Three weeks ago we were invited to a unique launch of the Velar. A preview if you like, an invitation to rub elbows with the target market. A chance to mingle with owners of Evoque and Sport models in the range, a little something JLR SA referred to as an influencer launch.
Of course we attended with glee.
The brand has always been in our family, my father had 109 Defenders and Range Rovers while we grew up and although in more recent years he didn’t purchase any of the vehicles, he was always an admirer and keen follower of the brand’s latest models and derivatives.
My earliest car memories are of learning how to drive while sitting on his knee in an open top series 2. Too young for my feet to reach the pedals, I did the steering while we ‘idled’ along in 2nd on a remote game farm. The first car I ever drove on my own was a Series 3 open top landy, also on sand roads in private game parks. Later my dad purchased what is now called a classic Range Rover, his motoring pride and joy. I remember the burnt orange colour like it was yesterday.
Back to the present though, the new Range Rover Velar is light-years ahead of anything in those early models and though I have driven both the new Range Rover and Land Rover recently, the Velar is the one that tugs on my heartstrings. The Velar is placed between the Evoque and the Sport, it’s bigger than the Evoque even if it takes some design inspiration from the smaller stablemate it’s much prettier in my eyes.
The official launch found all the journos and influencers gathering in Franschhoek, an idyllic setting to display a beautifully crafted vehicle.
We drove the 3.0 Petrol HSE R-Dynamic P380 derivative first. A powerful 380HP engine capable of getting the Velar to 100km/h in under 6 seconds before topping out at an electronically governed 250 km/h. This petrol version will most likely be the one you’ll see most of in Joburg and Cape Town’s fancier neighbourhoods.
Next we drove the 3.0 Diesel HSE R-Dynamic D300 (300 HP). The 700Nm of torque matched to 8 speed gearbox provide seamless transition from standing start to hundred-and-too-much in no time at all. The Velar is a dream to drive in petrol or diesel with both of these top end models offering plenty of grunt with little to no external noise entering the cabin.
The dual screen set up allows you to have the navigation on at all times while working your way through the console’s massage, terrain and interior comfort settings. Yes, I said massage settings. Although not a new function, the lumbar massage should be a default on all longer trips, in my opinion anyway.
The final model we drove on the launch, and in many ways the one I think I am drawn to most is the slightly less powerful, and therefore also slightly more affordable 2.0 Diesel HSE D240 (240 HP). The acceleration of the two racier models is amazing but the looming introduction of the demerit points system and the fact that I live in Johannesburg and will probably find myself in traffic more often than not seem rational enough arguments for me.
If I have a criticism, I would say the shiny plastic on the center console shows the dust a little too willingly but otherwise I have no complaints with the layout of the dials or paddle shifts I’ll never use in daily driving. There are USB ports for charging all the gadgets we carry around from phones to tablets or even GoPro cameras.
A new vehicle can be specced any way you like it too, start with the engine size and work your way to the lights, interior cloth/leather options via the paint and panoramic roof choices. Choose between an 8 speaker entertainment system or a 23 speaker Meridian Signature system. Heads up display is a nice to have but in my opinion not worth the additional R16k. Do you want a 4 zone climate pack? On/Off Road pack? or the convenience pack (think Jaguar F-pace bangle here). Going offroad and planning a trip through a river? Get the surround camera option with the wade sensor. You can have a powered tailgate too if you choose. The options are plenty, just go look.
I spent some time putting a Velar together with what I would consider minimum spec on the base entry model (not available on the launch). Keep in mind premium paints and some options like surround cameras and wade sensors were ignored for a city slicker vehicle in favour of keeping the price lean. Check out my build with one hundred thousand in ‘extras’ added to the base price here.
In conclusion, if you’re in the market for a luxury SUV the Velar is a worthy consideration. The love for the brand continues and I’ll be looking into this offering from Land Rover SA in the coming weeks. I think my dad would be proud if I chose to buy one.