Driven - October 2017

Launch Drive: Range Rover Velar

Our first drive of the Range Rover Velar

2017 has been a funny year, time has seemed to disappear and in the past 10 months we have seen some great cars announced and launched, which now seems like an age ago. As the year draws to a close there has been much hype around one particular car – The Range Rover Velar.

Dubbed the most customizable Range Rover yet, the Velar has been referred to as a piece of art just as much as a vehicle and because of this, the Dylan Lewis Sculpture garden hidden deep in the Stellenbosch mountains made sense as a suitable location to begin the South African media launch.

Before we ate Velarish type food prepared by one of South African’s best chefs, Neil Anthony, we enjoyed a tour and explanation of the unique sculpture found here, followed by an unveiling of the car itself. Having seen the Velar in the flesh before this event, I knew what to expect. Still, the Range Rover Velar makes you stop and stare, a big emphasis has been placed on simplicity with it’s design and this can be clearly seen in the concept styled front end and streamlined edges that flow past door handles which pop out and become visible only when you need them. It is without doubt the most beautiful car ever produced by JLR.

Range Rover Velar

It not just the visual appearance that has been hyped up either, the technology within has also received much attention. The Velar uses over 10 km’s worth of cable and we were interested to see what this results in, but first, a good night’s rest at the beautiful L’Ermitage hotel located nearby.

After waking up to beautiful views, it was now time to experience a beautiful car. It’s worth noting that the Velar is the fourth model in the Range Rover line up, and doesn’t serve as a replacement for the Evoque or the Sport but rather slots in between the two.

Our morning started in the Velar R Dynamic D300 – D for diesel, and 300 for the amount of Horsepower it produces – this new naming system will be rolled out among all models eventually. The 300 hp or 221 kW is aided by 700 N.m of torque, all produced by 3.0 V6 turbodiesel. The power and response from this drivetrain was impressive with plenty of low down torque fixing one’s body firmly into the Velar’s seats, which aided the massage function even further – something that was definitely not minded.

For me the beauty of the D300 was simple, it provides a wonderfully smooth and quiet driving experience when needed, with in gear acceleration which makes me dream of Durban to Cape Town road trips in December. Before I got carried away, my driving partner took control and I began to play with the tech.

As you may or may not know, the Velar features JLR’s new Infotainment system called Touch Duo Pro. This system features two high-definition 10” screens which operates many of the car’s electronic systems such as comfort seating options, Navigation, Climate Control and even driving modes and off-road systems such as wade control and low traction launch.  First things first, this system is beautiful. It takes center stage in the Velars cabin and really emphasizes the whole interior experience. With the ignition off, the lower screen simply looks like luxurious interior trim, when the ignition is engaged however, magic happens and the lower screen comes to life, while the top screen tilts upwards towards the cabin.

Range Rover Velar

There is a third screen under the driver’s control, this being a digital display which replaces the classic dashboard dials and can display varied information such as speed, navigation, media etc. Steering wheel controls are not the usual type either, with the increase and decrease in volume done by simply sliding your finger in a circular fashion around the dial.

Range Rover Velar

Amongst all of the touch and digital tech, you won’t find any gimmicky gesture control and JLR have left a volume knob on the center console, this makes me immensely happy. There is no easier way to control sound volume when driving, if you choose not to use the on-wheel system, or you have one of those passengers that mess. After the ooo’s and ahh’s that come with fiddling with the industry leading tech, we exchanged vehicles for the other diesel variant on launch, the HSE D240.

The 177 kW AND 500 N.m produced are very enticing figures but as I drove this variant, I instantly regretted driving the more powerful 3.0 Diesel first. Obviously, the difference in performance was instantly noticeable but when this is overlooked, the D240 is a fantastic option for those looking for a diesel variant where performance isn’t high on the priority list but comfort and efficiency perhaps are and 500 N.m is still a plenty bunch to have on your side. I feel this variant is not the option you choose just because your budget is limited and it’s a cheaper variant, it’s the option you choose if it fits your purpose.

After a spot of lunch at the beautiful (…) river, we enjoyed uninterrupted views of the gardens surrounding us, unique architecture and a chance to reflect on the morning so far while enjoying a selection of lunch platters. For me, the most exciting variant was yet to come, being the P380.

The 3.0 V6 Petrol variant is the most powerful engine currently available with 280 kW and 400 N.m of torque. For me, this drivetrain suits the Velar very well, not just because it’s fast, but for a host of reasons. The P380 produces a beautiful performance note on hard acceleration, a note that isn’t too loud doesn’t attract too much attention but provides the driver with the sporty experience. Don’t expect breakneck force but rather enjoyable acceleration, as the car climbs higher into the RPM range, the engine comes to life. At this point I found myself constantly chasing the red line and sweet note that comes with it, changing gear and thus starting the cycle over. Velar P380 provides a great balance of sport and comfort, it is definitely no SVR but who knows, maybe that will come in the future – a 5.0 V8 would be wild in a car like the velar and the name had quite a ring “ Velar SVR”

With over 17 Wheel options, …. interior trims and … paint colors, one can really create a Velar in line with their personality, there are a multitude of options that can be specced depending on your personal preference and this makes the Velar the most customizable Range Rover to date. In a world where customers want uniqueness, Velar makes this possible.

So where does the Velar fit in?

The premium SUV market is a competitive place to be but when compared to its German competitors, the Velar really offers something different, a bold product which possesses more character and substance – from a brand whose SUV variants are all priced very closely, this is of utmost importance. The Velar has a starting price of R940 000 but in all honesty, don’t walk into a JLR dealership expecting to only spend R1 million. Yes, your Velar will still be very nice, but for me, that’s not what the experience of buying a Velar should be about.

Just like an artist takes time, effort and precision in his work, purchasing your Velar, which has been compared to art many times over, should be a similar experience. One that is unrushed, personal, crafted and time consuming. You should be comfortable speccing all of the options if you so wish, or just the 5 or 6 you want your Velar to have. Many people may disagree, but skimping on a car like the Velar is just not worth it in the long run. If you want the full experience, go the full mile.

Range Rover Velar

In overview, Land Rover have developed a car which really stands out in terms of design and technology. Would I buy one? That is a question that I still need to answer, I’d rather see myself in a Range Rover Sport. For my wife on the other hand, the Range Rover Velar would be perfect. At the end of the day, the Velar is car which will not disappoint, it offers something I feel is unique in its segment, and I would rather purchase a Velar over any of its German rivals, but then again,  I am an Englishman.


Also published on Medium.