Velar: the true junior RR

In 2011, by virtue of Victoria Beckham, the Range Rover range was truly democratised. What was once the last word in stately British aristocratic mud motoring in the guise of Vogue, and had become alerted to an undesirable effect with the SUV ownership profile of Range Rove Sport, finally transitioned to something compact and liveable in crowded cities: Evoque.

Traditionalists baulked at this stylised Freelander, whilst Land Rover struggled to increase production – demand handsomely outstripping supply. Evoque was never a real Range Rover but it did prove the business case for a stylish Land Rover SUV which did not have low-range or lockable everything on its drive wheels. Six years later and sharing its platform with Jaguar’s sibling SUV, the F-Pace, Land Rover has finally built a true junior Range Rover: The Velar.

Strange name, but if you are a Range Rover historian, schooled in all thigs Vogue, V8 and HSE, you’ll know it was the company’s internal code-name for Land Rover’s original SUV project. Notably larger than Evoque, and only a touch slighter than Rangey Sport, Velar is supposed to deliver all the design presence, comfort and driving reward of a full-sized Range Rover – without the embarrassingly anxious urban maundering into parking spaces and around corners with devilishly cliff-like kerbs.

A study in styling reductionism, it does look rather fetching – especially viewed from the ear, where the sliver taillights and tucked-in exhaust ports shape perhaps the best rump in the current SUV market. Inside you feel the reduction in space, but the cabin is a world of advanced touchscreen functionality: with brilliant luminescence and unrivalled touch sensitivity present in both the 10-inch centre-stack screens. Cleverly, and this indicated considered user experience design on behalf of Land Rover, Velar’s volume control still retains a traditional knurled dial – in addition to the steering wheel satellite controls.

To drive? Like an F-Pace, but with air-suspension – if you are in a V6, which by rights, you should be. The ride comfort, even on enormous 20-inch wheels, is phenomenal, especially on corrugated dirt roads – and Velar feels notably more agile than its larger Sport and Vogue Range Rover siblings. Engines are similar to F-Pace, with the choice model being that 3-litre V6 diesel, which in combination with the ZF 8-speed auto, manages to convert 700Nm to effortless propulsion with an uncanny smoothness.

Not having a low-range transfer case or disengaging anti-roll bars, which larger Rangeys do, makes it theoretically less capable off-road, but honestly: how many Range Rovers have you ever really seen rock crawling? For sand, steep gravel and dirt-road exploring Velar is crushingly capable in view of its off-road ability.

Pretty good? Quite. Very much what the original junior Range Rover should have been and a compelling alternative to Porsche Macan. Problem is, once you get done with the specification (and the customisable options list is massive), the price escalation could be significant. But considering the popularity of F-Pace in Mzansi, there is no reason that Velar is going to anything but a sales success – although that business could quite possibly come at the expensive of new Discovery…

Range Rover Velar D3000 R-Dynamic HSE

R1 351 758, 3-litre turbodiesel, 221kW, 700Nm, 0-100kph in 6.5 sec, 241kph, 6.4l/100km, 8-speed auto

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