Indefinitely Wild

The Range Rover Velar Is the Most Capable Crossover

The first car-based Range Rover honors the brand's off-road legacy, even though the on-road experience could use some improvements

Stylish as it is, the Velar is still as practical as any other crossover. It'll haul your bikes, your brats, or your bernese mountain dogs with equal aplomb. (Matt Scott)

From the brand that once advertised its products as “the best 4x4 by far” comes its first car-based crossover. The Range Rover Velar represents a huge departure for the legendary British company.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

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LED headlights are paired with distinctive LED daytime running lights to ensure the Velar can both see and be seen. (Matt Scott)

What Is It?

The Velar is a compact luxury crossover, a class of car that includes the BMW X4 (starting at $47,600), the Audi Q5 ($41,500), the sporty Porsche Macan ($47,800), and the all-new Volvo XC60 ($41,500), which we reviewed last month.

With a starting price of $49,900, the Velar is the most expensive vehicle in this class—a premium that Range Rover hopes to justify with the upscale name and the car’s striking looks.

What was once a stand-alone product has, in recent years, evolved into a range of luxury SUVs. The most affordable Range Rover is the Evoque, which shares its platform with the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The Velar slots between that and the Range Rover Sport and the flagship Range Rover, a full-size SUV. This expansion of the range is made possible with a massive investment in Jaguar Land Rover by Indian firm Tata Motors, which acquired the two British brands in 2008 and operates them as a single company. That arrangement is what makes the Velar possible—it’s based on the platform developed for the company’s Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan.

The Velar is equipped with the XE’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder motor, which makes 247 horsepower and a zero-to-60 mph time of 6.4 seconds. It returns 23 miles per gallon combined.

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Flush door handles pop out when the vehicle is unlocked and go away once you start driving; they were always there when I wanted them. They’ll bust through 4 millimeters of ice, but I do worry about kids hanging on them. (Matt Scott)

Who Is It For?

The Range Rover Evoque ($41,800) is too small for most families and the $66,750 Range Rover Sport too expensive—which is where the Velar comes in. It occupies a happy middle ground in that it’s spacious enough for a family of five and only marginally more expensive than its competitors in this class. That Land Rover has been able to combine such a sensible package with such stunning looks should expand the Velar’s appeal.

Here’s the big sell for us, though: It’s far more capable off-road than any other compact luxury crossover out there.

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Optional matte or metallic paints are available, as well as larger wheels, but they add thousands to the bottom line. (Matt Scott)

Design

With the Velar, Land Rover has combined the upright ruggedness of a traditional SUV with the sleek sportiness of a sports car. I’d say it’s the best-looking vehicle Land Rover has ever made.

Exterior parts, like the lights, bumpers, exhausts, and even door handles, sit flush with the body. Land Rover’s distinct blacked-out glass house floats over that body, and its huge windshield and glass roof help make the interior feel open and spacious. That luxurious interior is also extremely minimalist, with two prominent touchscreens replacing almost all the traditional buttons and knobs.

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Integrated exhausts and a lack of a rear bumper step give the back of the Velar clean, flowing lines. (Matt Scott)

Driving It

If you spend up to the $60,100 R-Dynamic model, you’re rewarded with air suspension capable of lifting the Velar by two inches with the press of a button and a locking rear differential that works with the all-wheel drive to maximize traction off-road. In conjunction with Terrain Response—Land Rover’s off-road traction control system—those features make the Velar the most capable vehicle in its class. You’ll be able to climb rocks; cross loose, wet, or soft surfaces; and even continue progress with two wheels off the ground.

Where other car-based crossovers pay mere lip service to off-road capability and instead prioritize on-road driving dynamics, the more expensive Velar models prioritize getting after it on dirt. Unfortunately, that comes with two caveats:

  1. If you care about off-roading, you’ll want to splurge for the more expensive model as the base Velar isn't that much more capable than any other AWD crossover.
  2. The on-road driving experience isn't so great. Steering is heavier than you’d expect, blunting the vehicle’s response, and lacks road feel. The German competition has the Velar’s driving experience beat on pavement, hands down.

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The Range Rover Velar excels on rugged, rocky trails, providing a smooth ride for a crossover. (Matt Scott)

Likes

  • Off-road, the upper-spec Velar performs like a Range Rover should.
  • The design is lovely.
  • Lots of options help tailor the Velar to your unique taste.
  • Gorgeous interior.

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The Velar has one of the best vehicle interiors we've ever experienced. (Land Rover)

Dislikes

  • Lots of options can put the Velar’s price tag in full-size Range Rover territory.
  • It’s an uninspiring drive on-road.

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It's also one of the most unique, stylish vehicles ever made and, by definition, the nicest-looking car Land Rover has ever made. (Land Rover)

Should You Buy It?

When it comes to capacity and off-road capability, the Velar beats everything else in the category. But spec’ing it high enough for that solid off-road performance creates a price tag so enormous that you could buy both a Range Rover Evoque and a new Jeep Wrangler for the same price.

Still, the Velar is a promising first effort at a car-based SUV. I’m excited to watch Land Rover continue to expand into more road-friendly models.

Filed To: Off-Road / 4x4 / Cars / SUVs / Indefinitely Wild
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