First Drive: Range Rover Velar

Is it possible to have too much?

The Velar is surely the start of Land Rover slowly moving away from the go-anywhere capabilities that it says its customers have hitherto demanded, despite the fact that few will ever venture further from the road than the owner’s driveway. It eschews the high ride height that’s a familiar hallmark of the brand, with a lot of the oily bits under that gloriously stylish body shell being shared with the Jaguar XF saloon.

While rumours of a forthcoming Road Rover model swirl, it’s easy to understand why there’s been a change of focus, but that doesn’t mean off-road ability has been abandoned. Point the Velar towards some sticky mud tracks and it’ll make a better fist of getting you to your destination than anything else this side of a ‘proper’ Land Rover, but ground clearances are slightly lower and the 22-inch wheels fitted to this review model aren’t exactly rock friendly.

Stay firmly on the tarmac and the Velar makes a little more sense, as air-suspension smooths off the bumps in the road allowing those wide tyres to do their job of gripping the road surface. However, as the Velar weighs perilously close to two tonnes, sports-car like handling is asking too much. The nose is very heavy and saps confidence as you turn into a corner, although the grip levels are actually staggeringly high. Outright pace is strong, too, thanks to the 375bhp V6 petrol engine slotted under the bonnet, and the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox to the back of it. That puts the power through a four-wheel drive system that’s biased towards the rear. Driving modes switch the air suspension between Comfort, Sport and a variety of off-road modes, but none really fit perfectly – the comfort mode is just a little too vague, while Sport starts transmitting all sorts of vibrations and clunks from the road through to the cabin.

The cabin is spectacular though, and marks a new point in Range Rover’s seemingly never-ending quest for luxury. It still retains the basic design traits of a Range Rover, but the centre console switchgear has been replaced by dual touchscreens. It’s like bolting a couple of the latest iPhones to the dashboard, with apps and settings to change everything about the car, although it’s far from intuitive and ponderously slow at times. It’s also rather hard to navigate when driving, with multiple finger stabs to the screen being required before the right icon has been selected. The sheer drama of the cabin can’t be understated though, despite some cheap plastics on show in places (including one panel with a sharp corner that kept catching my jeans) and, on a practical level, there’s more than enough space to keep four or even five adults happy and accommodate most of their belongings in the sizeable boot.

Despite all the glamour, in this particular specification, which will set buyers back an eye watering £85,000 or so, the Velar just doesn’t work. The 3.0-litre supercharged engine provides plenty of power, but the car can’t keep up with it on the road, and even economy of 25mpg would be considered optimistic. The likes of a Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Cayanne will provide a far more engaging drive. Likewise, while there’s more than enough luxury for most of us, it falls short of what you could find in a ‘proper’ Range Rover, and the latter will do a better job of crossing challenging terrain.

This First Edition P380 falls into a bit of a no man’s land where it makes no sense, but other models in the range will fare better – the Velar starts at around £45,000 or so for a 2.0-litre diesel, but there’s an SE D240 shaped sweet spot between the two extremes that strikes a far more convincing balance between style and function.

Model Tested: Range Rover Velar First Edition P380
Price: £85,450
Range: £44,830 – £85,450
Top speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 380 PS (375 bhp)
Torque: 450 Nm (332 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £1,167
Official fuel economy: 30.1mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 214 g/km
Car Tax: £450
Insurance group: 48E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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