On the road during lockdown

Here's what motorists should know.

Meet Smokey Nagata

The man behind the legendary twin-turbo V12 Toyota Supra build.

DRIVEN: The Range Rover Velar is pure perfection

2017-11-26 00:00

Melinda Ferguson

Image: Supplied

Range Rover Velar

From R947 700

Western Cape - To honour my 18-years’ sober birthday this year, I decide I need to remind myself how far I’ve come from those desperate days when I was a homeless, drunken addict. While people often pair food and wine, my sobriety has necessitated creative ways to experience la vida loca. These days I pair cars with travel to get high on life.

When an invitation to review Gondwana Game Reserve, a luxurious safari getaway near Mossel Bay, pops into my inbox, I need to find the perfect wheels to accompany me on my journey. Roll in the new Range Rover Velar – in my opinion one of the most beautiful SUVs ever created.

Unveiled earlier this year in Geneva, the Velar has filled the gap between Land Rover’s insanely successful Evoque and the mighty big brothers of the range, the Range Rover Sport and RR.

It’s rare that a car is as gorgeous inside as out – the Velar takes aesthetics to a new level. Described by Land Rover’s genius chief designer, Gerry McGovern, as “the avant-garde Range Rover” that “changes everything”, the Velar simply oozes glamour, technological mastery and world-class performance.

I’m a tad confused by the name Velar, which in Latin means to “hide” or “veil”, but digging a bit deeper I discover Velar was the badging on the original 1969 Range Rover prototypes which development engineers needed to hide from the media and motoring competition. Thus the new Velar is an ode to the origin of Range Rover.

For the journey to Gondwana, about four hours from Cape Town along the breathtaking Garden Route, I get to test-drive the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel Velar, part of a six-strong range. The other five models are the “entry-level” 132kW diesel, a 177kW diesel, the 184kW petrol, 221kW V6 petrol and top-of-the-range powerhouse 280kW V6 petrol. The entire range, based on the Jaguar F-Pace platform, shares all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Getting into the Velar is a journey in itself. From opening the doors, replete with motorised handles, to the luxurious leather, suede cloth and experimental enviro-conscious fabrics, it’s a tactile symphony on the senses. The dash gives new meaning to minimalism and aesthetic mastery. It truly speaks of a buttonless future. Gone are knobs and dials; instead, state-of-the-art technology has been integrated into convenient twin 10-inch high-definition configurable touch screens, by way of the world-first Touch Pro Duo infotainment system.

On the rough gravel road leading to Gondwana, the Velar adapts to off-road conditions true to its Range Rover heritage with all-terrain progress control, hill-descent control and gradient release control.

The private reserve opens up on to a majestic 11 000 hectares of wild landscape with breathtaking views of the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains, dotted by a vivid palette of indigenous fynbos.

I’m fascinated to discover the name Gondwana refers to the ancient supercontinent that’s believed to have existed 180 million years ago before splitting into Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula.

We’re hosted in the luxurious Kwena double-storey villa with three huge bedrooms and en suite bathrooms fit for royalty and enough space for at least six people. With views of spectacular mountains and sunsets, the villa provides a tonic of seclusion and tranquillity from the rat race.

Meals are good wholesome fare, although I was expecting something a tad more cordon bleu. It’s clear by the number of foreign guests that the emphasis of Gondwana is on the authentic safari experiences that are offered in the early mornings and late afternoons, when all the Big Five are regularly spotted. Under the expert guidance of a game ranger, we are blessed to get up close and personal with a lone lazy lion who has clearly just filled his swagger with a kill.

Besides the game drives and instead of doing the activities on offer – mountain biking, hiking, surfing at the beach, or playing a few holes on the nearby world-class golf courses – we decide to do like our Velar and hide out for the next two days. Bliss.

  • Ferguson was hosted by Gondwana Private Reserve. Book at gondwanagr.co.za

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.