Reader Review: 2018 Range Rover Velar

Please welcome Martin, whose loaner-vehicle experience was somewhat more upscale than most, yet not quite up to the level set by his everyday ride. As you can see from the picture, this one’s been in the queue a while — JB

During my time with the 2018 Range Rover Velar, the SiriusXM subscription included with the car introduced me to a variety of contemporary pop music that I had “missed” since I basically stopped listening to terrestrial radio about a dozen years ago. I guess that my arrival into my thirties might have been accompanied by a vague bigotry against modern pop culture, which had become so brainless, coarse and artificial that I retreated to earlier books, movies and music, looking for the intellectual and emotional meat that the current culture could seemingly not produce. I am sad to say that my negative suspicions of the mainstream music industry were confirmed, and in fact my expectations were too high. Top 40 radio is truly the negation of art, a soulless industrial product defecated from a machine fired with cynicism and hypocrisy. I sailed to the safer harbors of earlier decades, jazz, and classical.

Similarly, I had a bias against the small crossover segment. Here it is, the industry giving you what you want, or at least an imitation of it: tall, stilted hatchbacks, offering no greater interior space and worse fuel economy than the vehicles on which they are based. In many cases, actual ground clearance is only the matter of an inch more than the equivalent normal car. But you are sold the frisson of a ruggedly independent lifestyle, in which mountains are crossed and streams forded.

If you want to drive an SUV, you should buy one, and not these poor simulacra, which are neither fish nor fowl. I wanted an SUV, so I bought a Range Rover, and when it was down with the British flu recently (located in some part of its electrical sensor package, obviously), the dealership gave me the keys to a 2018 Range Rover Velar, in P250 S trim. Here was my chance to test my biases against reality. Ain’t nothing like the real thing?


Based on the Jaguar F-Pace platform, the Velar is larger and has a less steeply raked profile than the Evoque. This increases headroom and general utility; it also more closely recalls the shape of full-size Range Rovers. The current corporate face Land Rover has developed works as well on this smaller car as it does on the new Discovery, conveying strength and elegance. I was surprised how low the roofline of this crossover is — from a distance, the shape appears to represent a larger car, and as you get closer, it seems to shrink a bit. The surface styling is restrained and attractive, perhaps even a touch classy. Avoid the Santorini Black color of this particular car, however, as this covers up some of the nicer details of the design.

The retracting door handle is a neat party trick that consistently delighted anyone I drove in this car. Moving inside, the styling and layout of the cabin continues to please, with a well-considered mix of hard and soft plastics, not terrible leatherette seats, and an attractive steering wheel. Here again, the car charms with a sense of specialness, as the gear selector knob rises from the center console, the infotainment touchscreen pivots out from the dash, and the power retracting cover slides across the roof, opening the interior to light from the large, panoramic sunroof.

So far, so good! From initial approach to ingress, the Velar makes a very positive introduction. The two-screen setup of the center stack, which I was prepared to hate (“Bah, humbug!”), turned out to be functional and simple to use. The wide screen at the top displays media, navigation and other features one expects of a modern car, while the lower screen integrates climate control, heated and cooled seat functions, window defrosters, drive mode selection, and various other operations. The two physical wheels at the bottom edge of this screen change function depending on what you want to do. In climate mode, they change the dual zone front temperature. When press-clicked, they change various heating or cooling features. In cars equipped with the optional massage feature (this car was not so optioned), a third click of the wheel reveals the massage functions. Predicted reliability of this technology suggests you will become acquainted with your Land Rover service adviser on a first name basis (Hi, Don!).

Now we get to a few things that are not so nice. The seats, while well bolstered and with good thigh support, nonetheless have no lumbar adjustment at this trim level, and during my 6 or so days with the car, I felt there was something just a tad off about the seating position. Also, the manual steering wheel adjustment didn’t extend the wheel far enough towards the driver, causing me to put the seat a bit closer than I would have liked. Maybe I just have short arms for a 6’1” man.

The back seats are comfortable and offer plenty of legroom for two adults, the center seat being only useful for smaller children and not for long journeys. The seats are 60-40 split, with a center armrest that folds down to offer two cupholders and two USB charging points. The hatch reveals a decently sized opening and a trunk with a useful amount of space, making a trip to Costco light work.
Starting up the car, the 247hp 4-cylinder turbocharged engine idles very roughly when cold, so much so that I initially wondered if this car was a diesel model, or if somehow I had engaged the seat massage function accidentally. After warming up, the rough idle seems to go away, but this is definitely not welcomed behavior.

But the engine has power, and the 269 lb-ft of torque gets the car hustling. Moving away from rest, the car is quite perky, perhaps even jumpy. It is clear the engineers were targeting a sporty feel with this model. Acceleration is brisk, and there is more engine noise than anticipated; perhaps there is artificial sound amplification piped into the cabin, although I am not sure. The eight-speed transmission was inoffensive, but not the smoothest I’ve used, with occasional hunting between gears for no apparent reason. The suspension and damping are firm, again in the service of “sportiness”. Over the rough, potholed streets in this Midwestern winter, there were times when unpleasant crashes were transmitted to the cabin. On the whole, however, I found the body control and stiffness to be acceptable, and driving the Velar was even fun at times. The engine has enough grunt to reduce any sensation of plodding heaviness.

Land Rover’s excellence in the 4WD space is legendary, however I was unable to test much of the Velar’s capabilities in this regard. I only switched the system out of Normal a single time, into the Grass/Gravel/Snow mode after a modest snowstorm (by Upper Midwest standards). It appeared to work very similarly to the same setting in my traditionally-sized Range Rover, allowing a bit more wheel slip and routing power to other corners. With optional air springs, perhaps the little Velar would be able to follow its big brother into parts unknown?

Outward visibility is only average. The Velar, having a mostly upright profile, provides a moderate view out rear window, although the front A-pillars are angled more than I prefer, and this does impede diagonal vision a bit at intersections. Compared to my wife’s Infiniti QX60 and its atrocious visibility, the Velar was a major improvement, if not anywhere as good in this respect as a real Range Rover. In the end, my bias against small crossovers was reduced somewhat by my time with the Velar. Clever luxury touches, a decent driving experience and the attractive overall design will bring enjoyment to the owner. At just over $61,000, the sort of upper-middle income owner who will buy this should be mostly satisfied with his purchase. Personally, I still wouldn’t buy a car of this type, but now perhaps I will take a more tolerant view of people who do.

21 Replies to “Reader Review: 2018 Range Rover Velar”

  1. Shrug

    I had a similar, albeit much more proletarian, change of heart when I had a 2018 Explorer as a loaner. It was totally fine. I would never buy one personally, because it costs $40k and I could buy a very nice Mustang GT for that, but I completely understand why somebody would buy one now. It is just very good at what it sets out to do.

    Reply
  2. C

    I can’t get over its name. “Velar” means “having to do with the soft palate.” Is there no one at JLR with a background in linguistics or Healthcare?

    Reply
  3. Chandru

    The biggest sin of the Velar is that the name “Velar” means “having to do with the soft palate.”

    Reply
  4. dejal

    Why someone would buy a knock-off of a 2010 Saturn VUE is beyond me. Worse yet, the Saturn looked better.
    But, hey you were impressed.

    So Martin, what kind of manly things do you do with your SUV?
    Of course, you’ll say that you take it down logging trails. You won’t be believed, but you’ll say it.

    You know what a small SUV with AWD and Blizzaks is good for. In the winter, about 30 feet of extra traction stepping on the gas when the light turns green in crummy weather. Worth it’s weight in gold. Also, the ability to stuff 12 leaf bags in the back and bring them to dump 4-5 times a year. Also, to load up 3-400 pounds of crap and drive to a private refuse facility 2-3 times a year.

    I’ve never heard anyone ever say that their small SUVs are capable like a Jeep. Only clowns who don’t own small SUVs think that.

    Reply
    • Compaq Deskpro

      I’m not sure what you’re mad about, are you pissed that he owns a large SUV as opposed to a small one, which one is the knockoff of the Saturn, the big Range or Velar? You tell him he’ll never use the capability, then you cite how much you use the capabilities. Too much sarcasm and sneer, you lost the original meaning.

      Reply
    • cwallace

      The wheels that look like they were borrowed from a ’99 Trooper are probably what’s throwing you off.

      Reply
  5. stingray65

    So much of automotive marketing is about sending a message cheaply. Sporty cars such as Mustangs and Camaros with their sleek styling and available big V-8 power convey a sporty image to their owners, most of whom never drive sporty and order the cars with the cheaper weaker V-6 or I-4 engines and base soft suspensions because they are physically and financially easier to live with on the daily slog to the office. SUVs convey offroad agility, ruggedness, and sense of adventure, but 99% get driven on nothing more rugged than a gravel road or few inches of snow, thus it certainly makes sense to offer cheaper-to-build quasi-SUV vehicles that lack real off-road ability, but use styling cues and branding to convey the desired image sought by soccer moms and urban hipsters. But offering such cheaper ‘impostors’ is almost always met with criticism by brand true believers, who look down on the ‘image’ and ‘price’ buyers that the ‘specialist’ brand is hoping to reach and grow with. The interesting thing about these criticisms, however, is that they are often faulty. With the climate control set to a comfortable temp and the 18 speaker sound system playing high fidelity tunes, a 2018 eco-boost 4 Mustang is way faster than the hot and noisy 1966 Shelby GT-350. Similarly, BMW’s are often criticized as soft these days, as fanboys laments the lost purity of the 2002, e30, and e39 of days gone by, but the fact is a base 2018 320i or 528i would wipe the floor with the base versions or at least keep up the M versions those cars on the track, while delivering 50 or 100% better fuel economy at an inflation adjusted price that is a small fraction of the “classics” that sold in far less volume. Same with the “soft” versions of the recent Jeeps and Land Rovers, as they would kill an original CJ or Land Rover in off-road setting and yet are 1,000% more comfortable for school run duties, which is why the original versions sold in such small volume. Vehicles such as the Velar prove we are living in the best vehicular times of human history – even if it does have a stupid name.

    Reply
  6. rambo furum

    The winter snow references reveal this to be one of the lost submissions. Once past the overly twee opening that tried a little too hard and hurt readability, this was a surprisingly capable review. I am not damning with faint praise to say it is better by far than the average TTAC review.

    Reply
    • Harry

      +1

      It must be very challenging to try to convey the mindset concisely when readers don’t have any background on the author. The first three paragraphs are like a slow expositions heavy opening to an entertaining movie that picks up steam in the second act. I don’t know if the rest would have made as much sense without something like it.

      Reply
  7. jc

    So, I see that it’s currently fashionable to sneer at “CUVs” or “crossovers” or whatever the current name is, for vehicles like the Subaru Outback for example (I own one of these, so a lot of my comments will be somewhat Outback-specific, but I think they will apply to many other products as well).

    Let me see if I can explain why I like these vehicles, even though I never drive off-road, nor am I looking for some kind of “super outdoorsman” image.

    1) I live in New England. It snows here in winter. A lot. Four wheel drive helps. A lot. No, it won’t cure stupid, but it helps. You don’t have to go off road to experience this.

    (Yes, yes, I know there are subtle theoretical differences between “4WD” and “AWD” but trust me, on the pavement, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference…)

    2) I routinely need to carry: a double bass, a bass amp, a bass saxophone, two or three smaller instruments, and between one (myself) and three other people. Vehicles that can do this: full size pickup with a topper (I guess it would have to be a crew-cab if I add the desire to carry more than 1-2 passengers); full size van; minivan with rear seats down (Chrysler – with all that fantabulous Chrysler reliability!) or removed (the rest – pain in the hiney plus where am I supposed to store the seats when they are out?); smallish SUV; station wagon. Only the station wagon can offer the same combination of reliability, fuel economy, four wheel drive, and ease of manipulation in city traffic as the Outback. And there are only a few true station wagons on sale these days. Really, all the Outback is, is a station wagon raised up a bit. And I’m fine with that. Really, the Forester (to stay within the Subaru line, but other manufacturers’ products are similar) is just a station wagon raised up a bit, and with a bit taller roof; and I’m fine with that, too.

    3) I also frequently need to carry things like a lawnmower, or an 8 foot ladder, or a bunch of 2 x 4s. See item (2) above.

    4) I am not made of money, so keeping single-purpose vehicles for uses that come up only intermittently (for example, the full sized crew cab pickup with a topper) is not something I’m interested in. My daily driver needs to be able to do these intermittent things too. Go back up to item (2).

    5) Reliability! If you look at the “real” SUVs that “enthusiasts” so love, most of them are also beloved by repair shops (Jeep, Land Rover, for example). For the same money or less one can buy one of the derided “CUVs” that is well known to be highly reliable.

    Reply
  8. CJinSD

    Driving a CUV is about having a car that does everything you need it to without pretensions or surplus capability you will never use. Driving a Range Rover is about making a statement without any consideration for economic factors like utility, value, or…did I already mention utility? Range Rovers are supposed to be capable of things their owners would never dream of doing while being incapable of starting in the morning or completing a trip without headaches. Buying a Rover CUV would be like marrying a woman you know isn’t going to sleep with you and you also know is going to try to fill the hole in her soul with your credit card.

    Reply
    • Martin

      When it comes to British automobiles, the intangibles count considerably. Drive a Range Rover (or a modern Jaguar) for a week and see if you don’t have a different perspective. On the surface it makes no sense, but…

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        I’ve driven a few of both this year; a Range Rover as recently as yesterday. I sugarcoated my comments above to be respectful. The Range Rover’s odometer wasn’t working, which meant most of its trip computer functions weren’t in service. It was displaying miles to empty though. That didn’t make much sense. As for Jaguars, I’m over 6’2″ and close to 245 lbs. When I get out of a Jaguar’s driver seat and into any mainstream sedan’s, that Camcordion seems to be the most luxurious place in the world.

        I could write a diatribe about these cars and owners of these cars that I’ve encountered, including the drivers of two new Range Rovers that hit me with their rear view mirrors on the same stretch of rode while I was cycling in a bicycle lane over the span of less than a year. I could also write about the wretched taste they cater to, including a story about a pro-wrestler I know whose boyfriend bought her an Autobiography with an interior that no madam would countenance in her bordello. I could tell you about how the Range Rover dealer behind the Audi dealer that supplied my company cars for a few years dismantled their demo course when the Evoque arrived. I doubt anything they sell today could have traversed that mole hill. All I can really say is that I wish my contempt for Tata’s North American product line was based on ignorance.

        Reply
  9. Carmine

    Land Rover seems to have gotten Porsche Disease, where you have to make everything look like your “signature” product, for Porsche its “make everything look like a 911”, for Land Rover its “make everything look like a Range Rover”

    Though that in itself is confusing, is this a Land Rover Range Rover Velar? Range Rover Velar? Is the “big” Range Rover and Land Rover Range Rover Range Rover? Or the Land Rover Range Rover Sport?

    Yet people still seem to have a hard time telling the difference between ATS and CTS……oh well……..

    I just don’t get the myth about this brand, awful reliability and awful depreciation and spare me the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom Marlin Perkins fantasies of bouncing around the Serengeti in your own personal “anti-Christ” taking photos of wild cape horn buffalo with your giant telephoto lens.

    Buying one of these heaps thats always in the shop only tells me one thing, that you were too much of a snob to buy what you should have bought in the first place…….

    An effing Yukon Denali.

    Reply
    • Martin

      Can someone buy a Corvette, if they’ll never see 7/10ths of its performance? Maybe they just like the car, how they look in it and how they feel driving it? Or do we have to measure our lives in coffee spoons?

      Reply
    • hank chinaski

      The disease has spread, and the vector is the bland pedestrian friendly nose. Grill emblems have correspondingly grown to absurd fast-food sign size with lighting to match.

      British intangibles probably disappeared with the XJ Vanden Plas.

      Americans (well American women anyway) will go through any length to not drive a hatchback or station wagon, ‘peak practical’ for 75% of jobs (a pickup fills that last 25). AWD and proper snow tires (I’ve almost never seen the latter on any CUV/SUV) are great for light or packed snow but that extra 3″ of clearance won’t keep you from getting high centered.

      Reply
  10. tyates

    Maybe someone can post the exact number of tasks you have to perform until it becomes okay that you bought a particular crossover, SUV, truck, etc. It could be like a modern day version of Hercules labors in which you start off guilty of madness, but at the end you are redeemed and honored.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.