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The Velar has established itself as a really credible contender in the mid part of the Range Rover model line-up. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version.
The very first luxury SUV was a Range Rover, a pioneering 4x4 first launched back in 1970. Prior to that car's original introduction, a fleet of 26 pre-production models were used by development engineers and these ran under the 'Velar' name, Land Rover keen to hide the revolutionary vehicle's real identity, the word derived from the Latin 'velaris', meaning to veil or cover. Almost half a century later in 2017, the Velar name returned to the Range Rover line-up, used to badged the brand's fourth model, a mid-sized contender that aimed to plug the previous gap between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. The Solihull brand knows that premium German rivals have set a high standard in this market segment, so spared no effort in building in advanced technology, compelling design and absolute attention to detail. But time moves on - and fortunately, the Velar has moved on with it. With this revised model, let's see just how far.
The Velar is built on the same IQ platform that underpins the extraordinarily successful Jaguar F-PACE. On top of that sits a light, stiff, aluminium-intensive body and this, together with double-wishbone front and Integral Link rear suspension, should provide the perfect basis for the agile handling, excellent ride comfort and impressive refinement this car needs in its quest to take on tough segment rivals like Porsche's Macan and BMW's X6. As before, smooth-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and AWD with so-called 'Intelligent Driveline Dynamics' are both mandatory across the range. Refinement's been improved by the introduction of a new Active Road Noise Cancellation system. Under the bonnet, there's been quite a bit of change with this revised model. Familiar from the original model is the base P250 petrol unit (249hp), while at the foot of the diesel range now lies the D200 (204hp). Beyond that, the straight-six cylinder options feature the brand's latest mild hybrid 48V technology, the choice being between the P400 petrol (400hp) and the D300 diesel (300hp). This Velar is also now offered with the brand's plug-in hybrid powertrain, the new P400e variant offering a 300hp four cylinder petrol engine mated to a 105kW electric motor powered by a 17.1kWh lithium-ion battery. The resultant package puts out 404hp and 640Nm of torque, making 62mph possible from rest in just 5.1s. Plus there's a 33 mile driving range when fully charged. It's clear from the Velar's market positioning that it'll be used off road even less than other Range Rover models, but it still offers class-leading ground clearance of up to 251mm (213mm with coil springs), class-leading wading depth of up to 650mm (600mm with coil springs) and Land Rover's unmatched suite of traction technologies including optional 'Terrain Response 2' and 'All Terrain Progress Control' systems.
There aren't any significant visual changes for this revised model. There didn't really need to be. The Velar remains instantly recognisable as a Range Rover, the floating roof and clamshell bonnet providing clear references to its lineage and visually reinforcing the class-leading all-terrain capability for which all the brand's models are renowned. The large wheels - up to 22-inches in diameter - help to define the smart silhouette, while the short front overhang and super-slim full-LED headlights play their part in minimising visual weight. Hi-tech Matrix-Laser LED headlights are optional. A long 2,874mm wheelbase enhances the car's visual length and this contributes to the creation of a much more spacious cabin than can be offered by this model's cheaper, smaller Evoque stablemate. There's a much bigger 632-litre boot too and the versatility of a 40:20:40 split-folding rear bench. Inside, there has been a crucial change, the adoption of Land Rover/Jaguar's latest 'Pivi' infotainment technology for the two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that dominate the centre stack. This set-up features crisper graphics and the potential for 'over-the-air' updates. An embedded data connection means customers will have access to the latest maps, apps and vehicle software modules. Otherwise, apart from a re-styled steering wheel, things are much as before. Mirroring the taut, uncluttered exterior design, the Velar's precision-crafted interior matches the high standards set by premium German SUV rivals. You sit in what the brand calls a 'Sports-Command' position on front seats that balance performance-oriented design and support with opulent comfort, and offer up to 20-way adjustment and heating, cooling and massage functions. As before, the rotary transmission controller rises silently from the centre console on start-up. In front of the driver, most models get a 12.3-inch Interactive Driver Display.
As before, the Velar is aimed at the upper end of the mid-sized luxury SUV market. In other words, it targets the £50,000 price bracket where upper-spec versions of cars like BMW's X4 and Mercedes' GLC Coupe attempt to do battle with desirable sporting contenders like Porsche's Macan and BMW's X6. Velar prices start at around £46,000 and range up to just over £70,000. Trim-wise, the model range includes standard, 'S', 'SE' and 'HSE' variants, with extra 'R-Dynamic' versions available of each. 'R-Dynamic'-spec includes a sportier look, with unique 19-inch Satin Dark Grey wheels, a bespoke bumper design plus some discreet interior upgrades. Certain engines are also offered with an extra 'Velar Edition' trim package. A key showroom selling point will be the new 'Pivi' centre-dash infotainment system, offered in standard and 'Pivi Pro' forms. Its 'Micro SIM 4G' connectivity enables a host of features, functions and location-based services that should make every journey easier, more enjoyable and more relaxing. For example, there's an online search system that helps you find difficult destinations, and the system can also tell you if you have enough fuel to complete the journey you're on. There's also a new Cabin Air Filtration system. And a second-generation version of the brand's wearable Activity Key, which can totally replace the traditional key fob when necessary. The water-resistant and shock-proof wrist device now incorporates an LCD watch and allows customers to start, stop, lock and unlock the vehicle, with no need to take a traditional key fob out with them.
The brand's latest MHEV mild hybrid tech gets efficiency readings back on track for most powerful Velars, but it doesn't feature at the bottom of the range. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The base D200 diesel variant manages 43.9mpg on the combined cycle and 169g/km of CO2. For the base P250 petrol model, the readings are 29.2mpg and 218g/km. As for the six cylinder MHEV mild hybrid variants, well the D300 diesel manages 36.8mpg and 201g/km, while the P400 petrol returns 27.7mpg and 230g/km. The MHEV system uses a Belt integrated Starter Generator (BiSG) in the engine bay to harvest energy usually lost under deceleration, which is then stored in a 48V lithium-ion battery located beneath the rear loadspace. It is able to redeploy the stored energy to assist the engine when accelerating away, while also delivering a more refined and responsive stop/start system. If you want to go further, you'll want the Plug-in hybrid P400e petrol PHEV, which manages 121.1mpg on the combined cycle and 52g/km of CO2. This PHEV version's 17.1Wh lithium-ion battery, located under the boot floor, can be charged to 80% in just 30 minutes using a fast DC charge point, or 1 hour 40 minutes using a standard 7kW wallbox. With zero tailpipe emissions in electric mode, it offers an all-electric range of 33 miles. Helping these figures across the range is this Velar's 'Lightweight Aluminium Architecture'-inspired body. And the efficient eight-speed ZF automatic transmission which features what the brand calls 'an integral pendulum damper'. This device dramatically reduces the booming and vibration typically experienced when running in high gears at low engine speeds, and therefore contributes to Velar's relatively efficient fuel consumption.
Until Land Rover launched the Velar, few would have thought there was a need for this SUV in the Solihull company's range. Yet now, it's hard to imagine the line-up without it. Sure it's expensive, but the fact that this car has much more in common with a Range Rover Sport than an Evoque makes that easier to accept. In fact, we'd go further and say that the Velar has quite a few of the hallmarks of the top fully-fledged Range Rover model - in feel, in style and in refinement. In some ways, it's a version of that car redefined for the 21st century with efficiency, manageable size and road dynamics in mind. Those well-heeled buyers who think of the Velar in that way might not mind what they pay for one. This model's original designer Gerry McGovern reckoned at launch that this car brought 'a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand' and if you agree that to be true, you'll probably also think, as we do, that this car does the same thing as part of its chosen take on the premium SUV segment. Especially in this usefully revised form. If in the past, you've usually driven a premium German executive saloon but always liked the idea of a Range Rover, then this is your car. And if that's the case, a whole new ownership dimension awaits.