It's taking me a while to really tell the story of my time with the Range Rover... Velar.
I'd like to enumerate reasons three, the first being its full name: Land Rover Range Rover Velar Base 2.0 Diesel. Land Rover is the parent and manufacturer, Range Rover is the brand, and Velar is the model, and Base 2.0 Diesel denotes the variant. It's almost a mouthful like the names of British royalty, so we'll just call it by its “regnal” equivalent: Velar Base.
One reason is because the Velar crossover is an in-betweener on Range Rover's new line-up. The top dog is still the “true” Range Rover which, unusually, is now a crossover. Step down one size smaller and you get the Range Rover Sport, while the entry level model is the Range Rover Evoque. The Velar sits in between of the Sport and the Evoque. Tier 2, technically.
The third is perhaps the most telling: I'm having trouble placing what I really think about it. Maybe towards the end, I can figure out where I stand on the Velar.
Design-wise, I think they really nailed it with the Velar. It evokes (no pun intended) the classic lines that made the original Range Rovers so very popular with the pronounced front end and the now-iconic Range Rover silhouette. It even has a shapely rear end, something rather unusual to say about an SUV.
There are also many subdued yet elegant details that lends it its premium nature like the clean foglamp-less face, the illusion of a floating roof thanks to the blacked out pillars, the taillights that streak forward all the way to the quarter panel, and even doorhandles that tuck into the body when you lock the doors. The wheels are perhaps the only thing I would change with what is technically a “base” variant; they just look too muted for a vehicle of this caliber.
Grab the doorhandles, step into the seat, and you'll be welcomed by what appears to be an exercise in British minimalism. The layout is straightforward, the look is clean with splashes of cream leather and black surfaces, and the placement of everything is logical. I like the steering wheel with the neatness of the buttons and the small plate that says RANGE ROVER in all caps; that's so you won't forget what you're driving. But really, it's the intuitiveness that I like most, as it makes it easy to get going after five minutes of just sitting in the Velar. The only thing that could stump many drivers is the dial on the center console: it's the shifter, and each notch when you twist calls up up either P, R, N, D or S.
Perhaps the most unusual bit about the Velar is the presence of dual screens, something that Land Rover (and Jaguar) refers to as the Touch Pro Duo system. The one in the center of the dash is clearly for your infotainment system, and I like how it tucks flush with the dash when you power down and vice versa, and can be adjusted in angle to your liking.
The other screen is set lower into the dash and it's where a majority of the vehicle's electronic functions would be displayed and controlled. Climate and the all-wheel drive features can be accessed here, and its all touch sensitive. It even has widgets and stuff. Now some people may like that it's a touch screen, but I'm not a big fan of it. While meant to condense all the functions into a two screens, the system can be very confusing. Screens don't have tactile buttons or switches that you can feel around for without taking your eyes off the road. But that's just my opinion.
The more I drive the Velar around town, the more I'm enjoying it though. If you want to pander to your vanity, you'll like passing by buildings with very reflective glass walls. But what we do like is the clear feeling that you're driving something spacious. The Velar is 4.8 meters long, 1.66 meters tall, but it's also 2 meters wide; a dimension that is clearly translated to cabin width. The dimensions also give it an edge over what is really its most direct rival: the Porsche Macan. Boot space is likewise good: its over 550 liters, at least per the official literature. The rear seats do fold down for extra cargo space for longer items and the like.
What we found odd was the rear seat space, or at least its configuration. The width gives plenty of shoulder room for three adults, but the middle passenger won't like the fact that the seat is rather elevated and won't be that comfortable on long drives.
The other factor is the positioning of the rails for the front occupants; they do eat into the footwells of the rear passengers on either side, so you'll have to sit with your shoes fairly close together, unless you want to rest them on the rails or the bumps covering the rails. But the most major factor is the rather low position of the rear seats (not theater-style seating) in conjunction with the tapered/slimmer rear windows and higher rear beltline. If you're the kind that gets claustrophobic in a moving vehicle, the rear seats will not be for you.
As a town drive, the Velar is really a neat commuter. A big reason for that is the engine: it's 2-liter four banger turbodiesel. Power comes in at 180 PS and torque is at a healthy 430 Newton meters; not bad. Handling that performance is an 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy is great too: in city traffic, don't be surprised if you're getting 9.2 kilometers to a liter (19 km/h average) on diesel. At provincial highway speeds (55 km/h average) the Velar's powertrain can yield 16.1 km/l; that can probably go up even higher if the average speed was at around 80 km/h on expressways.
The ride is as expected: comfortable. Toss in the comfort of the front seats and you've got a great vehicle to cruise in. The engine and gearbox combo is nice on paper and it does work well on our roads, but what we noticed was that the response of the powertrain could seem a bit too sharp in traffic. The Velar has this tendency to quickly lunge forward when your right foot touches the throttle, so it's something to be mindful of. What I found works best is to let the vehicle accelerate slightly while idling in D, and when it gets going a little bit, I'll start to feed in throttle.
The braking is nice; the Velar (despite being a base model) doesn't nose dive as much as I expected it to under hard braking. It stays fairly evenly planted, surprising given the settings of the suspension. Handling was good, but not exactly class leading. It won't run rings around a Macan or even its brother-from-another-mother, the Jaguar F-Pace; both of those crossovers feel significantly more confident in cornering.
I seriously thought about taking the Velar off-road, but I felt a bit apprehensive about it. The first thing that convinced me against it was the maximum wading depth: it's quoted at 600mm. It's a respectable number, but judging by the diagram, the water level would be close to the headlamps, and water could conceivably enter the cabin at that level. The air suspension variant which could be raised up higher would definitely fare better.
The second is the ground clearance. While the Velar is packed with advanced off-road electronics, I was a bit doubtful to take it to a nearby trail east of the capital simply because of how it sits on the road. The official number for ground clearance on Land Rover's site (159 mm) does contradict the number on the brochure (213mm), which is why I was a bit skeptical of it. At first glance, it looks to be fairly high off the ground, but the width and the overhangs make this an all-wheel drive Range Rover that will be well suited for the road, or maybe a relatively flat dirt road at best. Now there are many videos on YouTube showing the true capabilities of the Velar (particularly of the air suspension variant), but the Velar Base just doesn't seem as capable as it should be.
The Velar has met many of my expectations of a junior Range Rover, most notably the style, the features, the fuel economy, the build quality, and the on-road and in-traffic comfort. But there are some things that missed the mark, like the way the rear seats are configured. The second is the pricing: PhP 5,890,000 (SRP). It's right up there with the Macan, but that's a Porsche, and they command a bit more of a premium here. What's telling is that the Velar base is more expensive than the bigger BMW X5 we tested last year, and that was priced at PhP 5.65 million.
Perhaps the most critical is the badge and what it represents. I really wanted to like the base model Velar crossover, and I do like it on a daily drive, but the reality is if a driver of a vehicle with one of the most revered and legendary names in 4x4 doesn't get the absolute feeling of off-road confidence worthy of that badge, then there's something amiss.