Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
At the top of the engine range sits the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 found only in the SVAutobiography, which we’re yet to drive. But if you prefer effortless performance with semi-sensible running costs, we’d recommend the 296bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel. It may not be as outright fast as the petrol, but it pulls harder from low revs and can still officially manage 0-60mph in a hot hatch-rivalling 6.7sec. For everyday use, it’s definitely the best fit for the Velar. A 271bhp version of the V6 is available, but we’re yet to sample it.
Joining the V6s are a pair of four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engines, with 178bhp or 237bhp. The latter is decently refined for a four-cylinder unit and has a reasonable amount of punch, although it can’t match the six-cylinder diesel on either front. The other problem is that it’s not much cheaper than the V6 diesels. A pair of 2.0-litre petrols are available, but our experience of the punchier P300 showed that it required plenty of revs before it really got going.
Suspension and ride comfort
We’d recommend considering the optional air suspension as it allows you to adapt the Velar’s ride to suit your mood or the terrain you’re facing. Left in Comfort mode, you get a cosseting high-speed ride that deals with crests and compressions in a gentle manner. It may be wafty, but there’s enough body control to stop it from feeling too wallowy. Switch to Dynamic mode and the suspension is stiffened to improve handling. The ride becomes much more jittery, picking up bumps that you wouldn’t even notice in Comfort mode, however.
As standard, you get non-adaptive steel suspension that proves softly sprung. It deals with undulating roads in a gentle manner, but pockmarked surfaces and sharp bumps cause the Velar to fidget somewhat if you’ve picked the flashy 21in or 22in wheels. If you must have big wheels, the air suspension is a must.
The Velar's biggest 22in wheel option looks great, but doesn’t do the ride any favours; go over a pothole or raised manhole cover and you feel a sharp jolt and a noisy thud from the suspension. Dropping to the 21in wheels improves things, though, bringing a more compliant ride around town. We hope that the 20in,19in or even 18in wheels, which come with the lower-spec models will improve the low-speed ride even further, although we’re yet to sample them.
Range Rovers have never been known for pin-sharp handling or delicate levels of driver feedback, and the Velar doesn't change that. But that’s not to say it handles badly; the steering is a little light and surprisingly quick off-centre, but is precise, so it’s easy to place the nose of the car where you want it.
With the air suspension fitted, body roll is pronounced in the softer Comfort mode but improves when switched to the firmer Dynamic setting. Whichever mode you choose, the Velar always feels heavy. Try to change direction quickly and there’s a distinct pause as the mass of the car catches up with your steering inputs and its nose turns in. Without the air suspension, the Velar always feels roly-poly through a series of corners.
Yes, it is possible to drive it quickly, thanks to plenty of grip, but that slightly ponderous nature means you don’t feel particularly inclined to do so. If you do want a sporty SUV with handling that will put a smile on your face, you’re better off with the Macan.
Turn off the blacktop and on to craggier surfaces and the Velar impresses, even on big wheels and road tyres. With the suspension raised and the optional locking rear differential activated, it’ll scrabble up steep rocky slopes with surprising ease, while hill descent control helps you safely down the other side. In this respect, it feels like a true Range Rover.
Noise and vibration
The higher-powered four-cylinder petrol (we have yet to try the 247bhp version) is decently smooth and quiet when you’re driving gently. Push it harder and, while the noise isn’t unpleasant, it is more hot hatch than Range Rover.
If anything, though, the V6 diesel is even more impressive. Again, it’s very quiet at low engine speeds and transmits next to no vibration through the controls. Then, as the revs rise, it growls pleasantly. However, the V6 found in the Audi Q8 is quieter still.
The four-cylinder diesels can’t quite match the six-cylinder cars, but still keeps vibrations to a minimum. There is some clatter when the engine is cold, but once warmed up you won’t really notice the engine a great deal unless you work it really hard. Even so, the 2.0-litre TDI in the Audi Q5 is more refined still. Helping matters is the eight-speed automatic gearbox – which, left to its own devices, shifts between gears almost imperceptibly. However, it’s not the quickest to respond in manual mode and is hesitant when pulling away from a standstill.
Road noise is pretty well contained, but there is some wind flutter around the big door mirrors.