/filtration system, Land Rover has even beaten Rolls-Royce with its nasty niff-remover.
Prices for the comprehensively revised Velar line-up start at £46,110 but, if tempted, be aware that the options can soon add-up and double the list price in a trice. Of course, being a Range Rover also means the finest off-road driveability in the world.
Conclusion: Land Rover has a lot to prove at the moment and it is expecting its customers to believe in the brand. It is now 50 years since the Range Rover first appeared and, while there is a huge amount of work yet to be completed in Solihull, it could be that a new Range Rover Velar, especially in hybrid form, could become the premium boardroom car of choice.