The weight of our Velar test car gave us a certain amount of cause for concern for its handling dynamism.
It’s easy enough for a keener driver to buy into this car’s raison d’être, because dumping the heavy off-roading hardware that most owners don’t need clearly ought to make for a Range Rover that’s better to drive on the road.
When you subsequently discover that, ‘proper off-roader’ or not, the (admittedly highly equipped) Velar you’re driving still tips the scales at more than two tonnes, having been advertised at a kerb weight “from 1841kg”, you wonder what the point might have been.
Thankfully – and underwhelming performance level aside – actually driving the car is a reassuring process.
The Velar is every inch the modern Range Rover in the way it rides and handles. It’s buoyant, cushioned and quiet over the ground but somehow in touch with the road and under constant and discreet control of its body movements at all times.
Even on standard-fit M+S-type hybrid off-road tyres, it also has precise and incisive steering and a strong and well-balanced grip level. In respect of both ride and handling, the Velar is very good, in short – although we’ll have to wait to find out if that’s as true about steel-sprung cars as it is about air-sprung ones.
The car’s optional adaptive suspension adds a pleasing scope of breadth to the Velar’s dynamic armoury.
In Comfort mode, it copes well with bigger intrusions at town speeds and feels genuinely luxurious.
At A-road pace and on more uneven B-roads, it combines comfort and body control best when left in Auto driving mode, introducing the occasional shimmy of head toss and shudder of complaint from the body structure over really broken tarmac in Dynamic mode.
There’s certainly an improvement in handling response and body control when you do select the suspension’s Dynamic setting, though, because it allows the Velar to rein in its mass cleverly and to feel pleasingly crisp and rewarding when you hurry it along.
And at no point does the suspension suffer from the noisy, hollow ride that you can find in air-sprung cars.
The relatively languid directional responses and gathering body roll that have become hallmarks of the Range Rover driving experience over decades are present in the Velar’s, too, when you drive it hard. Had Gaydon created a car without either, it probably wouldn’t have felt like a Range Rover at all.
But the Velar keeps a closer check on its body movement than its bigger siblings and preserves a surprisingly well-balanced chassis for longer as you lean on it through corners. Both feats make it feel more like a driver’s car and less like a tall, heavy, go-anywhere SUV than a Range Rover Sport.
In Dynamic mode, there’s certainly more than enough precision and poise here to prepare the Velar well for fast road use.
Get to the limit of grip and you’ll find the torque vectoring system keeps it online very faithfully as you power out of corners and its M+S tyres hang on to dry tarmac surprisingly well.