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Range Rover Velar: The car-like SUV

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-08-2017 Hormazd Sorabjee

The Velar is the latest addition to the Range Rover line-up, slotting neatly into the gaping space between the Range Rover Sport and the Evoque. It is expected to arrive here in November at an estimated starting price of Rs75 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

But the Velar isn’t just another SUV model, it’s a new direction for Land Rover—the most car-like SUV the iconic British brand has ever made.

It comes fitted with all-wheel-drive as standard, but you don’t get the permanent four-wheel-drive and low-ratio gearbox that you would in a traditional Land Rover. You do get Land Rover’s signature Terrain Response system, which raises the air suspension and adjusts traction control, throttle response and brakes to suit different surfaces and grip levels.

But is this Range Rover a bit too soft?

The talking point of the Velar is its concept-car looks. The clean lines and brilliant detailing come together into an incredibly cohesive shape. The Velar looks like it’s milled from a block of metal. In fact, in the interest of keeping the smoothness of body uninterrupted, the Velar gets flush door handles that only pop out when you unlock the car.

Like the exterior, the design of the interior is uncluttered. Material quality too is simply top class, and with a luxurious mix of leather, high-grade plastics, and piano-black surfaces.

The stand-out feature of the dashboard is, undoubtedly, the futuristic new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which comprises two neatly stacked, high-definition touch-screens. The upper screen, which tilts up automatically when you switch on the ignition, controls functions like hands-free telephony, navigation and audio systems, while the lower screen controls the air-con settings and the Terrain Response system. The only issue is that owing to the lower screen’s position, you have to take your eyes off the road to operate it.

The cabin isn’t completely button-less, though. You get three rotary knobs, one of which is the ubiquitous volume controller, while the other two can be customized to operate air-con settings, seat massage functions, and even the Terrain Response system.

The Velar also gets a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a suite of apps that allow owners to lock and unlock their vehicle, start the engine and even set the climate control system remotely. Conspicuously, you don’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capabilities in the infotainment system.

Tall owners may feel short-changed by the space in the back seat. There is decent legroom and headroom, but you don’t get that commanding seating position typical of big luxury SUVs. The back seat is best for two people. Top marks for the front seats, which are generous and brilliantly bolstered. Outside visibility is fantastic too. And there are no complaints about luggage space—the boot is large, and can be expanded further by flipping the rear seats forward.

The SUV will be offered in India with three engine options—a 250hp 2.0-litre petrol, a 180hp 2.0-litre diesel, and a range-topping 3.0-litre V6, which will pump out 300hp.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is so refined, there’s barely a murmur from under the hood when cruising. Extend the engine to overtake and you’ll hear a muted growl that’s rather pleasing. But this is not an engine you need to push. For the record, the V6 diesel Velar can get you from 0 to speeding ticket in 6.5 seconds. Flat-out performance doesn’t feel neck-snappingly quick—the Velar builds speed in a measured manner. So it was best to let it cruise effortlessly.

It remains poised at all times, and that gives you tremendous confidence, and, along with low noise levels and the sumptuous comfort of the cabin, keep you relaxed even after a long day of driving. What’s nice is that in the Dynamic mode, the Velar feels nicely tied down even through tight corners. However, it does wallow and lean a bit and doesn’t feel as agile as a Porsche Macan, or even its own sibling, the Jaguar F-Pace.

But has Land Rover’s quest to make the Velar road-friendly come at the cost of off-road ability? Any such doubts are dispelled with a quick excursion up an incredibly steep track. With All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) switched on, a raft of electronics takes over, making the driver almost redundant. With the ride height fully raised, the Velar drove itself up over broken rocks, deep ruts and boulders.

The base petrol and diesel variants are expected to cost Rs75 lakh and Rs85 lakh (ex-showroom), respectively, while you’ll have to shell out a little over Rs1 crore for the range-topping 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Expensive? Maybe, but there’s no denying that this is one of the most desirable SUVs you can buy.

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