Velaris, in Latin, means ‘cover’ or ‘veil’. So the name Velar, derived from this Latin word, was apt as a code name for Land Rover’s Sixties pre-production prototypes, which would eventually become the Range Rover. Although spy photographers brandishing DSLRs and super telephoto lenses were not as rampant then, the engineers sought to conceal the true identity of the 26 pre-production Range Rovers as much as they could. The linguist in the team who came up with this name would surely have earned quite a few brownie points, especially since it could be spelt using letters from the Land Rover parts bin!

The overall lines are smooth, elegant, and restrained, while at the same time retaining a level of visual dynamism that signifies performance more than any other Land Rover vehicle.

It’s interesting then that nearly five decades down the line, that same name has been resurrected for a new model that, funnily enough, ‘uncovers’ the future design direction for the Range Rover line-up that is firmly based on the idea of reductionism. That is a lot of weight for a relatively small vehicle to carry — a historically significant name, and a mandate to set future direction. While unlike its celebrated namesake, it does not bring anything ground-breaking to the segment, it does bring a thoroughly modern and minimalist styling language to the Range Rover family. The overall lines are smooth, elegant, and restrained, while at the same time retaining a level of visual dynamism that signifies performance more than any other Land Rover vehicle. In fact, a walk around the Velar will tell you more about reductionism than a dictionary would. It looks like the designers took everything good about the Range Rover Sport and packed all of it into a vacuum sealed bag and tied it even tighter with a flowing, continuous waistline that starts from the front and tapers towards the rounded rear. From the foiled stamped grille and matrix headlights to the door handles and the integrated rear spoiler, every bit of the exterior is flush and taut.

 

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Photos: Anas Thacharpadikkal

The minimalist elegance carries over to the Velar’s cabin, which is a veritable feast of touch sensitive glass and premium Windsor leather. The seating position is remarkably elevated considering the vehicle’s overall proportions. Even more so than the Jaguar F-Pace’s although they share the platform and much more. The overall layout is distinctively Range Rover, but strikingly more uncluttered. The centre console is a flowing sheet of glass that covers two large touchscreens. While almost all the controls have been incorporated into this interface, it also means there is considerably more finger marks and smudges to be cleaned every now and then. Apart from the central screens, there is a separate infographic screen in front of the driver, as well as a head-up display on the windscreen. Compared to the usual Jaguar Land Rover user interfaces, the Velar’s displays and controls are slicker and feel more sophisticated. The touchscreen responses are also smooth and without any lag whatsoever.

 

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Photos: Anas Thacharpadikkal

Seats are well padded, and plushly upholstered. In our top-spec First Edition tester, the seats are 20–way adjustable for the driver and the passenger with memory, massage and climate control functions.  Rear passengers also get heated seats. However, leg room is at a premium at the back, especially if the passengers are above average in height. But you can distract them from this slight discomfort by turning on the superb Meridian Signature sound system that puts out 1300 Watts through 22 speakers and a dual channel subwoofer, or by playing with the configurable ambient lighting that comes in a choice of ten colours.

Power comes from a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that churns out 375bhp and 450Nm of torque in the First Edition R-Dynamic trim. Power delivery is smooth and linear, with the eight-speed transmission’s closely spaced ratios keeping you in the sweet spot in most conditions. Handling dynamics are impressive but do not expect Porsche Macan levels of involvement and feedback from the steering or chassis. But these observations could change dramatically once an SVR variant is out. Ride quality is thankfully closer to the Range Rover Sport’s than to the Evoque’s, with the electronically controlled dampers finding the optimal suspension settings according to the terrain and the driving style. Electronic Air Suspension, which is standard in our tester, and optional in lower models, helps change the vehicle‘s height quickly, and allows cross-linking of the diagonal wheels to keep all four wheels planted on uneven surfaces. It also helps reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption at speeds above 105kph by lowering the vehicle by up to 10mm from the normal ride-height.

Compared to the usual Jaguar Land Rover user interfaces, the Velar’s displays and controls are slicker and feel more sophisticated.

And it is equipped with the usual Land Rover tricks such as Terrain Response system, which includes settings for Comfort, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, Sand, Eco and Dynamic modes, Wade Sensing that uses ultrasonic sensors in the wing mirrors to visually and audibly alert the driver if water approaches the vehicle‘s wading depth of 650mm, and Active Locking Rear Differential, among others.

Prices start at Dh211,050, including VAT, which seems highly reasonable for a thoroughly modern and capable Range Rover. However, this climbs sharply to a prohibitively high Dh435,015 if you want the First Edition tested here, nudging it uncomfortably close to the Range Rover Sport’s retail price. I wouldn’t recommend the Velar at this price, but it is an absolutely brilliant deal up to the Dh269,325 R-Dynamic SE, or if you’re willing to stretch it even further, the Dh298,305 R-Dynamic HSE. If you think you are financially ready to see and experience what’s on the more glamorous side of the social curtain, the Velar is a fashionable drawstring to uncover that veil. Never mind the name!