2018 Range Rover Velar: First Drive Review
It’s poised to be Land Rover’s best seller, but is it up to snuff?
Despite unleashing my inner billygoat up the side of a mountain in the 2018 Range Rover Velar, this is cliché, but my inner monologue has decided that the world can sometimes be unfair. The 2018 Range Rover Velar will live its life as a mall-rat, not a Capra aegagrus hircus.
My despondency is that only about five percent of Velar owners will ever drive their off-road-capable machines past where the tarmac ends. The Velar is definitely worthy of the Land Rover badge, but few will feel the rush of rock-crawling their SUVs up the significant grades I’m seeing beyond the Velar’s nose.
That missed opportunity is simply tragic. This SUV gives me the “oohs” and “aahs” as its All-Terrain Progress Control bounds over boulders, but most Velar owners will shelter themselves and their vehicles from this joy. What a cruel, cruel world.
Maybe I should just drive it off the cliff to my left and embrace the sweet black embrace of death? OK, even in a Land Rover, that’s going too far.
Mind you, the Range Rover Velar isn’t as impervious to cragginess as its big brother, the more off-road-purposed Land Rover Range Rover, or the incredibly capable Land Rover Discovery. Even so, it’s still fun to drive and tremendously capable. That signature Land Rover off-road prowess remains despite the lack of a crawler ratio or a trick intake that allows for a 900mm fording depth. Remember, underneath the Velar’s masculine lines lies a Jaguar F-Pace, so you’re not going to see one of these crossing Panama’s horrific Darién Gap anytime soon. But if you want to serpentine through trails like ours that are lucky to see even a handful of souls cross per day, you’ll have a tremendous time in the Velar. It’s happiest on God’s pavement.
Unfortunately, if you want to get the most-off-road-capable Velar, you have to spring for the most expensive variant: the supercharged V6 P380, which is a $65,195 proposition. The P380 comes standard with electronic air suspension that lifts the maximum ground clearance to 9.9 inches. The P250 and D180 models make do with 8.4 inches on coil springs. That’s not all bad news, though. The steel suspension is better on-road, and is incredibly smooth during light off-roading, too, so for the 95 percent of owners who never venture off-road, the conventional springs make the most sense. Maybe the world isn’t so unfair after all.
The Velar’s disposition leans toward luxury. If you want a shot of sport
in your midsize luxury SUV, opt for the Velar’s cousin: the Jaguar F-Pace.
Consequently, the Velar, it its lower-dose potencies, will make the most sense for most buyers. The P250 version commands $50,895 to start, and is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged Ingenium four-cylinder with 247 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque that plateaus from 1,200 to 4,500 rpm. With 4,217 lbs. to haul around, the four-banger petrol Velar can crack off a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds, and if you can keep your foot buried in the carpet long enough, it will hit 135 mph.
Mashing the pedal in the turbo-four Velar is uneventful. The SUV’s cabin is well-isolated, not only to sound but also to the feeling of acceleration. The four-cylinder gas model isn’t slow; 6.4 seconds to 60 is relatively quick. It’s just that you don’t notice the quickness that’s available to you. That’s fitting with this vehicle’s character, though. The Velar’s disposition, no matter which variant you choose, leans toward luxury. If you want a shot of sport in your midsize luxury SUV, opt for the Velar’s cousin: the Jaguar F-Pace.
Next up is the Velar’s medium-strength offering: the D180. Yes, the numbers are lower, but that “D”, which stands for diesel, means more effectiveness per unit of horsepower. Moving your dose up to diesel also means $6,300 more to hand over. The D180 starts at $57,195, but it’s the one I’d drive everyday. It may take 8.4 seconds to reach 60 mph, but don’t let that leisurely time fool you. The 180-horsepower turbodiesel’s lowdown power delivery is as satisfying as a food coma-induced nap.
At just 1,500 rpm, the 2.0-liter mill is cranking 317 lb-ft of torque. This kind of power delivery shines in stop-and go traffic, and on the highway as well. Zero to 20 is noticeably more smile-inducing than 0-20 in the other two versions. It’s acceleration like that that will make ’round-the-corner runs to the supermarket more exciting.
If you have to jump on a freeway to get to your local supermarket, the diesel will still delight. I love the Velar D180’s willingness to pull cleanly in eighth gear from 60 to 80 mph. Top-gear acceleration in the diesel is quicker than the maximum-strength Velar P380 as well.
That’s why I’d buy the turbodiesel over the other two: during everyday driving, it simply gives you more satisfaction than the other engines. The diesel feels the fastest when you’re not thinking about going fast. That translates to a feeling of effortlessness when you’re driving the D180. I tend to be more relaxed and happier behind the wheel of a car that feels fast when I’m not trying to haul ass.
Speaking of hauling body parts named after mammals with a braying call, let’s talk about the maximum-strength Velar P380. If you’re caning it in high-altitude canyons, it doesn’t feel that fast, and it doesn’t necessarily handle like a sports car, either. The 380-horsepower supercharged 3.0L V6 can get the Velar to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds when the conditions are right, but I never got a chance to stomp the daylights out of its throttle pedal at more reasonable altitudes. I’m sure the acceleration feels just fine at sea level, but at 8,000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains, I was left wanting for turbocharging, which, compared with supercharging, is hardier in the face of thinner air.
This is the most attractive Land Rover ever built, it’s reasonably sized for urban life, and people will just want to be seen in one.
Infiniti’s 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0L V6 or Alfa Romeo’s 505-hp twin-turbo 2.9L V6 would have been a riot in the elevated switchbacks. In contrast, JLR’s supercharged mill feels able, but not excited. The same goes for the vehicle’s character through the twisties. It’ll get you through them quickly, but you get the sense the Velar is only politely smiling through the corners. In comparison, the Maserati Levante will sing tableside opera to you when you crack the whip through the bends. The same goes for the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Will Velar owners even notice that their SUVs aren’t particularly in their element when canyon-carving? Absolutely not. It was meant to be capable on the road and off. Has Land Rover accomplished that? Unequivocally, yes. The Velar may not excel as a canyon-carver, but at least it is capable through a turn when you need it to be.
However, rumor has it that my concerns with the P380 will be addressed with the launch of a Range Rover Velar SVR. If those rumors are true, I see a future where I’m falling in love.
Even as it stands right now, though, this is the most attractive Land Rover ever built, it’s reasonably sized for urban life, and people will just want to be seen in one. Because the Velar excels in attractiveness, comfort and upper-class practicality, I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up being Land Rover’s best-selling vehicle. Now if people could simply get it off-road more often.
Words and Photos by Manuel Carrillo III