To the first really tricky question the Velar must answer, then: does a four-cylinder diesel engine have any place in a £64,000 Range Rover?
To be fair to Land Rover, this isn’t the first luxury SUV priced in excess of £50,000 to rely on such an engine – and we can expect a growing proportion of luxury cars, whose antecedents probably had richer powerplants with more cylinders, to adopt similarly downsized ones.
But, here and now, does this engine do this car the kind of service needed to really distinguish the Velar? Cue the awkward silence. In some ways, JLR’s higher-output Ingenium diesel just about earns its place in the car, but in others, it falls quite a long way short.
The 237bhp motor is certainly quieter and better isolated from the cabin in the Velar than it is in an F-Pace. It’s still a four-cylinder diesel, mind, and is inherently less smooth and hushed than the six-cylinder diesel is. But, overall, it does a respectable job on refinement, being a little bit vocal when cold and when revving hard, but never really disturbing the car’s occupants.
Less respectable is the Velar’s outright performance level. Compared with what else your money might have bought, it’s actually downright poor.
After several sets of attempts using different drive modes and transmission settings, the car recorded a 9.3sec 0-60mph two-way average, which is fully 2.5sec shy of Land Rover’s claim for it – and an even greater distance behind what we saw from an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI. For a new car to miss one of its key performance claims by so much is very rare.
We’re prepared to accept that luxury SUV buyers may not be buying this particular Velar for its outright pace, of course, but they’re likely to notice the slightly sluggish, unresponsive impression that the car’s engine and transmission conjure whether they’re concentrating on it or not.
At step-off and when given a cue to kick down, the Velar’s powertrain, although smooth, tends to make you wait longer than you’d like before it winds into meaningful action. And although it revs fairly willingly for a four-pot oil-burner, it never chimes in with the really forceful slug of torque that you might want for assured overtaking, towing or light off-roading, either.
On fuel economy, the Velar D240 gives a more competitive account of itself. On our touring economy test, it returned 48.2mpg, which, from a two-tonne SUV like this, is not to be sniffed at. But you do need to be prepared to adopt a fairly sedate rate and style of progress to see that kind of return – and the Velar’s engine and gearbox certainly do sedate much better than they do brisk.