Range Rover Velar India test drive. Full review of the gorgeous SUV

Slim LED headlight look spectacular
Slim LED headlight look spectacular

Range Rover Velar is utterly gorgeous to behold

Being sexy is all about attitude and not body type. Think that’s posh sounding fluff? Take a good look at the Range Rover Velar. It isn’t a road hugging sportscar or a grand touring coupé with their lithe grace. No, this is a brawny SUV, and boy does it ooze sex appeal. Slotted to fill the gap between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover Velar is an all-new offering even though its underpinnings are shared with the the brilliant Jaguar F-Pace and the Jag XE. But we’ll get to all of those details in a bit because there’s no way you can ignore this SUV’s looks.

“You can’t help but gape at the beauty of the flush fitted door handles popping out. And once you pass through the portal, a different world awaits you”

Range Rover Velar styling is spectacular

The vehicle was first showcased at London’s Design Museum no less. With its smooth lines and low slung, for a Range Rover, stance, the Range Rover Velar is the epitome of cool sophistication. And yet, somehow, Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s design chief and the chief architect of this stunning SUV, managed to put some of his own feistiness into its design. That front end, in spite of its sophistication, is as aggressive as it is imposing. The hooded eyes of the impossibly slim LED headlamps with that massive grille and bumper communicate a don’t-mess-with-me attitude even when it’s parked. Its silhouette, long, low and lithe. Strangely enough, this aggression has less to do with its bulk and more to do with its demeanour. More like that of a martial artist as opposed to a wrestler. Most un-SUV-like, which isn’t surprising considering McGovern’s own belief that the only thing automotive on its way out is conventional design. While others create contemporary design, he has created a piece of modernist art. On wheels. The use of simple forms, of paring down to a form where anything unnecessary is chucked out of the biggest window in the studio has ensured a curious blend of authoritative presence and subtlety at the same time. You just can’t ignore it. The only things that stand out as slightly odd are the five-spoke 19-inch wheels that the P250 SE version gets. They seem a little small and do not fill the wheel arches that are designed for much larger wheels.

Getting into the Range Rover Velar is a ceremony

You can’t help but gape at the beauty of the flush fitted door handles popping out. And once you pass through the portal, a different world awaits you. For the Range Rover Velar, I kid you not, has the best interiors I have seen on any SUV. Ever. McGovern and his team took the trademark butcher’s block dash of the Range Rover and then added sex appeal. Wherever they could replace a button, a fob or a knob with a touchscreen with fantastic graphics, they have done so.Including integrating touchscreen like consoles on the steering wheel instead of the conventional buttons and rotary knobs that other manufacturers use. Instead JLR has used Panasonic’s Magic Dial technology that was first showcased at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in 2016. Only three rotary knobs that were impossible to remove have been retained and they too have been integrated into the 10.3-inch lower screen of the Touch Pro Duo system so that they look like they are floating.

The result isn’t just clean, it is symphony. Albeit a modern one, where Design has not ditched functionality for form. Instead it has made incredible use of technology to integrate functionality into form. There is a price for all this coolness for it takes time to get used to where everything is and hitting the wrong button on the move happens frequently. Especially when you want to select a different mode on the Land Rover Terrain Response system where the modes on the lower screen are accompanied by an aesthetically lit graphic of the Velar on each terrain. Nonetheless, JLR’s design team has taken the conventional vehicle interior completely on its head and boy, what a difference that has made. It is so cool it would make an utter geek feel like Brad Pitt. The seeds of these were sown ten years ago, in 2008 when Tata Motors acquired JLR and promptly elevated the status of Design to that of Engineering. Till then, the former reported to the latter. A decade later, the Velar stands out as the result of a perfect partnership between Design and Engineering. Proof that Tata Motors had taken the right decision.But no Range Rover has been a Range Rover without capability, stunning styling notwithstanding. And the job of ensuring that the Velar wouldn’t be spectacularly toothless was entrusted to JLR’s engineering chief Nick Rogers. Where McGovern and his team worked tirelessly to lend unconventional cool to the Velar, Rogers and his team would have to ensure that the DNA that has always made Range Rovers cool, stayed intact.

Range Rover Velar has all the off-road bells and whistles

This includes Terrain Response system and a fancy wade sensor that warns the driver if it detects water above the vehicle’s 600mm wading depth (650mm for vehicles with electronic air suspension). The Range Rover Velar however is a road going SUV. Therefore, in what is probably also an engineering nod to McGovern’s modernist concept, JLR has taken the ballsy decision to not have a low ratio 4WD in the Range Rover Velar but use electronics to achieve more or less the same results.

Chief among them is the AWD with intelligent driveline dynamics (IDD) that continually monitors and then adjusts torque distribution between the front and the rear wheels. This system can, depending on traction conditions, send all of the torque to the front or rear wheels. Which is useful of course when the going gets rough, but is even more so when it comes to the question of dynamic abilities. The use of torque vectoring that applies brakes on the inner wheels when it detects understeer, a characteristic that plagues all all-wheel driven vehicles including the Range Rover Velar, is particularly helpful in staying true to the chosen line. Especially if you like driving fast, as we do, on somewhat narrow and twisty roads. As a matter of fact, even the Adaptive Dynamics system is evidence that Range Rover was more interested in endowing the unconventionally cool Velar with handling as close to that of a car as possible.

Range Rover Velar rides and handles very well

Although a tad softer than the Jaguar built on the same platform and certainly the Porsche, the Range Rover Velar’s suspension ensures that the SUV handles extremely well. Through twists and turns and switchbacks the shift of its 1,874kg kerb weight isn’t too pronounced and she feels fairly composed gunning between corners. Out on the open highway too, the Velar feels planted and the body roll isn’t as much as you would expect in an SUV. Nor does it understeer as much as an AWD SUV would, thanks to that torque vectoring and the other gizmos it has. The ride is surprisingly pliant too for the Range Rover Velar does an excellent job of isolating occupants from road shocks. A handy characteristic if you’re selling SUVs to the Indian buyer with his affinity for a mildly wallowy ride.

Range Rover Velar gets Ingenium petrol and diesel engines

Unfortunately, the version I was in happened to be powered by the P250 version of the Ingenium 2.0 turbo-petrol engine, mated to an 8-speed automatic. Which meant that unlike the higher spec P300 version, the one I had at my disposal could only produce 247bhp at 5500rpm and 365Nm of peak twist. Thankfully, the torque arrives at a rather low 1500rpm, which means dawdling through the city or cruising on open stretches and quick acceleration runs to overtake other vehicles, or simply for fun, is a piece of cake. Things that the Velar does well on instinct. However, should you choose to indulge in a high-speed chase, the engine feels a little breathless at the top. It isn’t incapable. It’s just that the excellent chassis feels like it could take a fair bit more.

Range Rover Velar has a good starting price

The Range Rover Velar range starts at an ex-showroom price of Rs 78.82 lakh for the four-pot petrol, which is a shade more expensive than Sirish’s prediction of a Rs 75 lakh price tag after he drove the Velar in Norway last year. This particular model will set you back by Rs 85.21 lakh, which isn’t bad considering that the Range Rover Velar is a CBU. But such unsophisticated chatter about price seems out of place when you’re talking about this new Rangie. After all, can there really be a price to art?

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