2018 Range Rover Velar SE P380 Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Range Rover Velar SE P380 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The big-power Velar SE P380 with its supercharged V6 is a ripper with stunning good looks inside and out.
2018 Range Rover Velar SE P380
Price $113,462+ORC Price as tested $144,182+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Power 280kW at 6500rpm Torque 450Nm of torque from 3500-5000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive permanent all-wheel drive Dimensions 4803mm (L) 2032mm (W) 1665mm (H) Angles approach angle of up to 28.89 degrees, breakover angle of up to 23.5 degrees and a departure angle of up to 29.5 degrees Ground Clearance up to 251mm Roof Load Maximum Including rails 79kg Towing 2400kg maximum braked Towball 175kg maximum GCM 4870kg Boot Space 558-1616 litres Spare space-saver spare Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 9.4L/100km
THE RANGE ROVER VELAR arrived Down Under late last year with Land Rover saying it filled the ‘white space’ between Evoque and RR Sport, and that it “changes everything”. Those last two words are huge. Indeed, Land Rover’s design boss, Gerry McGovern said, “It [Velar] brings a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand”.
And it does. It’s not the most expensive Range Rover but the Velar looks and feels like it should be. And the best bit, that Land Rover hasn’t totally sold out to gimmickry with the Velar…it still has Terrain Response and adjustable air suspension to go further off-road than any owner will ever dream of going, and so much further off-road than its competitors, even on shiny 21-inch alloys, that the thing is virtually in a class of its own.
What is the Range Rover Velar?
Land Rover says the Velar is all about stripping away complexity to reveal “true quality” and that key examples of this are the door handles that retract in flush against the body until needed, or indeed the rotary control gear shifter that rises out of the centre console (yes, I know this is nothing new). Everything about the Velar, Land Rover says, is aimed at reductionism, hence the twin hi-res 10-inch touch screens that control everything from the music to navigation, climate control, Terrain Response and even the massage function on the front seats.
Land Rover says the Velar sits in the white space between Evoque and Sport, meaning the gap in vehicle wheelbase lengths, see, Evoque measures 2660mm, Velar 2874mm and RR Sport 2923mm. More than this, the Velar as those paying attention will know shares a lot of its oily bits with the Jaguar F-Pace (the aluminium platform, but from a driving and looks point of view, you’d have no way of guessing the two were related. Indeed, despite price similarities, the Range Rover Velar is better to drive, is more practical, and it looks a million times better than the Jaguar, both inside and out.
Pricing for the Velar starts at $70,662+ORC and runs to $135,762+ORC. Our test car, the Velar P380 SE is a spec and engine we’ve not sampled in the Velar yet but, if you remember, it’s the same engine as the F-Pace we drove recently, it’s priced at $113,462+ORC in standard form. But, like the F-Pace, our Velar was anything but standard, offering around $30,000 in extra-cost options, pushing the price of our tester to $144,182+ORC, but let’s start with the notable standard stuff.
So, our Velar P380 SE gets things like AEB, lane departure warning and Matrix LED headlights as standard, as well as auto-dimming, folding and heated wing mirrors, rain sensing wipers, keyless entry, 360-degree parking monitor, rear view camera, powered tailgate, Touch Pro Duo, Wi-Fi hotspot and Navigation Pro, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, Meridian surround sound system, and 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats. If you look back at the F-Pace S we tested recently you’ll note that some of these bits were cost-options on that car and it had a higher starting price than the Velar.
The cost-option notables include the 20-way adjustable front seats with massage functionality and heating and cooling ($7730), the sliding panoramic roof ($4370), head-up display ($2420), perforated Windsor leather seats ($1910), metallic paint (1780), 21-inch alloys ($1430), All Terrain Progress Control ($640), Blonde Veneer ($440), Privacy glass ($890), Premium Exterior Pack ($2310), Black Roof Rails ($940), and Terrain Response 2 ($430). There was more than that, but that’s the stuff that stuck out. So, what I’m saying is we need to be careful when reviewing this Velar P380 SE as some of the stuff you can see and touch isn’t standard on this variant. Some of the stuff you wouldn’t bother with, but I reckon the head-up display and Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control, the panoramic roof, the leather pack and the clever front seats would be worth considering if you’ve got the extra cash to splash.
There are a handful of engines to choose from for the Velar, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium turbo-diesel engine, one with a single turbo and the other with a twin-turbo (132kW and 177kW and 500Nm, respectively) and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with either a single and twin-turbo (184kW and 221kW), a 3.0L V6 diesel making 221kW and a supercharged V6 petrol engine making 280kW. This last engine is the one that’s in our Velar P380 SE test car.
What’s the interior like?
Well, for a start, there are very few cars that offer such a dramatic way of going aboard. The door handles sit flush against the body when not in use and you can either use the key fob to unlock the car or press the small button on the handle to coax it out. There’s a chance something like this could feel a little flimsy but it doesn’t, although I’ve got no idea how you’d get into the Velar if the door handles failed.
The dashboard looks nothing like the dash in the F-Pace, and why would it, like other LR product the dash is horizontal in its layout with lots of soft-touch materials, brushed aluminium surrounds for the air vents and gloss accents. It looks both sumptuous and utilitarian at the same time. And very few vehicles offer carpet with as thick a pile as the Velar; you almost feel like slipping off your shoes and socks and sinking your toes into the carpet.
The dashboard is dominated by the twin high-res screens; one sits high up on the dash and angles forwards when the car is turned on and leans back flush with the dash when it’s turned off, while the other is built seamlessly into the dash with two large rubber ringed dials, one for climate and the other for the Terrain Response, a smaller dial for volume control sits between them.
The upper infotainment screen feels very conventional in that it’s the sort of thing you expect to see in a car these days. There are no hard shortcut buttons, something that usually has me wanting to smash my fist into the screen in frustration but that wasn’t the case with this one. The touch sensitivity is about right and you don’t have to look too far from the road to tap at a function (although some of the ‘buttons’ require a slight pause before they activate), whether that’s selecting a music track or adjusting the map view.
We’ll be writing up a longer review of the infotainment system so I won’t go into too much more detail here other than to say while the dash-mounted screen is easy enough to see on the fly, the lower screen is a bit harder to use while driving, and I would recommend you don’t use it while on the move (annoying because it handles the climate control) or else you’ll become very familiar with the juddering of the lane keep warning.
The layout of it is simple and selecting the control you want to access doesn’t take very long to plumb its depths, but it’s low down and shaded slightly by the jutting dashboard above it. It’s a screen to be accessed while stationary.
The front seats in our test car weren’t the standard seats, rather they were the cost-optional 20-way adjust, heated, ventilated and wrapped in beautiful Windsor leather. They represent around $10,000 worth of cost options but they are extremely comfortable and the leather looks, feels and smells like real leather, not the thin stuff you get in other premium vehicles that looks like it’ll scratch as soon as you look at it. Nope, this Windsor leather looks like it’ll wear-in like a pair of good–quality brogues.
After a week of testing around town and out in the country on longer drives I can attest to the comfort and support these seats offer. I’ve got long legs and there’s plenty of under-thigh support offered as well as good lateral support, even when flinging the thing around bends or being bumped around on a rough track.
As is typical with a Range Rover, there’s good forwards (you can see the entire bonnet) and side vision, because even though you sit down a little lower in the Velar than other RR product you get a large glasshouse (if you hold down the unlock button on the key fob you can lower all of the buttons and also the panoramic roof which is a great feature for venting your car in summer). And even though the rear three-quarter looks slabby it doesn’t obscure your over the shoulder vision when lane changing. Ahead of the driver, the analogue dials are replaced (on SE spec and up) by a 12.3-inch digital display which can be adjusted to show a variety of things, including the speedo, media and navigation.
There’s plenty of storage in the front half of the Velar although the door bins in either the front or the back aren’t shaped to hold conventional water bottles. The centre console storage bin lid is split in two so the driver and passenger can slide it fore and aft to suit their armrest needs. It houses a bunch of outlets, including two USB ports, an HDMI outlet and more. The glovebox is big with around 7.5 litres of storage space.
Into the back of the Velar and there’s enough room for two or three adults to sit across the back thanks to the fact the back part of the centre console (with directional air vents) cascades back in towards itself to give the middle seat knee room – you still have to share foot room with the passengers on either side, though. There’s an acceptable level of rear seat leg and foot room, and even with the large panoramic glass roof there was decent headroom. The Velar has a fairly square stance and so shoulder room in the back is good too.
The back seats (40:20:40) are almost as comfortable to sit in as the front seats and our test car’s rear seats offered electric recline and the back rest of the middle seat could be folded down to form an armrest. There are hard map pockets on the backs of the front seats.
Our test car had a towbar fitted and claimed to have gesture control but no amount of kicking my foot under the rear bumper could get the powered tailgate to rise. Didn’t bother me, though. You can raise the tailgate via the key fob (you can also close it via the key fob) or pressing the release button on the door itself; it opens and closes in around five seconds.
There’s 558 litres of storage space in the boot which grows to 1616 litres when you fold down the back seats (they don’t fold down flat). The load space is wide and tall too and the fact you can lower the rear of the car (thanks to the air springs – see the picture below) to make loading and unloading easier is a great idea. A spec saver spare sits beneath the floor which is hard on one side and can be flipped over if you’re carrying anything wet or dirty and you want to keep the carpet clean which is a great idea.
What’s it like on the road?
There was a week’s break in-between me driving the Jaguar F-Pace and the Range Rover Velar and I’m so glad I got to drive them almost back to back. Like the F-Pace our Velar SE P380 runs a 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 making 280kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm of torque from 3500-5000rpm. This is mated to an eight-speed automatic and it’ll get to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds.
The engine and transmission feel very different to the same engine and transmission in the F-Pace. There’s none of the low-speed jerk that the F-Pace demonstrated with the Velar’s transmission as smooth as silk no matter the speed or the corner.
Out onto the Practical Motoring test loop, and we’ve stretched the loop to ensure we can include some rough, patchwork sections of bitumen while keeping the dynamic sections of road and the dirt too. The first thing you need to get used to is the way the Velar (on airbags) rides and handles and the lightness of the steering wheel…A Range Rover owner will know all about this already but if you’re perhaps cross-shopping an F-Pace and a Velar then this is one of the key differences.
See, where the F-Pace is all taught and agile in corners, the Velar is a little more relaxed feeling but only perhaps a step or two behind in terms of speed carried through corners.
On the highway or around town the Velar smothers the roads imperfections and keeps occupants cocooned in comfort and it’s the same at-speed when driving in a straight line. Our test loop through up a section of utterly horrid bitumen and on the straights the Velar (thanks to adaptive dampers) was like riding a cloud but through corners and across the same patchwork surface there was a slight sideways joggling across the rougher sections.
As the road smoothed out but the corners became tighter the Velar showed just how effective it can be at covering ground very quickly. You’ve got to get used to the way it moves. See, there’s no feeling through the steering wheel with a slackness in the straight ahead, and a light action that builds weight off-centre. And while the Velar doesn’t lean over as much as some Rangie product it still exhibits the brand’s characteristic lean as you hoof through a corner; and you’ve got to trust the thing, let it lean because it’ll only go so far and then just sit there, gripping and ripping its way around the corner.
Unlike an F-Pace this isn’t a machine for tearing up a twisting road; the lightness of its actions and the body roll can make this very tiring and ever so slightly unnerving until you’ve learned to fully trust the machine. Dial back to about 7/10ths and there’s almost nothing else on the road that’s as comfortable and enjoyable to drive as the Velar.
The all-wheel drive system is particularly effective and while I never troubled its on-road grip, I did drive with fists of ham on the dirt sections to see how the thing would cope with the reduced grip. See, we’ve had almost no rain this month and there was a heap of thick dust covering the dirt section of road we use. And so I did what I would recommend no one ever do when driving on dirt and that is keeping my foot buried into and through the corner. On this sort of surface you’d expect a touch of slip and then grip and the killing power and so on…not the Velar it was clearly game for it and while I could feel the bulk of the thing and physics wanting to throw the car into the paddocks the Velar just gripped and went around the corner. I swear you could feel the front gripping and then as it was overwhelmed more grunt went to the rear (the Velar doesn’t have a fixed torque split front to rear as it’s constantly varying it to suit the terrain but it can send up to 100% of torque to the rear and it also features corner brake control) to swing the car back towards the corner and so on – V6 variants also feature an active locking rear differential which is a wet clutch pack that works to optimise the drive between the rear wheels and you could feel this working on dirt as well as the corner brake control but I don’t mean that in a mechanical intervention kind of way, rather a smooth and controlled cornering attitude. Think of a duck; smooth on top but under the water it’s paddling away furiously.
Never ever was there a moment inside the car where I thought I’d maybe overcooked the corner. On one simple section of slippery dirt road the Velar showed that it had probably the most effective all-wheel drive system in its segment.
What’s it like to drive off the road?
The Velar comes standard with coil springs unless you pay extra for adjustable air suspension, although all V6 variants have airbags as standard. 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.
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.
The Velar offers an approach angle of up to 28.89 degrees, breakover angle of up to 23.5 degrees and a departure angle of up to 29.5 degrees, and a maximum wading depth of 650mm (600mm for coil spring suspension).
The Velar isn’t available with low-range but that won’t bother any of its owners. It offers permanent all-wheel drive and Land Rover’s Intelligent Driveline Dynamics which monitors a bunch of things from the steering wheel angle to friction between the tyre and the road to determine how torque should be shuffled around the vehicle. All Velar’s get Terrain Response as standard which allows you to scroll from Eco, Comfort, Grass-Gravel-Snow and Mud Ruts; each mode alters the calibration of the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system, suspension, and stability control systems. Our test car had been fitted with Terrain Response 2 which takes further legwork out of choosing which setting to use by offering an Auto Mode, meaning it’ll determine how everything needs to be configured based on what the sensors are telling it. Clever.
And then there’s All Terrain Progress Control (cost-optioned on our test car – $640) which works from 3.6-30km/h and acts like a slow speed, rough road cruise control. Activate it and all the driver needs to do is steer – you used the cruise control stalk to go slower or quicker. It’s good but only those who need it should bother to pay for it.
The rougher dirt road I drove down wouldn’t have troubled a Subaru XV let alone the Velar, but there were a couple of lumps and bumps in the track where I could get a wheel to lift and even then the Velar just kept going; no graunch, no pause it just kept moving forwards. There’ll be those wanting a more detailed off-road review, but given our test car sat on 21-inch alloys we didn’t want to risk them by going too far off the beaten track. The little bit of lumpy driving I did, though, was enough to tell me that not a single on this car’s competitors is as capable when the bitumen runs out whether an owner will use that capability or not.
While our test car had a towbar fitted to it we didn’t get a chance to tow with it, but looking at the numbers Land Rover has been realistic. See, even when the vehicle is fully loaded with passengers and their gear you can tow at near enough to the vehicles maximum braked towing capacity. The one issue is that while the maximum braked towing capacity is 2400kg, the towball download is only 175kg. Accepted practice is 10% of the trailer’s weight on the towball thus towing a 2400kg would see 240kg on the towball and that exceeds the towball’s maximum download.
What about safety?
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?
Having already driven the smaller-engined Velar and not being totally convinced by it on-road, this bigger-engined SE P380 was a revelation. Smooth, comfortable and with effortless thrust whether you had four on-board and a boot full of gear or not. The Velar looks sensational inside and out and it’ll go further off road than any owner will ever dream of going.