2018 Range Rover Velar D240 R-Dynamic SE Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Range Rover Velar D240 R-Dynamic SE Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Land Rover’s take on the Jaguar F-Pace with all-road capability.
2018 Range Rover Velar D240 R-Dynamic SE
Price $106,950+ORC Warranty three years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel Power 177kW at 4000rpm Torque 500Nm at 1500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive permanent all-wheel drive Dimensions 4803mm (L) 2032mm (W) 1665mm (H) Weight 1805-1959kg (whole range) Angles 28.9-degrees (A) 29.5-degrees (D) – air suspension Ground Clearance 251mm – air suspension Boot Space 558/1616L Spare Space Saver Towing 2500kg braked Thirst 5.8L/100km (claimed combined)
The Range Rover Velar (2874mm) slots in between the Evoque (2660mm) and the Range Rover Sport (2923mm) and shares much of its oily bits with its Jaguar sibling, the F Pace. Park the F Pace and Velar side by side and it’s impossible to consider them as the same vehicle and that difference becomes even more apparent by the time you’ve driven the thing around the block.
The F Pace is all swooping and sporty looking, while the Velar looks as if it’s been designed as a museum art installation. It’s clearly looks like a Range Rover, but there are lots of jewellery on the thing and some of it is, unfortunately, fake.
The bonnet vents aren’t real but they do look beautiful and the contrast bits of bumper add to the decoration, helping to lift the Velar beyond just being a range filler into a stand-out in the range; at least visually speaking anyway.
What is the Range Rover Velar?
The Range Rover isn’t related to any other Land Rover, rather it borrows the Jaguar F Pace’s aluminium platform. But in the same way the two only bear a passing resemblance to one another, there’s nothing similar in the way they drive. The Velar feels every inch like a Range Rover.
Brands are becoming more and more competitive and there are now segments within segments being carved out to satisfy niche buyers we never even knew existed. And so it is with the Velar. Sort of. It slots in between the Evoque and the bigger, more robust Range Rover Sport offering something for those who are after style with just a bit of substance.
See, unlike other Range Rover product, the Evqoue notwithstanding, there’s no two-speed transfer box available and the Terrain Response system is activated via the touchscreen and to cover for the lack of low-range, sort of, is the addition of All Surface Progress Control which allows you to creep along at 5km/h without touching the throttle.
But, rough roading, is not really the Velar’s forte, although it’s still miles better than other fashion-oriented SUVs in the same segment. The Velar is about keeping its passengers comfortable in a luxurious cabin and a Range Rover to boot, without having to plump for a full-size Rangie. Indeed, Land Rover itself bills the Velar as a luxury SUV that follows firmly in the wheel ruts of the original Range Rover; while design boss Gerry McGovern calls it the “avant garde Range Rover”. “It brings a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand. The Range Rover Velar changes everything,” he said.
Pricing for the Velar starts at $70,662+ORC and runs to $135,762+ORC while a limited run First Edition variant is priced from $168,250+ORC. There are six engines to choose from, and these are a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium turbo-diesel engine in two states of tune, one with a single turbo and the other with a twin-turbo (132kW and 177kW and 500Nm, respectively) and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine also in two states of tune, a single and twin-turbo (184kW and 221kW), a 3.0L V6 diesel making 221kW and a supercharged V6 petrol engine making 280kW.
Our test car was the D240 R-Dynamic SE which lists from $106,950+ORC; R-Dynamic adds unique treadplates, leather steering wheel and chrome bezel, unique front and rear bumper design, satin chrome flappy paddles, front fog lights and gloss black mirrors.
What’s the interior like?
To get into the Velar you can use the key fob to unlock the thing with the flush door handles popping out from the body (they retract back into the body at 8km/h) or via the little button on the handle when the key’s in your pocket. The door handles divide opinion but they are a scene setter for the Velar; according to Land Rover the design brief was that things should be hidden away until required – functional minimalism, or something like that.
Once inside, the seats are nice and comfortable, our test model was the Velar D240 R-Dynamic SE. The seats in our test car were two tone leather, offered reasonable grip and support for longer drives and even offered a massage function. Now, I scoffed when I saw that in the infotainment menu but I was soon eating my words; for the record, I selected the wave massage function which felt nothing like my kids kicking the back of the seat. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to recommend it, but if you do stump up for it you won’t be disappointed.
Following on from the functional minimalism theme of the retracting door handles, the dashboard is dominated by digital displays that give the Velar a cutting-edge look and feel. There are two 10-inch touchscreens dominating the dashboard and on our test car SE spec and above, a 12.3-inch display that replaces the analogue dials. The centre of the screen displays the speedo, flanked by media and sat-nav displays.
The twin screens on the centre stack, known as Touch Pro Duo reduces the clutter while remaining user friendly. The top screen is split into navigation, phone and media and can tilt out of the dashboard by up to 30 degrees for greater visibility for the driver. The bottom screen is dedicated to climate control and Terrain Response, but you can still scroll through media, nav and phone functionality. There are two rubber-ringed dials that can be configured to adjust a variety of things; I left mine alone to adjust the climate control and used the touch screen for everything else, but you can also use them to scroll through Terrain Response settings.
While we’re talking about the infotainment, it’s worth mentioning that my time with this system wasn’t totally smooth sailing. Initially connecting my phone via Bluetooth was a cinch; it took about 10 seconds and for the first two days of the loan period everything worked brilliantly. I could access and play songs stored on my phone, make and receive calls. But after that, my phone, while it would connect to the car via Bluetooth and display its innards on the screen, allowing me to select songs and make calls, it wouldn’t play anything through the vehicle’s speakers. None of my settings had changed over the course of the test week; the phone just stopped playing through the car’s speakers despite displaying on the touchscreens. Odd.
And it got weirder. After punching in a destination, the sat-nav bugged out and started pixelating and scrolling like an old poorly tuned TV screen; remember when the TV show would scroll up the TV if it wasn’t tuned correctly… Now, a hard restart of the vehicle fixed the issue and it didn’t occur again, but no matter how hard I fiddled with settings, I just couldn’t get my phone to play through the car like it had when I first collected the Velar.
Whether my experience is a one-off, I don’t know, but Land Rover is running tests on the car I borrowed to see whether the system needed to be upgraded to sync with the latest Apple operating system… no-one I spoke to about the issue had heard of it occurring before, so, it was probably an isolated case but one that’s still worth mentioning. It’s also worth mentioning that your cars infotainment system doesn’t exist in a bubble and, so, when your phone’s operating system is updated, occasionally you need to update your vehicle’s infotainment so that the two systems continue to talk with each other.
The Velar’s interior is clearly intended to appear on the surface as a beautiful space but scratch the surface and it’s just as versatile and practical as any other Rangie interior. The centre console lid/armrest is split which means both the driver and front passenger can slide it forward or back to suit. Clever. There’s four-litres of storage space in the centre console and two USB outlets and a three 12v sockets. The glovebox is a little bigger than the centre console storage at 7.5 litres and is cooled too.
Into the back and there isn’t as much room as you might think. I loaded in three large-ish nine-year olds into the back of the Velar and while they all had plenty of head, elbow and shoulder room they all complained about the legroom. Sure, it’s not as bad as they made out, but when I climbed into the back with the front seat set to suit me, I found that I had just enough knee and foot room.
Luckily, the back seats are beautifully shaped, at least the two outboard ones are. The middle seat is a perch and there’s no foot room at all, so, anyone sitting in the middle needs to share with those in the two outboard seats. There are rear air vents at the back of the centre console and there are hard map pockets on the backs of the front seats. The back rests on our test car could be electrically reclined and the back rest of the middle seat could be folded down to form an armrest.
Look in the boot and there’s plenty of room and the auto tailgate is handy too (it’s gesture controlled so you can either use the button on the tailgate, the key fob by holding down the boot button or kicking your foot under the rear bumper). There’s 558 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place which grows to more than 1600 litres when you drop them down opening a load space that measures 1274mm wide and 1795mm long. They can be dropped from the back of the car, too.
One feature I think all cars should have and the Velar is not unique but in Australia, in summer, being able to hold the unlock button and drop all the windows and open the panoramic roof allows you to vent hot air from the cabin before climbing in. In my week, the temperature soared and I found the air-con in the Velar struggled a bit; the vehicle had been sat in the sun for about three hours but I vented it and it still took a good 20-30min before the cabin had cooled down. The panoramic glass roof didn’t help nor did the gloss black contrast roof or the insubstantial sun blind… so, maybe it wasn’t the air-con’s fault after all.
What’s it like to drive?
Our test car ran a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel Ingenium engine in the higher output, so, 177kW and 500Nm of torque from 1500rpm. This is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission which is so smooth you wonder why anyone bothers with more cogs, getting power to the ground via permanent all-wheel drive.
The Velar comes standard with coil springs unless you pay extra for adjustable air suspension (from the SE spec); our test car was fitted with air suspension and I’m keen to try out a Velar on coils. The air suspension’s ride height drops by 10mm when cruising at speeds above 105km/h. The Auto Access Height function automatically lowers the suspension by 40mm when the ignition is turned off, making it easier to get in and out of the vehicle; handy for kids to climb in and out. Off-road mode increases the ride height by 46mm compared to Normal mode at speeds below 50km/h for ground clearance of 251mm, but automatically lowers by 18mm between 50-80km/h for stability. The suspension also has an anti-grounding function when driving through water that will raise the vehicle up to help clear obstacles you might not have seen.
All variants get adaptive dynamics which monitors all sorts of stuff like wheel and body movements (500 and 100 times per second, respectively) to constantly adjust damping performance. That’s the theory… how’s it all work in the real world?
The Velar was sent straight out onto our test loop for two laps. Now, the first thing that’s worth mentioning is that if you’ve never driven a car with air suspension before you’ll find the body movements and control a little odd feeling, initially anyway. No matter how clever the electronics are, there’s an inherent float to air suspension. But, talk to a Range Rover owner and they’ll tell you how much they love the sensation and wouldn’t dream of driving anything without airbags, but they’re a weird bunch (apologies Dad). Back to the test loop.
On the highway section of our loop, the Velar sits nice and flat with a solidity to the ride you don’t normally associate with airbags; that doesn’t stop it from soaking up ripples in the road like as if it’s laid a cloud across them, though.
The steering feels light, especially around the straight-ahead, but weight and sensation build a few degrees off centre. This lack of firmness to the steering in the straight ahead does mean, if you’re looking down for a moment to adjust something on one of the two infotainment screens, the thing can wander in the lane and so the steering requires constant nibbling from your hands.
Into the twists and turns of our loop and it’s clear the Velar is built for comfort rather than corner carving. It exhibits that Range Rover esque float as it leans mid corner then stops and just grips; it’s a disconcerting feeling until you get to it. And because you’re riding on airbags, even ones with adaptive dampers, there’s no sense of connection between your bum and the road. And, hit a bump mid corner and not even the electronics can keep the car from joggling slightly.
The Velar was not well suited to the tighter sections of our loop which call for serious braking and hard changes of direction. And it flopped from one side to the other, but never did it run out of grip (there’s a single-speed transfer case coupled to a multi-plate weth clutch that can send up to 100% of torque to the rear axle only and then back to fully locked front to rear in 165 milliseconds) or brakes no matter how hard it was thrown at the sort of corner that would have seen lesser SUVs picking bits of tree out of their grilles.
Dial back your enthusiasm from about 8 to 6, though, and the Velar feels comfortable and controlled. At this level, it feels superb whether you’re driving across smooth or broken bitumen or slippery dirt roads.
Around town the throttle and brake pedal feel long and at less than 40km/h the gearbox feels a little clumsy (above that it feels sublime). Moving off from a standing start or taking a corner in town can see you pressing the throttle and waiting, waiting and then everything arriving as the gearbox drops down a cog. And it’s a similar story with the brake pedal… you press the pedal expecting the action to be progressive but it isn’t, grabbing towards the end of its travel.
I didn’t drive the Velar off-road, beyond a dirt road, but from other Practical Motoring tests we’ve run I’ve no hesitation in saying that it’s more capable than anything else in its segment. That said, I can’t imagine any owner driving it across anything rougher than I did and, if they need something to clamber up hills then they should be looking at a Discovery instead. Four-cylinder models miss out on the locking rear differential which is standard on all six-cylinder models.
Similarly, I didn’t tow with the Velar. It has a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg with a 250kg towball download and with self-levelling air suspension, the vehicle will always sit level when towing within its limits.
In all, the Range Rover Velar, when unhurried, is an extremely quiet vehicle that’s comfortable and well controlled. It might look as sharp as a scalpel but it drives with the relaxed gait of a Range Rover.
What about safety features?
The Velar scored a five-star ANCAP rating and comes standard with autonomous emergency braking controlled via a forward facing stereo camera inside the windscreen behind the centre-mounted rear view mirror. The system is able to provide full braking if necessary. There’s an alarm fitted as standard, six airbags, ISOFIX mounts for the outboard seats, and power operated child locks, trailer stability assist, reversing camera with dynamic lines, torque vectoring by braking, hill descent control and hill launch assist, stability and traction controls, Terrain Response, and roll stability control.
So, what do we think of the Range Rover Velar?
The Velar ushers in a new period for infotainment and interior design for Range Rover; the sat-nav no longer looks like it was drawn by a chicken. I still think the infotainment should carry Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for those who don’t want to add additional apps to their phones to utilise the full infotainment offering, like route planning, etc. And while I had a few hiccups with the infotainment, it’s remarkably well designed and simple to use, despite its initially complex-seeming appearance.
The ride and handling feels very Range Rover and the higher-output four-cylinder in our test car was more than up to the task of powering the thing along. This thing has more off-road capability than anything else in its segment, but its on-road dynamics don’t match its sharp-looking suit.