Daily Driven: 2018 Range Rover Velar D180
Ultra-Modern Luxury, For Better and Worse
Land Rover’s flagship Range Rover, once a single-model fullsize SUV with all the trimmings, has ballooned into a full lineup of luxurious utility vehicles. The expansion started in 2006, when Land Rover introduced the midsize Range Rover Sport, then continued with the subcompact (and outrageously stylish) Range Rover Evoque in 2012. With nothing in its model lineup to compete with the compact BMW X3, Porsche Macan, and Audi SQ5, Land Rover (and partner Jaguar) turned to the corporate, aluminum-intensive iQ platform for a new SUV.
Named Velar in homage to the development name of the first-generation Range Rover, the compact SUV was first revealed last year to much fanfare. Eschewing its larger siblings’ attractive-but-familiar styling, the Velar catapults the lineup’s design features into the next decade. First impressions of the SUV are very, very good: A windswept profile firmly conforms to the “look-fast-even-when-standing-still” cliché, and optional 22-inch wheels fill the fender arches perfectly for a hunkered stance. Our tester’s Byron Blue paint was a nice departure from the silvers and greys that permeate the luxury landscape, and it was paired with the R-Dynamic Black Package (Narvik Black hood badge, grille mesh, bumper inserts, fender blades, and more).
Inside, the aesthetics are even better. Thanks to Light Oyster leather seats with Union Jack–inspired perforations, Jaguar Land Rover’s signature rotary shift selector, and a modern dashboard design, our Velar tester looked sophisticated and classy. The company’s all-new InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system was the literal centerpiece to the interior, with two 10-inch high-definition touchscreens replacing almost every secondary function. A fully digital, reconfigurable 12.3-inch instrument panel offers a few different layouts, including a slick map-only view that makes navigation very easy. We’ll get back to the infotainment a bit later.
One pleasant surprise the Velar offers is an available 2.0L turbodiesel I-4 engine that makes 180 hp and 317 stout lb-ft of torque. Land Rover quotes a 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s much faster. There’s a wealth of twist available from just off idle, surprising us with a little neck-snapping thrust about midway through the intersection. Turbo lag is nearly nonexistent, passing is simple, and maintaining 80 mph on the freeway is a total non-issue. It managed a healthy 25.11 mpg overall during its 400 heavy-throttle, traffic-clogged miles with us, slightly off from its 26-mpg EPA city estimate and its 28-mpg combined figure. Still, its efficiency was better than many compact or midsize luxury SUVs we’ve driven.
We must admit a few complaints with the powertrain: there’s a bit of a rumbly grumble at idle unbecoming of a luxury product, exacerbated by the shaking the engine sends through the vehicle during automatic engine idle stop and restart. And the eight-speed automatic gearbox is surprisingly harsh on light-throttle 1-2 upshifts, regardless of driving mode.
Speaking of, our Velar came equipped with standard Terrain Response, a feature that allows the driver to select from Dynamic, Eco, and Comfort on-road modes as well as off-road modes for Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand. We must admit that in our Daily Driven tests, we don’t always review each vehicle’s most interesting features, which was unfortunately true in this case. Our prior experience with the Range Rover Velar promises strong off-road performance in all conditions, but we didn’t have the chance to test this particular vehicle on anything harsher than a dirt road.
On the one or two long freeway drives we took during our week with the Velar, we enjoyed its quiet cabin (credit acoustic front glass and extensive sound deadening), smooth ride, and adaptive cruise control, which comes as part of the Velar R-Dynamic’s HSE trim level. Even the cheaper R-Dynamic SE comes with automatic emergency braking and other driving safety aids, but we nonetheless appreciated the pedal-free operation of the HSE’s cruise control. Its forward collision monitoring was occasionally a nuisance, as it would ding incessantly when approaching slower traffic way down the road, even when in its least sensitive mode—ultimately, caution is better than negligence, so we’ll give the system a pass. But more easily annoyed owners might disable it altogether.
Our minor frustrations with the automated safety systems were nothing compared to the maze-like operation of InControl Touch Pro Duo, however. Although its sleek, screen-happy design is impressive at first blush, operating even simple features like climate control and radio tuning requires too much looking at the screen instead of the road, due to a lack of physical buttons or haptic feedback. Voice activation doesn’t extend to the navigation system, and disturbingly, the software doesn’t prevent the driver from typing entries while the vehicle is underway. We were surprised to see a keyboard pop up even when using our smartphone’s Spotify integration. That’s an unacceptable amount of potential distraction in our eyes.
Furthermore, InControl Touch Pro Duo’s aesthetic benefits are almost instantly ruined by on-screen fingerprints—a single day’s use renders the screens all but obscured by the smudges and swipes. And it wasn’t free of quality issues, as the lower screen refused to switch away from the settings screen midway through one morning commute, leaving us incapable of adjusting the climate controls or drive mode till we came to a complete stop and turned the vehicle off and on again. At least its graphics are crystal clear, and the navigation map offers responsive pinch-to-zoom and swipe functionality. But overall, this is a system in need of a major rework.
It’s lucky, then, that the rest of the Range Rover Velar is such an attractive package. Show-stopping exterior styling; high-quality leather, wood, and aluminum trim; a responsive and efficient diesel powertrain; and plenty of interior space wowed this driver and his passengers. And folks who can afford this machine’s $69,100 starting price will be thrilled with the fit and finish of the Range Rover’s interior and exterior bits (cheaper Velar models start at $49,900).
Honestly, if Range Rover updates that infotainment system to be more intuitive and less distracting, the whole package would be too good to be true.
Vehicle: 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE D180Base price: $49,900 (P250), $69,100 (R-Dynamic HSE D180)
Price as tested: $75,415
Engine: 2.0L I-4 turbodiesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Towing capacity: 5,291 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 26 city/30 highway/28 combined mpg
Actual calculated economy, 408-mile trip: 25.1 mpg
Cargo volume, seats up/down: 34.4/61.1 cubic feet