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'A cloaked up Jaguar?' The Range Rover Velar is a different breed

2018-05-14 08:58

Ferdi De Vos - RoadTrip

'Is the Range Rover Velar just a veiled Jaguar F-Pace cloaked in Land Rover attire?' asks Ferdi de Vos as he uncovers the secret behind the popular SUV.

Mpumalanga - Other sources offer a much simpler explanation for its origin – indicating the name was an acronym for “Vee-Eight LAnd Rover”…

It seems this Rangie lives up to its name, as it essentially is a veiled Jaguar F-Pace – cloaked in Land Rover attire.

We appreciated the quietness of its spacious cabin and the serenity of its air suspended ride on the smooth blacktop.

Velar uncovered

Named (apparently) after the Spanish word for veiled, hidden or covered up, Ferdi de Vos took the latest Range Rover model on a trip to the Bridal Veil Falls in Mpumalanga to uncover its secrets…

Velar. A strange, unusual name for a vehicle. With an even more curious history within the 70-year heritage of Land Rover.

Review: Range Rover Velar D300 R-Dynamic HSE

It was first used by British Leyland nearly fifty years ago during the final stages of development of the vehicle that eventually was to become the iconic Range Rover.

Instead of plastic cladding, camouflage panels and tape, these development Range Rovers bore a minimal ‘disguise’ – simply being rebranded ‘Velar’ to throw the media off the scent of this new vehicle.

According to most sources the name was derived from the Italian verb **velare**, and the Spanish word **velar**, meaning to veil or cover up.

This identity was concocted by Alvis engineer Mike Dunn, apparently after he was requested to create a name using letters from Alvis and Rover, the two companies involved in the development of the Range Rover.

                                                                        Image: Ryan Abbott

However, other sources offer a much simpler explanation for its origin – indicating the name was an acronym for “Vee-Eight LAnd Rover” – since it was to be the first Rover product using a newly sourced Buick-developed V8 engine.

While there is no official confirmation that this is indeed the case (or at least none I could find), it looks more plausible than the Alvis-Rover explanation. Anyway, the moniker was worn by a total of seven engineering prototypes and 26 pre-production cars before Range Rover production started in 1970.

Now Velar is back, as fourth member of the Range Rover family to, according to Land Rover, fill the space between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport.

But, after a closer look at its specifications, it seems this Rangie lives up to its name, as it essentially is a veiled Jaguar F-Pace – cloaked in Land Rover attire. Or isn’t it?

Design revolution?

Land Rover maintains the Velar was born from reductionism, articulating technology-enabled design to provide the next logical step in broadening the Range Rover portfolio.

Sounds very impressive, but basically it means Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) reduced cost by using the already developed lightweight architecture of the F-Pace for a Land Rover product.

Slightly longer and taller than its Jaguar sibling, it shares the F-Pace’s 2 874mm wheelbase and its large wheels and tyres.

                                                                             Image: Ryan Abbott

While it may not differ much under the skin, the rest of its attractive design is unmistakably Range Rover – the floating roof, clamshell bonnet and long rear overhang emphasized by a deeper front bumper, enlarged apertures and Black Pack detailing, including Narvik Black contrast finishes, on our striking red R-Dynamic model.

However, while touted as radical in its interpretation of the brand’s DNA, the Velar still bears too much semblance to its siblings = making it difficult to distinguish on the road from the Sport especially.

Still, its design brims with advanced technology, such as the most slender full-LED headlights ever on a production Land Rover, and the very noticeable flush deployable door handles with subtle LED illumination.

They quickly deploy when the doors are unlocked, and retract seamlessly into the doors when the car is locked, or at speeds above 8km/h.

                                                                       Image: Ryan Abbott

But the real difference is inside. The dash design gives new meaning to reductionism, with buttons and switches, knobs and dials being kept to an absolute minimum.

State-of-the-art technology has been integrated into centrepiece double 10-inch high-definition configurable touch screens via the world-first Touch Pro Duo infotainment system.

Plush Windsor leather upholstery for the seats, with 20-way adjustment and heating, cooling and massage functions in front, rear seats with heating and electric recline options and a four-zone climate control and cabin air ionisation system turned the interior into a calm sanctuary.

By now we were on the N12 highway, direction Mpumalanga, appreciating not the well-crafted high-gloss finishes and ambient LED interior lighting of the Velar, but also the quietness of its spacious cabin (with a class-leading 673-litre luggage space) and the serenity of its air suspended ride on the smooth blacktop.

To the falls…

Soon we were on the N4, and from Waterval-Boven – where it changes to a crowded single-lane road – overtaking was a breeze in our potent P380 derivative, powered by JLR’s proven all-aluminium 3.0-litre V6 with twin-vortex supercharger, delivering 280kW and 450Nm of torque.

Numerous stop-go’s for roadworks later we turned off on the R539 and on this sweeping, winding road the Velar showed its true potential. Its chassis dynamics were reminiscent of its F-Pace S relative, with the responsive eight-speed ZF auto transmission smoothly sending power to all four wheels.

                                                                           Image: Ryan Abbott

But, scything through the corners the Velar’s suspension setup felt less sporty than that of the Jaguar, underscored by more body roll in the corners and some engine lag out of the turns due to its bigger mass.

Still, it’s no slouch when hustled, and before long we were on the R37 headed for Sabie and the cluster of waterfalls surrounding the picturesque Mpumalanga town. Our first objective? The particularly pretty 164m high Bridal Veil Falls a mere 6km outside the small town.

On our way there we encountered some badly rutted dirt roads, ideal for testing the Auto Access Height function which, in off-road mode at speeds below 50km/h, increases the ride height by 46mm compared to Normal mode – for a class-leading ground clearance of 251mm.

However, even with Adaptive Dynamics operational (to optimise suspension stiffness in all driving conditions) the ride quality was hard and harsh over the broken terrain – all due to the perhaps good-looking, but impractical, outsized 20-inch wheels and tyres.

We reached the parking lot (not needing the Velar’s Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control systems) and from there walked to the falls less than a kilometre away.

Surrounded by green and verdant flora the fall does its name proud – as the fine spray from its thundering 70m drop forms a misty, thin veil over the cascading water mass.

Unfortunately, we could not get close enough to the fall for a good picture of the Velar, and thus decided to visit the Lone Creek Falls, another 4km further west on the Sabie River.

This spectacular fall presented the perfect setting for our photoshoot, but we also explored some other falls in the vicinity– the Sabie Falls, Mac-Mac Falls, Horse Shoe Falls, Forest Falls and Maria Shires Falls – just to make sure…

The veil lifted

Having completed our panoramic day trip, we overnighted at the delightful The Winkler Hotel close to White River. Centrally located on the Panorama Route it is ideally situated to visit local attractions such as the Cascades and Montrose Falls close to Nelspruit (Mbombela), and the Panorama, Lisbon (the highest falls in Mpumalanga with a drop of 94m) and Berlin Falls close to Graskop.

Other falls worth a visit are the Battery Creek Falls close to Kaapsehoop, and the Elands River Falls near Waterval-Boven, or Emgwenya.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning, we returned to Gauteng via Long Tom Pass on the R37 between Sabie and Lydenburg (Mashishing).

Named after the famous Long Tom cannon of the Second South African War, the route of the pass starts at 1 456m and climbs 682 vertical metres to its summit altitude of 2 150m, and its winding nature with numerous hairpin corners presented a final test for the Velar.

It handled it gracefully and with aplomb; its unique engine note barely noticeable under hard acceleration, and its comprehensive suite of advanced driver assistance systems discreetly intruding when appropriate…

The new Velar may share some F-Pace traits, but simultaneously it brings a new dimension of presence, modernity and minimalist design to the Range Rover family, and offers high levels of luxury, refinement and all-terrain capability.

It is an exemplary road trip companion (when fitted with the correct footware), but comes at a price: R1 356 900 in normal P380 R-Dynamic HSE trim.

Add all the extras fitted to our test model, including a panoramic sun roof, 1 600W Signature Sound System from Meridian, and rear seat HD touchscreens, to name a few, and it jumps to a heady R1 624 500.

 
Engine: 2 995cc, supercharged petrol-V8
Power: 280kW @ 6500 r/min 
Torque: 450Nm @ 4500 r/min
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Economy: 9.4l/100km (on 3 000km round trip)
CO2: 214g/km

Price: R1 356 900 (R1 624 500 as tested)


We like: Attractive exterior design and class-leading minimalistic interior design with state-of-the-art technology, combined with exemplary ride on-road makes the Velar a highly desirable road trip companion.

We don’t like: Less wieldy than F-Pace in the twists, deployable door handles can pose a security risk, harsh ride off-road due to impractical wide wheels and tyres (with 22-inch tyres don’t even think of leaving the tar…).

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