Can the new Velar justify its high asking price and beat the standard-setting Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne?
23 September 2017

The defining sound
 of this year’s most-wanted luxury car, the new Range Rover Velar, isn’t generated by its multi-cylinder diesel engine, some clever active exhaust or even 
its 17-speaker audio system.

It’s the rhythmic sequence of gentle whirrs and puffs made by the car’s pillowy, beautifully upholstered ‘massager’ driver’s seat as it sets about discreetly but determinedly kneading the tension out of your lower back. 

It’s a sound you can hear because the noise of the car’s V6 motor descends to a barely audible background hum at a motorway cruise – and also because there’s little more than the faintest flutter of wind noise creeping around the door seals at that speed. And what 
it sounds like – honestly – is a polite but persistent case of robotic after-dinner flatulence. It is not quite silent and a little bit violent at times, but thankfully unaccompanied by any lingering odour. Nope – the pseudo-farts of the new Velar’s driver’s seat don’t actually smell of anything; but that may even be a missed opportunity when you consider they might have been so deliciously perfumed. 

And so, having had the glare of
 a full Autocar road test on it and some stinging criticism made of it 
in lower-end four-cylinder diesel form, the Velar gets a chance to reveal what it’s really all about.
 Our focus turns to the near-top-of-the-range six-cylinder diesel model. If this is the outstanding modern luxury SUV that Gaydon claims it is, so accomplished in
 all the ways it’s purported to
 be, then it should easily prove itself superior to a couple of other similarly priced SUV rivals. 

What rivals, though. For the £70,530 of our Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300 test car, you can have a Porsche Cayenne S Diesel and a little bit of change or an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 272 quattro S line and quite a lot more change. You could have a Maserati Levante Diesel also – although Maserati wouldn’t lend us one 
of those for this comparison. 

But even without the Italian,
 these are opponents that vividly demonstrate why this magazine’s voice has been one of many to remark on the ambitiousness of Land Rover’s Velar pricing. The Porsche offers more cylinders, more power, more torque and more performance from its 380bhp V8 diesel, as well as a lasting reputation within the luxury SUV set for sporting handling. 

The Audi, on the other hand, matches the Range Rover’s claims on acceleration and beats the other two on fuel economy and CO2 emissions, combining the usefulness of seven seats with an outstandingly classy and well-finished interior and one of the most refined SUV-class driving experiences you can currently 
buy for any price. 

So, can this superbly handsome new Range Rover prove it’s got the substance to match its evident style and bring home a couple of big SUV scalps? Or will it wilt in the face of the competition that Gaydon has chosen for it? 

Value in the Velar?

Seventy grand. We keep coming back to it but it’s obvious why: because 
it seems an awfully high price for a Land Rover that’s supposed to sit below the Range Rover Sport in Land Rover’s showroom model range. That’ll be the Range Rover Sport that, in what you might consider as-close-as-possible-to-matching 3.0-litre SDV6 HSE Dynamic spec, costs £1400 less than our Velar test car on Land Rover’s current price list. 

And yet, if it could, Land Rover might interject here and point out that this Velar isn’t expensive as much as high-end: lavishly appointed and generally dressed to impress. And, if you buy a six-cylinder HSE at any rate, there’s a certain amount of credibility to that claim.
 The Audi we’re comparing it with here might look like it’s £14,000 cheaper in upper-trim S line form but it doesn’t come with half of
 what the Velar’s giving. Matrix
 LED headlights; 21in alloy wheels; leather upholstery extended to the doors, dashboard and centre console; air suspension; memory seats; adaptive digital instruments; keyless operation; and a full suite of active safety systems - all come on the Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300 as standard and all are cost options on the Q7. 

And guess what? Equipped to the same level, order would be restored: the Audi would cost more than the Range Rover – just as it should, you might argue, being a longer, larger, full-size seven-seater SUV. 

The Porsche would cost quite a
 lot more. A set of 21in alloy wheels, some memory sports seats and a full leather interior take the Cayenne’s price beyond that of the Range Rover all on their own – and that's without air suspension, LED headlights, a premium audio system or even a DAB radio being on the car’s spec sheet. 

Suddenly, the Velar’s sticker price, while still a long way from a bargain, doesn’t seem quite so exorbitant. 

We’ll call that surprise number one. Surprise number two materialises when you finally get the chance to clamber into the Velar’s interior, take in your surroundings and then clamber back out again to assess how the Q7 and Cayenne compare.

You expect the Audi to land some telling blows here: to be significantly more spacious than the Range Rover, as well as to seem a cut above on technological sophistication and material quality. That is, after all, how German and British luxury cars tend to relate to each other.
 But, while it is roomier than the Velar, the Q7 isn’t necessarily
 the more comfortable car of the two. The Audi’s got a fair bit more second-row leg room than the Range Rover, granted. But it’s the Velar that has the more comfortable driver’s seat and the marginally more laid-back driving position. In the back of the British car, while a 6ft 4in bloke like me has to sit with his thighs splayed in order to ‘sit behind himself ' and avoid the seatback in front
 of his knees, there’s still plenty of head room and a more agreeable seat to relax in than you’ll find elsewhere. The Audi’s rear chairs seem a bit flat and narrow by comparison. 

The Cayenne, meanwhile, offers more second-row leg room than the Velar, too, but more limited head room and elbow room. Its back seats are more deeply sculpted: good for two passengers but not much fun, I suspect, for a third. 

Moving on to luxury-car ambience, it’s another mixed showing for the Audi. It's an area where you think the Velar could come up short - and yet it doesn’t. The integrity and baseline quality of the Q7’s interior is absolutely spectacular. The granite-like substance of some of its fittings just amazes you. The chromed centre console trim of our test car seemed more securely fixed than my kitchen worktops. Most of all, it’s the consistency of the finish – the lack of absolutely anything that stands out as even a little bit flimsy, rough, hard or unattractive – that really distinguishes this car. 

And yet, while it’s evidently very smart and very, very solid, there’s
 a relative shortage of richness in evidence from the Q7, which the Range Rover’s airy, tactile, supremely stylish interior makes very plain indeed. For this test, Audi sent us a lowly equipped Q7 whose moulded dashboard, dark leathers and
 chrome decorative trims simply didn’t produce the same enveloping bubble of lavishness as the Velar’s hide-upholstered panels and its various shades of oyster, ebony
 and ash veneer. 

With a more generously kitted Q7, the comparison would have been fairer – but, when all you can do is test the cars in front of you on the day, the Q7 felt like a business tool. The Velar felt like it was ready to transport you to somewhere much more special than the office. 

The Cayenne’s interior doesn’t really bear comparison with either the Velar’s or the Q7’s – it’s perfectly comfortable and would seem very nice in isolation but it otherwise looks and feels like the cabin of a six-year-old car, whose third-generation replacement was unveiled to the world on the very day this test was carried out. 

But then the Cayenne earns its place in this test for altogether different reasons. The honest, deep, menacing chug of its V8 diesel engine, and the understated but obvious vibration it sends through the pedals and steering column, hint at the first reason the instant you start it up. The Cayenne’s a freak – but an enormously likeable one. It disregards much of the luxury SUV rulebook, being noisier than the norm, as well as coarser, weightier, more demanding and less well-mannered in the operation of its transmission and controls. But, fully 15 years after the introduction of the original Cayenne, this car remains singularly appealing among its rivals as a driver’s car – and I include the Velar among them. No other large SUV, save perhaps a Range Rover Sport SVR, is so fast, balanced, agile and entertaining on the road that it could stand in well for 
a rear-driven super-saloon, if life dictated a need to swap one for the other. 

So no – if you’re wondering, this new Velar isn’t as absorbing to drive as Porsche’s original go-faster 4x4. But it is much more suited to the purposes and particulars of a luxury SUV’s dynamic brief than the Cayenne. And, in its own more cossetting, compromising way, the Velar’s is a similarly enjoyable drive. 

Don’t think, for a moment, that 516lb ft under your right peg in the Range Rover will feel anything like as potent as the 627lb ft the Porsche serves up. Five-hundred-odd lb ft
 is plenty, mind you: enough that 
the Velar D300 suffers none of the sluggishness that we encountered in the cheaper D240. 

On the road, the Range Rover combines low-range muscle, throttle response, flexibility and silken operating smoothness very cleverly indeed. Its eight-speed auto ’box seems to know exactly how much slippage – and how fast a shift – is conducive to quickening pace while maintaining comfort levels. 

The Cayenne, on the other hand, isn’t concerned with comfort levels; its transmission hustles up and down the cogs with the relative finesse of a Formula Ford racer on a qualifying lap. That V8 takes a split-second longer to gird its loins when you want full power, but then the Porsche takes off at a rate, and in a style, that few would have believed possible 
for any diesel passenger car 25 years ago, let alone an SUV. 

The Velar’s steering is expertly weighted and paced – it’s matched
 to the car’s true handling response and roll rate as cleverly as a horsehair bow to a steel violin string. 

The car has Comfort, Automatic and Dynamic road-going settings
 for its active air suspension, but all of them leave it with ride and handling that meet the need for bump compliance, good body control and lasting grip levels in a wonderfully progressive, supple way. The Velar glides over the road just as you want a luxury SUV to, but never seems out of touch with it. 

There is even more outright lateral grip, a more poised and adjustable cornering attitude and more driver reward on offer in the Cayenne, sure – but it comes at a cost. The weight of that engine in an already heavy car makes for steering that’s over-assisted at times and so straight-line stability isn’t as high in the Cayenne as it is in the Range Rover and there's only a transient, illusive kind of contact patch feel. The car’s ride is never ideal: absorptive but under-damped in Comfort, becoming a bit wooden and tetchy in Sport – and always a touch thumpy. 

This, to be frank, isn’t how most luxury SUV drivers would want their car to conduct itself on the road – but, golly, could they have fun with it if they were brave enough. This is a 2.2-tonne 4x4 with power-on oversteer available on demand; ridiculous, but true. 

The way the Cayenne grips and stays neutral though the heart of a bend, and then arcs into a powerslide as you feed in all that torque, suggests it’s not an SUV at all, but instead a sports car with a transaxle ’box and no forward driveshafts. 

And where’s the Q7 in all this? Busy doing its best to keep its engine and cabin quiet, to filter every corrupting influence from its controls and to stay stable and reassuring in everything. And by succeeding at all of that, offering scant reply to the differing kinds of dynamic excellence of its rivals. 

But, to be honest, though impressed by the car’s mechanical refinement and sense of isolation, I expected 
a much more settled ride from the Audi, which isn’t a car that takes well to an uneven road on its standard steel coil ‘dynamic’ suspension. Here, as before, we were denied the opportunity for the fairest of tests by Audi’s particular test car – although previous experience suggests that, even on optional air springs and with all of Audi’s mechanical suspension and driveline augmentations fitted, the Q7 may not quite have hit the perfect compromise of the Velar. 

And so it is that our winner makes itself known. After a shaky start
on these pages, and recovering
 from the considerable handicap that a glaringly ambitious value proposition puts on any new car, the Range Rover Velar sees off opposition that many would imagine belong beyond its orbit. An Audi Q7 3.0 TDI just hasn’t got the star quality – to look at, to sit in or to drive – to eclipse it; a Porsche Cayenne Diesel S, though brilliant, just isn’t rounded or luxurious enough. 

Which Velar to buy?

So where do we think the sweet spot in the Range Rover Velar model range may be? 

On this evidence and that of our road test, Jaguar Land Rover’s four-cylinder diesel engines are to be avoided if possible. We have yet to test any of Land Rover’s petrol-powered models, and the 2.0-litre P250 and P300 certainly look like they could offer value to lower-mileage private buyers. But the 3.0-litre V6 D300 diesel would get our nod as the likeliest source of the refinement, economy, drivability and power you’ll want from your car. Remember, six-cylinder cars get air suspension as standard. 

Trim level choice adds quite a lot of extra complication, but the important message here is that R-Dynamic makes the car look best. So we’d have an R-Dynamic SE D300 for £64,030 – and then add Land Rover’s Drive Pro Pack (adaptive cruise etc), On/Off Road pack (configurable dynamics, Terrain Response) and the paint colour, trim colour and wheels you like the look of most. 

Spend big enough, it seems, and this Range Rover does have qualities worth spending on. 

1st Range-topping diesel Rangie has the right mix of power, poise, refinement and richness to rule this test – although perhaps not the whole luxury SUV set 

2nd Reserved, well-mannered, superbly constructed and roomy, the Q7 isn’t quite in the Velar’s league on lavishness, desirability or style 

3rd Second-generation Cayenne is still the class boss on driver appeal. If the next one can be more mature with it, watch out 

Related stories: 

Range Rover Velar review 

Porsche Cayenne review 

Audi Q7 review 

Range Rover Sport review 

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Comments
53

23 September 2017

It is frankly unfair to compare the Velar and Cayenne 'S' with a regular Audi Q7. 

An Audi SQ7 with starting prices at that 70k mark can easily outshine both in terms of sheer performance. Especially the author's fondness for Cayenne S' V8 engine - the car's saving grace in this comparison - would not even stand a chance in front of the glorious 4 litre Audi V8. 

Raj

23 September 2017

the SQ7 is still ugly imho and would take it out of the price range with having to add a few things on to compare .

jer

23 September 2017

well argued but there will be some angry folk. Interesting that the 3.0 LR is so much more refined and for the first time I'm reading that the Cayenne is not that refined or sophisticated by comparison.

23 September 2017

Read this review in the magazine. I think the main writer is Autocar's chief JLR cheerleader, Matt Suanders.

He's adept at twisting the narrative and using subjective points to almost always end up declaring a JLR car the winner in any test. In this case he knows the Velar isn't as good to drive or is as well built as the Caynne or the Q7 and it's the most expensive to boot, but he uses words like luxury, lavishness and goes on about supposedly what the buyers want, to justify his partiality to all things JLR. Pretty neat.

23 September 2017

To be fair, a luxury car like this is about emotion and how it makes you feel. Range Rovers are popular for a reason and the Velar seems to have its dynamic priorities spot on. The fact that you can powerslide a Cayenne is irrelevant, although off road and towing ability should not be.

24 September 2017
Overdrive wrote:

Read this review in the magazine. I think the main writer is Autocar's chief JLR cheerleader, Matt Suanders.

He's adept at twisting the narrative and using subjective points to almost always end up declaring a JLR car the winner in any test. In this case he knows the Velar isn't as good to drive or is as well built as the Caynne or the Q7 and it's the most expensive to boot, but he uses words like luxury, lavishness and goes on about supposedly what the buyers want, to justify his partiality to all things JLR. Pretty neat.

That's how journalists work, matey.  The Cayenne is, without question, the weakest car in the Porsche range, by some considerable margin.  That is not to say that it is bad.  When testing the Macan and Cayenne a couple of years ago, the Macan was the clear winner.  Smaller yes, but significantly better to drive, more comfortable to sit in, and holds its value more for those like me, who pay cash.  Best car I have ever driven.  Period.  However, as someone who drives a Porsche and Range Rover, I understand your view - but the viewer 'nails it' in terms of how both those cars are bought and used.

The Q7 is an oddball in my view.  It gets some positive reviews, more than say the Q5, which is possibly the weakest 'Q' car. It is postioned as a posher X5 and while many will pay £90K+ for Cayenne - the 'Porsche' badge having the greatest premium caché of the three cars tested here, but I doubt many would think of paying £90K for a humble semi-premium 'Audi' badge.  The Audi is only car here that will be recycled after 8 years, when it will likely be worth more as scrap.  The Porsche and Rangie will still command some dosh.

The Range Rover, for example, is the only car here to feature full leather seats.  The Cayenne and Q7 offer only 'leather seat facings' as standard - the sides, bases, edges and backs are all plastic - its a good £3K-£5K extra for full leather seats with the Porsche. The upholstered parts of the Rangie seats are all leather.  To some, that is unimportant - greater importance being placed on how well it corners at speed.

Often review conclusions resort to how well cars corner at speed, how dynamic they are do drive round bends and how razor sharp the pixels are on the sat-nav screen.  In the real word, these are cars for families.  For me, that's comfort for everyone, great sounding music when on my own, all the tech I need, all the tech my wife needs, all the tech the kids need. Now I dont have a Velar, but we are seriously thinking of down sizing to one of them.  Ultimately, it will not be who makes the decision.  It will be 'everyone else'.  What's best for 'us' - the family.  Thats the difference between Audi drivers and Rangie drivers. 

24 September 2017
Kamelo wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

Read this review in the magazine. I think the main writer is Autocar's chief JLR cheerleader, Matt Suanders.

He's adept at twisting the narrative and using subjective points to almost always end up declaring a JLR car the winner in any test. In this case he knows the Velar isn't as good to drive or is as well built as the Caynne or the Q7 and it's the most expensive to boot, but he uses words like luxury, lavishness and goes on about supposedly what the buyers want, to justify his partiality to all things JLR. Pretty neat.

That's how journalists work, matey.  The Cayenne is, without question, the weakest car in the Porsche range, by some considerable margin.  That is not to say that it is bad.  When testing the Macan and Cayenne a couple of years ago, the Macan was the clear winner.  Smaller yes, but significantly better to drive, more comfortable to sit in, and holds its value more for those like me, who pay cash.  Best car I have ever driven.  Period.  However, as someone who drives a Porsche and Range Rover, I understand your view - but the viewer 'nails it' in terms of how both those cars are bought and used.

This jounralist always opts for JLR car....always! Furthermore, the Cayenne wasn't being compared to the Macan here, So that point is irrelevant, matey.

Kamelo wrote:

The Audi is only car here that will be recycled after 8 years, when it will likely be worth more as scrap.  The Porsche and Rangie will still command some dosh.

 What utter nonsense. Completely unpsupported by actual resale values....in reat life anyway.

Kamelo wrote:

... Range Rover, for example, is the only car here to feature full leather seats.  The Cayenne and Q7 offer only 'leather seat facings' as standard - the sides, bases, edges and backs are all plastic - its a good £3K-£5K extra for full leather seats with the Porsche. The upholstered parts of the Rangie seats are all leather.  To some, that is unimportant - greater importance being placed on how well it corners at speed.

Yes, let's declare the Velar the winner because it has full leather seats!

23 September 2017

Have not read the article, just clicked and scrolled to the conclusion to confirm what I already knew.

23 September 2017
The Apprentice wrote:

Have not read the article, just clicked and scrolled to the conclusion to confirm what I already knew.

The final verdict was widely expected. It's embarrassing for a magazine with such a history to be a JLR fanzine. The Velar might be nice to look at, but it's horrendously overpriced. And I am not sure that engine technology in particular is on a par with continental competitors. The Ingenium, for example, is an epic fail, according to all friends who have one. In terms of numbers, BMW and Alfa have a much, much better proposition. The 3.0D is a dated Peugeot project. I am wondering why a journalist exposes himself to such an embarrassment. 

 

25 September 2017
RednBlue wrote:

The Apprentice wrote:

Have not read the article, just clicked and scrolled to the conclusion to confirm what I already knew.

The final verdict was widely expected. It's embarrassing for a magazine with such a history to be a JLR fanzine. The Velar might be nice to look at, but it's horrendously overpriced. And I am not sure that engine technology in particular is on a par with continental competitors. The Ingenium, for example, is an epic fail, according to all friends who have one. In terms of numbers, BMW and Alfa have a much, much better proposition. The 3.0D is a dated Peugeot project. I am wondering why a journalist exposes himself to such an embarrassment. 

 

Ditto. The only way to get a measure of how good a JLR product is is by seeking a non-Autocar review. They're all tarred with the same "BIASED" brush.

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