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.