There’s nothing quite like a Range Rover.
Just hearing the name stirs up images of being whisked through a VIP entrance at Buckingham Palace for some exclusive Royal gala while curious dignitaries stare, whispering, as you’re ushered through the crowd.
OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, especially considering that it’d probably take an official invite from Queen Elizabeth herself to get that kind of treatment. The point is, there’s something very aspirational about a Range Rover—the sense of grandeur you get when simply sitting in the SUV—that’s unique to the brand.
Of course, most of us in the States would probably attribute the Range Rover’s appeal to all the celebrity fanfare tied to the nameplate. But those more familiar with the SUV’s British heritage as a sub-brand of Land Rover know that the attraction goes much deeper than all the A-listers and reality TV stars associated with the SUV.
That’s not to negate the celebrity appeal of the Range Rover, it’s just an acknowledgement that there’s so much more to the 47-year-old nameplate.
After all, as the acclaimed screenwriter Ben Hecht once put it, “much more frequent in Hollywood than the emergence of Cinderella is her sudden vanishing.” Or, to put it more bluntly, if the Range Rover’s allure was strictly grounded in its LA fame, the SUV would’ve likely lost its luster years ago.
That said, you’ve typically needed to be an actor or some successful business exec to be able to afford one of the SUVs.
Sure, our friends at Land Rover are likely to say that the Range Rover Evoque, which starts at under $42,000, has served as a viable segue into the brand since its introduction in 2011. And while it might be a suitable option for some, the compact SUV, which we’re more inclined to classify as a crossover, doesn’t come close to satisfying that desire to own a Range Rover Sport or the more coveted model, touted as the “Ultimate” Range Rover.
The 2018 Range Rover Velar, on the other hand, not only delivers on the dream of being able to own a true, authentic SUV badged with the British nameplate (without having to mortgage the house), but it pulls it off in breathtaking form. Starting at right under $50,000, the new Velar is actually an even bolder take on the idea of a Range Rover, draped in perfect design proportions accentuated with cues like flush deployable door handles and burnished copper detailing, all of which leaves you more mesmerized the longer you stare at the vehicle.
Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer, says the Velar is the epitome of Range Rover’s evolution as a brand. “This car is the personification of what we’ve been trying to do over the last few years—that is, to make the brand more desirable without losing its essence,” McGovern told Playboy,during an exclusive interview at the Velar’s U.S. unveiling in April at the New York Auto Show.
“Killer looks.” “Compelling.” “A sexy beast.”
Those are just a few of the descriptions the Land Rover design chief rattles off when describing the Velar.
There’s also a cool element of nostalgic stealth appeal in the new SUV, in that “Velar” was the undercover code name used for the first pre-production Range Rovers, developed during the late 1960s.
Oh, and those deployable door handles, which enhance the Velar’s seamless, muscular profile? Well, they were engineered to be able to push through four millimeters of ice to ensure access in even the most frigid temperatures, one of the many functional elements of the Velar’s striking design.
Chances are, those raving accolades probably don’t sit too well if you’re someone who just paid $90,000 or more for an “Ultimate” Range Rover. Though, if you do happen to fall into that group, you can take comfort in knowing that the Velar isn’t intended for someone who needs or craves the interior space of a full-size luxury SUV.
Size-wise, the Velar is roughly an inch shorter than the Range Rover Sport, but it’s more than 17 inches longer than the Evoque and more than two inches wider than the luxury compact model.
Even when it comes to off-road capabilities, the Velar is aimed at a much different buyer than those typically drawn to the bigger Range Rover, which is equipped for more rugged terrain. That’s not to say that the Velar isn’t off-road capable, because it is, which we had a chance to experience first-hand during an excursion on some of the rocky trails in Big Bear, California. In fact, when the Velar is equipped with air suspension and its off-road height is selected, it edges the “Ultimate” Range Rover in ground clearance by more than an inch. The Velar also features a high-tech system called All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) that functions like a low-speed cruise control system to help keep the SUV composed in off-road situations by managing the vehicle’s speed.
It’s really the Velar’s performance on road that impresses the most, however, especially when powering the 380-horsepower super-charged 3.0-liter V6 model on some of the twisty back roads mapped out for our test drive. The SUV is also offered with a 180-horsepower turbo-charged diesel engine and a 247-horsepower turbo-charged gas engine. Other performance features include all-wheel-drive, a high-tech autonomous driver assistance system and a low traction launch feature, which helps the driver when pulling away from a standstill on slippery surfaces.
Inside, the Velar dazzles you with a more futuristic approach to luxury, a mix of classic Range Rover styling cues fused with contemporary elements. The brilliant execution of that idea really shines through in how the new dual 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system (Touch Pro Duo) has been seamlessly crafted into the interior design.
Then there are the subtle details that really accentuate the Velar’s cabin, like satin chrome bezels and a new embossed cut diamond design, which gives the new Range Rover the kind of ambience you’d typically expect in a luxury brand’s flagship vehicle more so than a mid-size SUV. And yet, after having a chance to mull over nearly every element of the Velar, it’s still the vehicle’s exterior styling that leaves you awestruck about the new Range Rover, which McGovern says is what really makes the Velar so special.
“At the end of the day, when things become more comparable between brands in terms of technologies, quality, all of those things that are sort of givens, what you’re left with is the essence of what the brand represents. And it’s the design that’s the key differentiator,” says the Land Rover design chief.
That being the case, you could say the Range Rover Velar has already established itself as a star, given that there’s absolutely nothing in the segment that comes even close to its gawking great looks.