4th March, 2017
By ASWAN YAP
Land Rover is a brand that has slowly, but surely, managed to evolve and grow to suit the changing of the times. While they may be rooted firmly in the world of hardcore off-roading, they have also realized that it is the luxury end of their product spectrum that has become infinitely more popular. Hence the discontinuation of the world-renowned Defender line, despite the Defender being the most rugged and capable vehicle they produce.
And perhaps, fittingly, they have introduced a new model to their Range Rover line which is called the Velar. As you would have seen in recent years, the Range Rover line-up has been diversified from a singular Range Rover that so many decades ago was the only premium SUV to a wider range.
The most significant of the new models was the world-beating, game-changing product that they call the Range Rover Evoque. With this new model, the brand was completely reinvented and diverged from their core off-road business and look to producing a vehicle purely with luxury and lifestyle in mind.
Despite this massive gamble, it turned out to be a huge success and it helped the brand regain relevance and position in a luxury car context. With the new Velar, the story continues.
The fact of the matter is that while the Range Rover was long regarded as the car of the elite, it was just a little too large to be practical most of the time. These days, people want a car that had the kind of styling and prestige of a Range Rover, but is better suited to the city and a little more chic and stylish than a full-bodied Range Rover – which is why the Evoque fits the bill perfectly. The fact that it came in both 2-door and 4-door bodystyles also helped vastly with the appeal of the car.
It’s difficult to believe that 7 years have passed since the introduction of the Evoque as it looks hardly out of place in the current market. And yet, Land Rover had decided that it’s time to introduce something new, something exciting. Enter the Velar, which size-wise sits between the Evoque and the Sport in the Range Rover line-up.
It bridges the gap between the two models, a blend of the chic stylishness of the Evoque and the outright ruggedness of the Sport, resulting in something truly unique. Its rival would undoubtedly be the Porsche Macan.
Proportionally, the Velar is long and wide and low, giving it a slight wagonesque form compared to the raised hatchback crossover form of the Evoque. The lines are smoother and sleeker than the Sport, which is again an indication that the Velar leans more towards the Evoque in design philosophy.
It definitely looks more at home in an urban environment than toughing it out in a Borneo swampland, and yet it doesn’t seem to be quite as soft as the Evoque.
On the inside, we see a true evolution of design as the Velar does not conform to Land Rover products of the past. The centrepiece of a dashboard is exceedingly minimalistic with a seamlessly integrated touchscreen and a matching capacitive touch control system for the climate control below.
In my view, it’s an extremely modern design and a nice change from the fast-aging standardized Land Rover interior designs that we have seen for some time. These design cues also serve to reinforce the notion that this is a vehicle that probably can take the rigours of off-roading by virtue of being a Range Rover, but isn’t one to compromise on luxuries and elegance either.
The engine line-up is drawn from the Jaguar Land Rover Group (which is owned by India’s Tata Motors), with a range of petrol and turbodiesel engines on offer. Land Rover intends to offer it in anything from a fairly basic turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, to a turbodiesel 3.0-litre V6.
There will naturally be high performance versions as you would expect, although the Velar that will be sold in Malaysia is likely to have a limited range of options to choose from. Thankfully Land Rover has not tried to employ the 9-speed ZF gearboxes here, instead opting for the tried and trusted 8-speed ZF automatic that I have much respect for.
Every year, we see more and more luxury SUV choices from various companies but Land Rover has always managed to stay ahead of that by not trying to directly compete with anyone. In a sense, the Range Rover line-up is unique because it isn’t burdened by convention or established consumer expectations, but instead it is driven by what Land Rover feels a luxury SUV should be.
The new Velar is no different and while it may have obvious rivals, it is still a Land Rover and that carries a lot of weight.