I’m probably nitpicking, mind. But it strikes me that Volvo does it better. And the XC90, in terms of airiness and finish, is probably the Velar’s closest benchmark. It’s also a car that, like the Velar, has a predominantly touchscreen infotainment system.
But here’s point two of note about the Velar: this thing now has a proper one. There is a fully digital instrument panel, with two, large, hi-res touchscreen panels on the dash. Even the steering-wheel buttons are digitally highlighted. And all of it is good. For the first time, I think JLR can turn around and say it has caught up with everybody else. Except? Well, except the lower panel is by your knee. It deals with systems you’ll use less frequently but, honestly, that’s too far away from where you should be looking.
The rest of the interior? Well, it mimics, in its way, the F-Pace, in that it offers a large boot, at the expense of some rear leg room. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s loads of room in the front: the seats are big, there are slidey armrests, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t mind if the steering wheel reached a bit closer to me, but it is a good wheel. And there’s enough room in the back. I’m 5ft 10in and could sit behind my own driving position quite comfortably. Besides which, you get quite a lot more boot space this way (673 litres versus a Macan’s 500, if you’re interested). However, as standard, I don’t like the idea of a Range Rover, even a less than full-fat one, having a spacesaving rather than full-sized spare. This is an off-roader, after all.
Not unlike the Macan, it’s one that costs from £44,000. Only, of course, it doesn’t really, because that gets you a standard 178bhp diesel, and as soon as you’re away from that entry model, what you’re looking at is a car with a price of at least £50,000, most likely £60,000 to £70,000 and, in First Edition trim, as much as £85,500. That might strike you, as it does me, as quite a lot.
All models – 178bhp diesel, 237bhp diesel and 296bhp V6 diesel (tested here), plus 247bhp petrol, 296bhp petrol and 376bhp V6 petrol – drive through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. There are two versions of that, depending on the torque they have to cope with. All models are all-wheel drive, too, but not in the traditional permanent Land Rover sense (nor even the newer Evoque sense). Instead, because the Velar comes from the same fundamentally rear-driven platform as Jaguars, it’s normally a rear-biased car, with a chain drive to transfer torque to the front when it needs it.
There’s Land Rover’s Terrain Response system and you can raise the air suspension, but you can’t lock a centre differential, you can’t choose 50/50 power split, and although the electronics might do those for you, it’s their will, not yours. There is, too, the option of a limited slip rear differential, likely to make it feel keener on the road and give better traction off it. When it does come to off-road ability, it’s probably whether the Velar’s 2500kg towing limit is up to Pony Club towing that’s more relevant than the 213mm (coil springs) or 251mm (air springs) ground clearance, or the 24deg approach, 27deg departure and 20deg breakover angles. Or the 600mm (coil) or 650mm (air) wade depth. Despite no low-ratio ’box, mind, ultimately what limits the Velar off road is what usually limits an off-roader: tyre choice and ground clearances.
Plus you might not like to damage the aluminium body. Maybe you thought I wasn’t going to mention it. I don’t always, what with beauty being so subjective. But you can’t not, can you? The Velar looks like the very personification of a concept car, to me. The real thing. Like it just stepped out of a salon. And the finish feels every inch the £70k Range Rover. What an astonishingly good-looking car.