Velar is the fourth distinct Range Rover model, fitting in the line-up between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. If that doesn’t quite place it in your head, think Jaguar F-Pace. Velar is based on the same fundamental aluminium components as its sister car, as is common in the industry these days; just one of the revolutions the TT kicked-off nearly 20 years ago.
Now forget the F-Pace. Leveraging the fact that Range Rovers have had a uniquely distinct identity for almost half a century (and let’s not forget the F-Pace is Jaguar’s first ever SUV), Velar is simultaneously familiar and utterly new, a root and branch reinvention of Range Rover-ness that banishes forever the notion that SUVs can’t be beautiful.
Pictures don’t do it justice; it has a combination of modernist mores, architectural discipline and a sense of precision we have come to regard as everyday thanks to the elegance of the tiny computers we carry around in our pockets. And it’s just the right size; it might say Range Rover on the front but there’s nothing overbearing about it’s presence.
And the story continues on the inside. This is all very new territory. The dash almost completely banishes the notion that the inside of cars need to look like the inside of a machine. Again it shares a philosophy with smart phones – Apple’s especially – in understanding the value of reductivism. There is a familiar tablet screen in the middle, although it is adjustable.
Below it is another screen, although it doesn’t look like it, appearing instead to be part of the internal architecture of the car. It’s a deep puddle of darkness until you wake it, like the screen on your iPhone. When you do it works in conjunction with the upper screen (you can literally swipe information from one screen to the other), controlling every aspect of the car.
It’s a kind of connectivity that’s not controlled by the traditional steering column stalks and the transmission controller. Consequently Velar’s design team have been able to reduce the number of physical dash controls to just large two rotary dials and one smaller below the bottom screen. I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate, but the dominant graphic of the original TT’s interior were the two bright circles through which fresh air entered the cabin.
And it doesn’t stop there. Velar customers will be able to specify a fabric interior, not a cheap alternative to leather – it will cost the same as the premium leather option – but as a design choice. Developed in conjunction with Swedish technical fabric specialists Kvadrat, the “premium textile” option is a major departure for a luxury car maker and utterly compelling. It offers such an overwhelming sense of cool it makes you wonder quite why leather ever became the one and only option for upmarket car interiors. There are two fabrics in the seats, a wool blend specially created for automotive applications and a contrast ‘suedecloth’ made from recycled materials. Again, this won’t be the last you see of upmarket fabric interiors.
Two tone is an option of the outside where there are a variety of finishes, including. You’ll have to decide for yourself, but the gunmetal Flux Silver satin finish combined with a killer gloss black glasshouse is the winner for me, especially on the predictably huge 22ins option wheels. Details abound on the exterior, again all likely to be copied by others; the pop-out flush door handles only add to the Velar’s stealthy sophistication; the burnished copper trim elements are bling for sure but absolutely not gauche; and while the standard LED (and optional laser) headlamps are not a first, the extent to which their comparatively narrow openings have been exploited to enhance the design of the car is.
Engines? The extended Jaguar Land Rover fare, from four-cylinder diesels to supercharged six cylinder petrol are all available, as is air suspension. Remarkably, the Velar goes on sale in July this year and the configurator is online now. That kind of speed is certainly a departure from the TT nearly two decades ago. We first saw that as a concept car and had to wait for Audi to go ahead and build it. The Velar only looks like a concept car, but you can go ahead and order one tomorrow. I suspect an awful lot of people will do just that.