What do all those people who buy Land Rovers and Range Rovers in London do with them? By and large, they use them to drive out of London. They’re weekend escape machines, cars for family getaways and second-home retreats. Even Londoners who don’t need a car during the week still own a Land Rover for the weekend.
Hence the Velar, the most car-like Range Rover ever, a machine tailor-made for people who want something that looks flash in the City, then devours high mileages with indulgent comfort, and still has enough off-road oomph to drive up a deserted Cornish hillside.
In the metal, it’s an extraordinary thing, looking more like a Range Rover concept car than a production model. Design director David Saddington calls the look “reductionism” and it’s seriously en vogue. With its clean, well-formed surfaces and elegant, flowing lines, it makes other SUVs look clunky and prosaic. The rear is more like a Riva yacht than a hairy-arsed 4x4.
Inside, it’s transformative. No SUV for the money has an interior this lavish. It’s beyond premium: this is Land Rover doing genuine luxury for the first time. It’s like a cross between a King’s Road designer boutique and an Apple Store.
The standout part is the lower touchscreen, beautifully integrated into the dash like a gently curving iPad with eye-popping HD clarity. It disappears into a black panel when the engine’s off, and you’ll want to polish it so it remains as jewel-like as the rest of the interior. It really is a lovely place to spend time. Roomy, too: the rear seats are plush and the boot is humongous.
I drove the V6 diesel, but don’t let the dreaded “D-word” put you off: it’s a modern Euro 6 diesel and even Sadiq says they’re OK (and the revvy supercharged petrol V6 is ill-suited to the dignified Velar). Surge is but a toe-flex away, it’s quiet and it only hints at shuddery rattle at idle (stop-start usually overcomes even this). The rest of it is peaceful, too: the perfect stage for a high-end British Meridian sound system. It’s a home-from-home as you drive to your second home.
Driving is equally blissful. The steering is light and accurate. It isn’t as involving as a Jaguar F-Pace in corners, but still handles them cleanly, and air-suspended comfort is generally serene. In town, good visibility and well-defined extremities will help, just as they helped us drive up a steep rocky slope. It did this with such accomplishment that only the alarming sight of sheer drops stopped it from becoming mundane.
Two gripes; one, the ride on the biggest, flashiest 22-inch wheels can smash suddenly and loudly into bumps; two, although prices start at £45,000, the one you really want is more likely to come in at upwards of £70,000. You can solve the first problem with 21-inch wheels. The latter? Well, it probably won’t matter. Early research suggests customers are already lining up to spend an average of £60,000.
“People buy Range Rover because they love the brand,” says JLR’s UK MD Jeremy Hicks. That brand is fast becoming a proper luxury goods manufacturer, pushing it into a market where price becomes almost immaterial. It’s a canny place for JLR to aspire, and the Velar is one hell of a statement of intent.
Richard Aucock works for motoringresearch.com