Test Drive: Range Rover Velar carves out a new niche

Once in a great while, Land Rover brings a new Range Rover model into the world. The latest addition to this legendary line is the 2018 Velar, a sport-utility vehicle slotted between the compact Evoque and the midsize Range Rover Sport.

As is customary with Land Rover, the Velar came to life with a full range of mechanical, interior and pricing alternatives — demonstrating the automaker’s commitment to the new model. The Velar can be equipped with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, a supercharged V-6 or a diesel. We test-drove the P380S, powered by a the 380-horsepower V-6.

While the Evoque has been a successful model for Land Rover, the Velar — which bears a closer resemblance to the sleek Evoque than to the upright Range Rover Sport — is a somewhat daring departure for the British automaker. The Velar essentially carves out a new niche that doesn’t even have a name yet. So far, however, so good. “The Velar sold 1,694 units in December, making it the most popular vehicle among Jaguar and Land Rover buyers for the last three consecutive months since its launch in late August,” the company reported in a Feb. 8 news release.

The base model starts at $49,000, but Land Rover charges extra for some features that are standard on many lesser vehicles. The price of our P380S test car rose from $64,200 to $68,615, in part because of options such as satellite radio and heated front seats. To enjoy the full range of performance and electronic options Range Rover offers, the Velar of choice is the First Edition: $89,300.

We found the Velar thoroughly enjoyable to drive — no doubt a manifestation of the Jaguar F-Pace platform underpinning the new Range Rover. It corners crisply, and rides firmly but comfortably, exhibiting none of the workmanlike, unexciting characteristics of most compact-to-midsize SUVs. The interior materials are of high quality. While we initially found the touch-panel climate, audio and navigation controls daunting, they proved to be quite easy to operate.

The seats are comfortable, but lumbar support — not included in our Velar — is a must for drivers who intend to go long distances. Head room is ample throughout, and front leg room is sufficient for tall drivers — but knee room is tight in back.

One of the car’s more interesting innovations was its array of driving modes: dynamic, eco, comfort, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand. The lower screen shows the mode the driver has chosen; the upper screen displays a description of the purpose of the mode selected. Still, we’d be hesitant to drive this Range Rover in rugged terrain because of its low front fascia.

Despite its high power and 2-ton overall weight, our test car delivered fuel economy as high as 24.7 mpg in mixed driving. The car is rated at 18 mpg city, 24 highway. The turbo Four is rated at 21/27.

2018 Range Rover Velar P380S

Price: $68,615

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 380 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic with shift paddles

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,407 lb.

Suspension: control-arm front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19-in. alloy

Tires: 255/55R19 all-season

Ground clearance: 9.8 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 33.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 70.1 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 5,512 lb.

Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

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