You know Jaguar’s first-ever SUV, the F-Pace, the one wheels awarded the Luxury Crossover of the Year honour last week?
You’d think Jaguar Land Rover, being the same company and all, would plant the F-Pace on top of an existing Land Rover platform and call it a day, but instead Coventry went all out with all-new architecture and powertrains, investing over $1.5 billion into its latest line-up.
Now it’s no coincidence that Land Rover’s latest crossover comes hot on the heels of Jaguar’s, because the new Velar is really the F-Pace, except not really.
On the one hand the Range Rover Velar, making its official debut this week in Geneva as we go to print, uses the F-Pace aluminium construction, F-Pace engine, F-Pace suspension and F-Pace-sized 22in wheels on an identical 2,874mm wheelbase. The Velar is the F-Pace then, yet distinct enough to warrant its place in the company’s portfolio without confusing the customer. Because the customer is very different too: If you want a high driving position and a good drive you buy the Jag, and if you want to go off-road you buy the Range Rover. So this badge-engineering job is not that convoluted: one’s a Jag and the other’s a Range Rover, simple.
If anything the Velar shows Jaguar’s platform investment was sound, demonstrating its versatility. Where the F-Pace rides corners, with the same oily bits the Velar boasts serious off-roading credentials.
Key stats include an approach angle of 28.89 degrees and departure angle of 29.5 degrees, and a maximum wading depth of 650mm with a normal ground clearance of up to 213mm. With optional four-corner air suspension fitted the Velar drops by 10mm when cruising at above 105kph and rises by 46mm in off-road mode for what Land Rover says is class-leading ground clearance at 251mm. If you buy it for its intended purposes, you’ll spec the Velar with the optional active locking rear differential, and also optional Terrain Response 2 system and All Terrain Progress Control.
Filling the gaping hole between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover Velar is a mid-sizer that will go on sale before the year is out from about Dh240,000, targeting rivals such as the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, BMW X3, and the, er, Jaguar F-Pace.
Even though it looks like a barn (a good-looking one), this is actually the most aerodynamic Land Rover product ever, with a drag coefficient of 0.32. That’s a stat it shares with the 1992 McLaren F1.
Engines include turbocharged fours and supercharged V6s and you get started with about 240 horsepower. Besides that the highlight is the company’s new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which dominates the minimalistic cabin (the designers call it reductionism), featuring two 10in touchscreens and eliminating traditional hard buttons, which is all the rage in the industry because for some reason the future calls for fingerprint stains everywhere.
The rest of the new Range Rover Velar is brimming with safety and off-roading kit and many, many acronyms, depending of course on which of the five available trims you go for, from the base Velar to the S, SE, HSE, and R-Dynamic models.
I’ve heard that name before…
If the new name sounds familiar, that’s because the oldest Range Rover in the world is a 1969 model called the Velar, which was a codename back then for prototypes of what would become the world’s first luxury SUV. Built by hand, the Velars were used for torture testing in deserts and on mountains during the late Sixties before somehow simply staying on the road — manufacturers normally crush prototypes but Range Rover let them run, even though the official production car came around in 1970. Only a couple dozen Velars were ever made and merely a handful of very valuable survivors remain today.