Sporting one of the longest names in the industry, the Land Rover Range Rover Velar is a new addition to the Land Rover lineup for 2018. With prices starting just under $50,000 the Velar (for short) is a four-door, five-passenger midsize luxury crossover wagon. Competitors include the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X5, Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC60. Velar is mechanically similar to the Jaguar F-Pace.
Three trim levels are offered: Base, R-Dynamic and First Edition. In addition, three engines are offered on each trim level of the Velar, all coming standard with an 8-speed automatic and driver-adjustable all-wheel-drive. The least expensive choice is a turbocharged, 247-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Also available is a turbodiesel, 180-horsepower four-cylinder and a supercharged, 380-horsepower 3.0-liter V6.
Additional standard features include auto-dimming and power-folding side-view mirrors, power liftgate, head-up display, 19-inch wheels and Land Rover's InControl Touch Pro Duo twin-screen infotainment system. Standard safety features include traction control, stability control, rear-view camera, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
Long on economy and short on acceleration, that diesel engine is an interesting choice for the U.S. market given the current price of fuel. Acceleration is adequate around town and surprisingly peppy on the highway. With 317 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Velar rolls off the line smartly but lacks the mid-range oomph of the more-powerful turbo four gas engine. The 8-speed automatic has to shift frequently to keep up with the diesel's narrow power band as well. Thankfully, it's smooth and quickly blends into the background.
Fuel economy is where the Velar diesel shines. EPA ratings of 28 MPG city and 30 MPG highway are vastly understated as it's easy to maintain a solid 33 mpg overall in an even mix if suburban and highway driving. A large 16.6-gallon fuel tank gives the Velar an impressive highway range of more than 500 miles per tank.
Being a Land Rover, you'd expect the Velar to have pedigree off-road. That's mostly the case, but the Velar does not have a two-speed transfer case, meaning there's no rock-crawling low range. Still, Land Rover's terrain response system provides plenty of electronic wizardries to minimize wheel slip and the long-travel suspension, tall approach and departure angles and raised ride height conspire to help Velar confidently conquer all but the worst snow a Chicago winter can muster.
Velar may be the best riding Land Rover Range Rover model to date. It's blend of suspension refinement and touring tires create a ride that is composed and smooth over even the bumpiest of roads while still being firm enough to inspire confidence on the twisty stuff. Overall, it's not as agile as a Porsche Cayenne or it's corporate sibling the Jaguar F-Pace. Brakes have ample stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Steering has a nice heft but is a bit twitchy on the highway. Wind, tire and engine noise are well muted, translating into a quiet and serene interior at any speed.
Interior design is modern if a bit austere, but with top-notch materials. Sporting three large display screens, the Velar appears to be a technological tour de force. Drivers face a completely configurable instrument digital cluster that offers enough customization to please everyone -- and sometimes confound. Thankfully, readability is excellent day or night. The center stack boasts two large touch-screen displays that comprise Land Rover's InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. It's designed to be quite configurable as well and usurps most of the buttons and knobs of a conventional interior. In practice, it's a challenge to operate at speed but thankfully a few knobs and dials remain for basic audio and climate control. Either way, a trip through the owner's manual is a must and support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play would be appreciated.
Front seats are extremely comfortable and offer a multitude of adjustments. Optional massaging seats are a bonus on longer trips. Head and leg room are generous. Step in is a trifle high but not unreasonable. Outward visibility is good forward and aft but blocked to the sides by thick pillars. Second-row seats are as comfortable the fronts and offer good room for two large adults. Three across is a bit awkward because of the driveline hump and intrusive front-seat center console.
Cargo space with the rear seats in place is a generous 34 cubic feet -- that's better than most competitors. The power tailgate opens wide and the second-row seats fold nearly flat. There are also cutouts to the side for extra space and a built-in cargo tonneau cover. Interior storage is sparse with just a few open and covered bins throughout. The center console is disappointingly small.
Bottom Line -- The proliferation of Land Rover models in recent years has muddled the lineup somewhat but Land Rover has done its best to clearly define each vehicle. The Range Rover Velar is no exception. It's designed to compete head-to-head on size, price and features with the best midsize luxury. In that mission, it mostly succeeds thanks to three engine offerings, a well-tuned suspension and plenty of passenger and cargo space. Clearly, the InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system needs a bit of work, but that's software that can be updated on the fly. Pricing can also be a challenge as well. The lo base price is attractive, but the diesel or V6 engine and options add up quickly.