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British SUV brand Land Rover has just unveiled its first all-new candidate in the luxury mid-size SUV segment, the 2018 Range Rover Velar. We were among the first media invitees to check out this car in Norway during its global unveil

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Premium luxury SUV enthusiasts will have something to think and talk about in the coming weeks as UK-based Jaguar Land Rover’s iconic Range Rover family prepares to launch its fourth member in the line-up. The Velar as it will be known will be slotted in above the entry level Evoque and under the bigger Range Rover Sport. Range Rover executives claim the Velar heritage began with the original prototypes of circa 1969 and that’s been the source of inspiration for the new arrival.

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Now, the fact to ponder on is that why would this carmaker which already sells similar products in the segment under its other sub brands – we mean models like the Discovery and Discovery Sport under Range Rover or corporate siblings like the Jaguar F-Pace want to introduce a model that might clash or cannibalise existing products. At Norway, the idea behind the motive was made clear during the technical presentation which suggested that packaging, performance and marketing is what will set them all apart and hence none of the threats to each other in the line-up.

This is also supported by Land Rover’s clear cut product policy for its product development and hence despite having various SUVs in its portfolio, engineers and designers have worked extensively together to successfully create standalone identities, performance and creature characteristics across the model range. To be SUV specific in the Range Rover portfolio, Discovery models are focused on the active, rugged terrain enjoying individuals and families, while models like the Velar looks at the other end of the spectrum, emphasizing elegance, sophistication, on-road performance and ride quality.
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Although, product managers will never reveal the exact costs of developing the Velar, it can be safely estimated to be around £400 million considering the fact a lot of engineering work had already been carried out when the company was involved in the Jaguar F-Pace development. The connection between the F-Pace and Velar is there as the newly developed platform of the F-Pace has been used and modified extensively to meet the Velar’s exact performance and we will highlight the key differences between the two siblings a few paragraphs below.

From the design stand point, the signature Range Rover brand features in the Velar include a floating roof, an unbroken waistline, soft rounded corners, and most of all, the trademark clamshell bonnet. Neat vertical cut lines are evident from the roof to the mudguards and panel gaps have been minimised. The Velar even with its traditional and conservative profile has the capability to stand out despite the proliferation of “coupe” styled sports SUVs in the segment. Actually, Land Rover designers must be commended in keeping with the brand ethos and established DNA despite having a clean sheet design. As promised in the concept Velar that was shown two years ago, the rakish sliding panoramic glass roof is standard across the Velar line.

The unique feature in this car is the retractable door handles and newly crafted matrix LED headlamps which the manufacturer claims are the smallest units fitted to a Land Rover product yet. The active vanes in the grille designed to cool the engine have been neatly integrated and are hardly visible from outside. Detailing in this car is impeccable and very much upmarket. Interesting to note was the absence of cooling ducts on the front mudguards. Actually, new fins have been created under the lower valance to direct air for cooling brakes.

Despite its solid moulded and minimalistic looks, the Velar has earned a coefficient of drag of just 0.32, making it the most slippery Land Rover yet.

The Velar uses approximately 80per cent aluminium in its construction along with magnesium and steel for strength and structural integrity. The car’s wheelbase has been kept at 2,874mm [Evoque WB stands at 2,660mm and Range Rover Sport at 2,923mm]. And at 4,800mm it’s approximately two inches shorter than the Range Rover Sport in both dimensions and approximately 17in longer than the Evoque.

Under the sleek and smooth mody, there are fundamental differences between the Velar and cousin Jaguar F-Pace chassis and suspension set ups. Suspension package has control arms in front and a multilink setup in the rear. While four-cylinder models get coil springs, the V6 models get air suspension as standard and offer an electronically controlled locking rear differential as an option. Ground clearance maxes out at 9.9in vs 8.4in [with coil springs] and provides a wading depth of 25.6in or 23.6in with coils. Land Rover’s familiar Terrain Response 2 set-up works with low-traction launch, hill-descent control, and All Terrain Progress Control drivetrain algorithms will help the Velar tackle the rough. The ride height has courtesy feature and can raise the car as high as 650mm] which is good enough to clear most off-road obstacles.

The Velar and Velar R-Dynamic core range comprises Standard, S, SE and HSE specifications. Customers can also specify Black and Luxury Exterior Packs

As a road-biased SUV, some features from sports cars like normal, eco and sports mode are there in the system which can be tailored according to the driver’s wishes through the multifunctional touch screen menu on the floating console.

From the 18-22in rim and tyre combo packages, it is obvious that the variants have been designed to be road-biased. However, when you look at the central console, there’s an updated version of terrain management system in this AWD vehicle. As always with the brand’s other models, it is a driver selectable preset system. Torque vectoring has been incorporated as part of the standard kit.

Inside the cabin, the interior design and execution is the product of “reductionism”. The occupants sit high and the front view is pretty unobstrusive, thanks to the twist/kink design of the thick A-pillar from inside which allows better view. The rear view is also quite good, thanks to the well proportioned glass to metal ratios. Accommodation is generous for four adults with ample head and leg room. Fifth occupant can also find space at the rear.

The horizontal beam design of the instrument panel is central to the car’s interior while the driver gets twin-analogue dials with a 5in TFT display as standard from SE specification in higher editions a 12.3in interactive driver display that doubles up as a virtual instrument cluster. The touch screens come with improved functionality and faster response times. The top one is dedicated to multimedia and navigation, will the lower one is dedicated to the set up of the car’s functions and dynamics beside two analogue rotary switches for climate control. The Velar is also the first new vehicle that comes with the brand’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which is 4G compatible and includes a hard drive to store data. Key information such as speed, turn-by-turn navigation instructions and active safety system warnings are available on this display. Convenience features include four USB ports and three 12V power sockets. And unlike conventional cars where the instrument panel is cluttered with switch gear, we note total absence of analogue switch gear which has been replaced by menu driven touch screen operations. Material and trim quality is of high standards and interior designers have taken inspiration from modern architecture and combination of material usage. The test vehicles offered had seat upholstery woven from sustainable resources developed with the assistance of European textile manufacturer Kvadrat.

The Velar features a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, four-corner air suspension, ground clearance of 251mm [213mm with coil springs], wading depth of 650mm [600mm with coil springs] and a host of traction technologies including Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control

The car’s Meridian bespoke audio set-up has been tailored to offer concert hall ambience through 17 or 23 strategically placed speakers. Actually this feature and the floating console reminded us of the new entrant from a Scandinavian manufacturer!

Space wise, accommodation is generous for four adults. Cargo space is also good at 673-litres for this category of SUVs and there’s a lot of flexibility as far as space management goes. The 40:20:40 rear split seats come with heating and electric recline options. The optional four-zone climate control and cabin air ionisation system.

The car’s Terrain Response systems are now accessed via the driver’s reconfigurable infotainment system rotary controller or directly through the touchscreen which allows the driver to adjust vehicle settings with a choice of Eco, Comfort, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud-Ruts, Sand, and – on R-Dynamic models – Dynamic mode.

Depending on markets globally, the Velar will be offered with a choice of several petrol and diesel engines — beginning with a 247hp turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four from the Ingenium engine family. These Ingenium engines feature electrohydraulic control of the inlet valves that enables variable valve lift, so throttle load control is managed primarily by the intake valves rather than the throttle itself. This reduces pumping losses and provides unmatched flexibility and control over airflow into the combustion chambers, improving power and torque, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.

The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 producing 380hp/ 450Nm of torque is also known as the P380 and is destined for Middle East. This all-aluminium petrol engine is equipped with a Twin-Vortex supercharger, direct injection and dual-independent variable-camshaft timing to deliver instantaneous response from idle right up to the redline. Land Rover is claiming a 5.3sec zero-to-96km/h sprint which should delight our region’s drivers. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.

For Europe, there’s a 180-hp diesel 2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder with choice of two outputs. Transmission is the ZF 8-speed with Tiptronic function and paddle shifters and the respected versions are calibrated according to the different torque ratings of the various engines. The all-wheel drive set up comes with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics [IDD] and active locking rear differential.

Although no crash details were revealed, the manufacturer claims the Velar has been developed to meet the most demanding crash test regulations worldwide. As a result the active and passive safety systems include six airbags, and a suite of advanced driver assistance systems including, Adaptive Cruise Control with QueueAssist and an Adaptive Speed Limiter.

Driving impressions

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Our journey with the Velar began from the tarmac of Avinor airport in Luchthaven Ålesund, Vigra and continued in the picturesque Molde region of Norway. The first day’s driving included approximately 168km of country B-roads that offered not only a great view of the snow clad mountain range, idyllic Fjords, extremely long bored out tunnels [some as long as 11km] and unmarked stretches which proved to be ideal ground for unofficial sprinting, acceleration and handling experiences both on and off road. The test cars provided were from the first production and unlike previous experiences with similar production test cars, these cars were very hard to fault actually. We were offered the top-of-the line First Edition variants that come with supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engines.

As a SUV, the Velar is a luxurious place to be in and both driver and occupant get settled in their respective comfort zones quickly, thanks to the various seat controls and adjustments and massage functions. Push button start instantly fires the engine to a deep roar from the exhausts before settling into idle. Engaged the gear and moved on the given route following the turn by turn navigation. In the first few kilometres we begin to get the real feel.

Arguably, the car is a delight to drive and despite its dimensions, weight and high ride height it felt light, thoroughly planted and extremely responsive. The torque delivery is amazing and the gear shifting silky smooth in normal mode. In Sports mode as expected you get extra torque and the gears hold a little longer with slightly faster shift times when using the paddle shifters with minimal drop of revs. Of course, the sonorous exhaust note is accompanied by blips when you down or up shift and when that happens, you begin to appreciate the work of over 1,000 engineers involved in this car.

That’s not all. The ride quality is superb, partly due to good roads and mostly due to the superior suspension set up. What pleasantly surprised us was the car’s sharp cornering abilities which mimics a sports car’s point and shoot manouevre while remaining absolutely planted on to asphalt. This is thanks to its brilliant torque vectoring system which ensures that the car feel neutral and offsets any evidence of understeer and chassis management. As a result, on the Velar reflects its calm and compose personality with its splendid manners.

Steering weight from the electric set-up is well calibrated in the Velar and the feedback it offers to the driver will guarantee a smile all along. So are the brakes and short stopping distances and no roll tendencies. Acceleration and torque application from the powertrain ensures that the car is cat quick. In fact, it’s more like its sports SUV very much like its bigger sibling, the Range Rover Sport.

Despite the fact, the Velar has been designed to spend more time on road, the car has been endowed with serious off-road capabilities, and this was evident in the natural off-road sections that we experienced and specialised articulation exercises that were designed and organised by Land Rover Experience specialists specially flown in from Gaydon, UK. In all occasions, the Velar effortlessly proved its impeccable credentials, with help from its approach angle of up to 28.89°, breakover angle of up to 23.5° and a departure angle of up to 29.5° and a maximum wading depth of 650mm. Off-road mode increases the ride height by 46mm compared to normal mode at speeds below 50km/h creating ground clearance of 251mm and the articulation exercises also gave a hint of the structural integrity of the monoque body.

 

Verdict

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A lot of new cars in the premium luxury segment have been launched in the past few months with reasonably good packaging and performance, but rarely has one come up with an almost flawless delight. On one hand Land Rover has brilliantly executed its candidate in the mid-sized SUV segment with the Velar and on the other hand in the process of the creation set a new benchmark for itself and competition to match. The four-seater Velar according to Land Rover will be priced competitively and therefore encourage existing users of say the Evoque to move up and pre-marketing activity has indicated over 80per cent from cross shoppers. When it goes on sale in the next couple of weeks, Land Rover will offer the first 500 units as First Edition models for US$90,295 a pop.

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