Inside the First Edition Velar, the design and attention to detail are definite strong suits.
As a new model slotting in between the entry level Evoque and the larger Range Rover Sport, the 2018 Range Rover Velar First Edition is the top dog in trim levels for the compact luxury crossover from Jaguar Land Rover. Sharing underpinnings with the Jaguar F-Pace (reviewed here), the Velar starts off on the right foot with a chassis that’s already been demonstrated to be a great performer. On the outside, the Velar is also easily one of the most handsomely styled new vehicles available. The appearance of high sills and hard lines come together for a look that’s distinctively Range Rover, but also one that makes for the most youthful look in the whole JLR lineup.
For your trouble, the base First Edition Velar will set you back $95,000. All Velars get a power tailgate, rain sensing wipers, and most of Range Rover’s electronic assists for on and off-road conditions. In terms of today’s modern safety suite, a forward collision warning system (“Autonomous Emergency Braking”) and a lane departure warning come included. For the car on test, options included $9,030(!) for the matte Flux Silver paint job, $460 for SiriusXM satellite radio, bringing the as-tested price into the six figure mark at $104,490.
The First Edition Velars up the ante with 22-inch alloy wheels, a heated windshield, larger front brakes, adaptive cruise control, All Terrain Progress Control (think cruise control for low speed off-roading maneuvers), park assist, an active rear locking differential, and electronic air suspension. Inside, there’s more premium carpet mats, a head-up display, and the safety suite gets augmented with blind spot and lane keeping assist systems, which can both provide steering input.
Only one engine option is available on the First Edition: a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 puts out 380 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, with much of it available from a lower RPM. Throttle response is instant and thrust stays strong throughout the entire rev range. A satisfying slight whine from the supercharger and a sexy engine note further add to the premium feeling, and Jaguar Land Rover says that the 0 to 100KM/H sprint happens in 5.7 seconds, and top speed is 250KM/H. For those who don’t need such intense levels of motivation, lower end S, SE, and HSE models are all available with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder diesel.
For all trim levels and with either engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission does mighty well with shifting duties in the Velar. Although the 8HP design supplied by gearbox manufacturer ZF is a popular choice amongst many automakers’ longitudinal installations, each company has its own flavour when it comes to shift tuning and quality. While Jaguar Land Rover’s approach isn’t as aggressive or fast shifting as BMW, it makes for a very elegant and classy driving experience. The transmission does a great job at picking the right gear, and each up or downshift is delivered with the utmost of confidence. Gear selection does take place with a power-retracting rotary knob, which does take some getting used to.
With eight gears to choose from, the supercharged V6 returns reasonably good fuel efficiency numbers considering its 380 horsepower output. Consumption is rated at 13.0L/100KM in the city, and 10.0L/100KM on the highway. Observed economy came back at 12.3L/100KM in mixed driving with generous amounts of heavy throttle during a full week of testing. Fuel tank capacity is a bit small at 63 litres, and premium fuel is required.
On-road, the Range Rover Velar handles well in absolute terms – and not just relatively speaking as a sport utility vehicle. The electronically controlled air suspension does a marvelous job at keeping the vehicle planted in all conditions, while keeping good ride quality. Sharp bumps are still quite typically Euro-firm; there’s a bit of intentional firmness, but body control remains excellent, with no secondary motions or bouncing when the potholes become craters. With the R-Dynamic package and up, the front brakes are upsized from 325 to 350 millimetres in diameter, and the Velar stops its 1,884 kilogram (4,471 pound) curb weight confidently. Steering inputs are light but confidence inspiring, and maneuverability is well-executed at any speed.
Off-road, Range Rover’s umpteen amount of electronic assist systems help you get to your destination, no matter the road conditions. The First Edition’s active locking rear differential aids in providing traction, and in slippery conditions, 100 percent of power can be sent to either axle. Hill Descent Control lets drivers safely go down steep hills by automatically applying the brakes. Terrain Response is a system that, when set by the driver, changes engine, transmission, differential, and suspension settings to maximize performance for six possible tasks at hand – Comfort, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, Sand, ECO, and Dynamic. Included on the test vehicle was Terrain Response 2, which takes things one step further by sensing the current driving conditions and making changes automatically.
Inside the First Edition Velar, the design and attention to detail are definite strong suits, and the Light Oyster and Ebony colour scheme was especially nice. Material selection and quality was top notch, and there’s a very real feeling of being enveloped in luxury when inside. Piano black trim and any plastics are provided in tasteful amounts, and the 12.3-inch full digital gauge cluster keeps drivers abreast of everything going on.
Seating for five is an easy deal, and for easy ingress and egress, air suspension-equipped cars lower by 50 millimetres automatically when getting in and out of the car. Front seat passengers get the option of massage function, and while it’s not the same as the real deal, it certainly makes long trips a whole lot better. There’s also a good amount of cargo space: 673 litres (23.8 cubic feet) with the rear seats up, and expanding to 1,731 litres (61.1 cubic feet) with the seats folded flat. As a two-row family car, there’s plenty to like here.
Where the Velar falls short, however, is the Land Rover InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Dual 10-inch screens are pretty and offer high resolution graphics, but once the novelty wears off, it becomes an incredibly frustrating system to use. The top screen is the middle of the road system that we’ve been used to for years in Jaguar Land Rover products – it gets the job done, with slightly below average ergonomics and responsiveness. The lower screen, which controls climate, seats (heating, cooling, and massage), and off-road modes, is where things go more wrong.
JLR is not the first automaker to utilize dual-level displays, but the implementation here is at least a bit troubling in terms of ease of use and distracted driving prevention. When moving in between each menu, don’t be fooled by the stunning visuals and animations. The buttons are painfully small and move around on the screen between each menu, requiring drivers to take their eyes way off the road in order to poke around and hit the correct pea-sized button that never stays in the same spot. Additionally, the steering-wheel mounted controls are clumsy. Manipulating the information available in the gauge cluster is an exercise in futility when the directional buttons either ignore your request, or get things wrong altogether. Long story short, it is a fantastic look, but drops the ball with poor execution and user experience.
At the end of the day, the 2018 Range Rover Velar First Edition is a fantastic car to drive and look at. Its 380 horsepower, slick transmission, and work-of-art design make it a real fashion statement on the road that also happens to drive really well. The price tag north of a hundred grand when including the near five-figure paint option may raise some eyebrows when it comes to considering the competition. A BMW X5 or X6, or the Mercedes-Benz GLE (reviewed here) are worth looking at in this price bracket, but won’t come close in terms of visual design. The Velar has great ideas in terms of tech, and if JLR were to go back to the drawing board on the screen interfaces, they would have a true contender for overall car of the year.