Range Rover Velar

This beauty is in the eye of the cheque holder

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IF THE Evoque prepared a brand-obsessed world for a bitumen-biased Range Rover, then no one will have a problem with the have a problem with the Velar. Styled like a concept car and finished to an even higher standard than its larger siblings, this could be just what the Doctor orders in our blue-ribbon locales.

Sharing the Jaguar F-Paceís D7A architecture and 2874mm wheelbase, the slightly longer Velar delivers a counterpoint to its more overtly sporting British cousin.

This is a luxe-focused SUV that also happens to be a decent drive.

A $71K wad gets you a P250 on 18s, packing JLRís 184kW/365Nm ĎIngeniumí 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four. Head to the opposite end and youíll need $168K for a ĎFirst Editioní Velar wearing guard-filling 22s with either a 221kW/700Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel V6 (the D300) or a blown 280kW/450Nm 3.0-litre petrol V6 (the P380).

In between sits a refreshingly democratic model line-up. You start with either a Velar or Velar R-Dynamic (with a more aggressive front bumper, bonnet scoops and copper detailing), then move up the ladder. Thereís familiar S, SE and HSE grades, but the beauty with Velar is you can have the full 5.7sec-to-100 snot of a P380 in a boggo white Velar ($93,462), or one of the four-pot diesels or petrols in fancy HSE guise with 21s and a glam interior ($106,962 to $117,250).

Additional options are grouped into four simple packs, yet thereís a bewildering (and wonderful) 17 different wheel choices, and not one of them is a munter.

Ditto Velarís drivetrain line-up.

At launch itís the D240 (with a new 177kW/500Nm twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel four), the D300 diesel V6 and P380 supercharged petrol V6.

Still to come is a D180 turbo-diesel with 132kW/430Nm and both turbo-petrols, the gruntiest of which (the 221kW/400Nm P300) wonít get here until December.

Even the four-pot diesel is smooth and incredibly tractable, as happy lugging along at 1200rpm as it is kissing the four-five redline.

Thereís lag when you flatten it off the line, but the D240 is pleasantly responsive in general driving.

The twin-turbo D300 (0-100 in 6.5sec) adds additional urge and has greater swagger to its fuller induction sound, though the grunt honours obviously go to the blown petrol. With snappy gearing and an elastic power delivery, the P380 puts Velarís air-suspended chassis to best use, despite lugging 1884kg.

Point the P380ís quick, accurate, if rather feel-free steering into a tight corner and its chassis instantly rises to the occasion.

You can feel the torque vectoring pivoting the nose into a tighter arc, and thereís strong grip on the Pirelli Scorpion 265/40R22s of the largest wheel option.

Indeed, get the nose in, then give the P380 some gas and, like its F-Pace relative, the blown Velar will drift its back end slightly, as a demonstration of the platformís rear-drive bias. Itís a fun thing to hustle, which bodes well for the inevitable SVR V8 version rumoured to follow in 2018.

Pity Velarís ride isnít quite as accomplished. Only with the air suspension set to Comfort does it begin to cosset passengers (even wearing 22s). In Auto or Dynamic, it rides much more firmly, to the benefit of overall agility.

But itís Velarís beautiful interior that really scores (see sidebar). It delivers high-design sparkle for this screen-savvy era, prefiguring a look thatís bound to permeate pricier Range Rovers in the future.

And it makes you feel special.

From that perspective, Velar provides exactly the premium-SUV lifestyle to which so many aspire.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Range Rover Velar P380 First Edition 2995cc V6 (90ļ), dohc, 24v, S/C 280kW @ 6500rpm 450Nm @ 4500rpm 8-speed automatic 1884kg 5.7sec (claimed) 9.4L/100km $168,862 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Striking appearance; slick cabin; configurable model range; drivetrains Steering lacks feel; ride can be lumpy; you need to love touchscreens

01 OUTSIDE MEASURE

Built alongside F-Pace in Solihull, the 4803mm-long Velar out-measures every SUV in its class (and has the biggest boot, at 558 litres) for serious driveway presence given a fairly modest $70,662 starting price.

02 OFF-ROAD LEISURE

Air-sprung set-up (standard on V6s) gives Velar 251mm of ground clearance and a 650mm wading depth. Its off-road ability should satisfy most expectations, and it has just about every 4WD trick in Land Roverís goody bag.

03 INTERNAL PLEASURE

Velar has a commanding driving position on comfortable, beautifully trimmed seats. Rear bench best suited to two adults, with competitive legroom and reasonable vision. Electric backrest rake is on the options list.

Style icon

Velarís knock-out cabin is crowned by a pair of beautifully sleek ĎTouch Pro Duoí 10-inch screens, mounted above each other in the sloping centre stack.

Multimedia requirements are fulfilled by the upper section (which tilts forward when you start the car, and reverts to flush when the ignition switches off) while stuff like climate control and drive-system selection occur in the gorgeous lower screen.

Thereís some theatre outside, too. The Velarís door handles pop out of the bodywork as you approach with a sensor key and higher-end models feature aggressively slim Matrix Laser LED headlights.

And what other SUV lets you choose from four 21-inch wheel styles and another four 22-inch designs?

OR TRY THESE...

Jaguar F-Pace 35t S $104,827

Bang on the P380 Velar Sís $104,850 sticker, though the Range Rover offers five pricier trim levels featuring the same 280kW V6. And the F-Paceís interior is starkly exposed by the Velarís for being, well, mediocre.

Porsche Macan Turbo $133,500

Occupying similar territory to the supercharged Velar in terms of price, but a much more handlingfocused drive. While Macanís attractive interior is beautifully built, it somehow lacks the Velarís warmth.