In person, Land Rover chief design officer Gerry McGovern represents a slight cognitive dissonance. Impeccably dressed down to the pocket square and capped off by thick, curly black hair, he could be the head of an Italian design house. But when he opens his mouth, out comes pure British Midlands accent.
Likewise, the new Range Rover Velar that McGovern revealed here represents both the best of British and a focus on sleek urbanity. Slotting in between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, Range Rover's newest model is lower and slipperier than either – the co-efficient of drag is Prius-like. And like Jaguar's F-Pace, it should be a hit.
As to pricing, the Velar will neatly split the Evoque and Range Rover Sport at $62,000 when it arrives in Canada in the summer. That's right at the price point for a Porsche Macan S, Range Rover's unstated but obvious target.
Resembling the full-size Range Rover in the current lineup, the Velar is slightly larger than the Macan. Design details such as flush door handles, thin LED accenting and burnished copper accents provide a level of subtlety you don't get from the German brands. The Velar takes its name from the original Range Rover prototypes of the late 1960s, which were named for the Latin form of "Veil."
Under the skin, the Velar comes with two main power plants: a 380-horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V-6, and a 180-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo diesel. Both put power down via the expected eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard.
While it's unlikely that a Range Rover owner will ever use their vehicle off road, it's nice to have a little capability in reserve. A full suite of all-terrain technologies is also included, with the V-6 models equipped with standard air suspension. This last provides ground clearance of up to 251 millimetres, and a wading depth of 650 mm. Add in selectable terrain management and an active locking rear differential, and no puddle should present a challenge.
The Velar builds on established Range Rover design cues, then moves the game forward on the interior.
Despite being only slightly larger than the Evoque, the Velar is easily large enough to carry four adults in comfort. It also has a little more luggage room than the Macan.
Gambling the Velar will attract new clientele, Range Rover has moved toward doing away with switchgear almost entirely. Nearly every control function will be handled by the new twin-screen touchscreen system. These two 10-inch displays reduce clutter and look clean and bright on the prototypes. As Acura has learned, moving all functions to touchscreens can turn off traditional buyers. However, Range Rover may be able to get away with moving beyond the traditional.
Along with the Velar's technology, they're also making a new premium textile available. If classic British luxury involves wood and leather, Range Rover is again thinking about a new type of clientele. Kvadrat, a Danish textile company that provides fabric to the luxury furniture market, is partnered with Range Rover for a new option for the Velar's interior. Dapple grey fabric allows owners who are looking for an animal-free option to still have a premium feel that's a notch above regular cloth or vinyl. Likely, it'll represent only a small percentage of Velar sales, but the offering shows how Range Rover is attempting to expand its appeal.
Expanded appeal also means a focus on driver aids. The Velar will launch with autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, and can read speed limit signs. It also comes with a full colour heads-up display that shows navigation instructions and driver warnings.
With retail pricing extending to $95,000, the range breaks down into the usual Standard, S, SE or HSE trims, with options such as wheel sizes increasing as you go. The smallest wheels are 18-inch alloys, though the prototypes were all shown with the largest 22-inch wheels. At launch, a special Velar First Edition sits above the HSE model and comes with extended leather interior, two-tone seats, a 1600-watt stereo and 22-inch split-spoke wheels. You can also have your Velar painted at the Oxford Road Special Vehicle Operations Center in satin-finish silver paint.
Looking to the future, Range Rover has to expand beyond merely being a high-luxury version of the rugged Land Rover brand. With the Velar, they're building a machine that's unapologetically more downtown than cottage country. As we wait for the replacement for the Defender to add a little rugged off-road cred to Land Rover's lineup, the Velar represents the way forward. It's not traditional, but success seldom is.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
Sign up for our newly-designed weekly newsletter
Like us on Facebook