Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
At the top of the engine range sits the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 (P550) engine that's found only in the SVAutobiography. It'll crack off 0-62mph in just 4.5sec, and you certainly notice its effect when you’re out on the road. Thanks to its decidedly hefty thrust and a responsive automatic gearbox there's mighty pace available across a wide bandwidth. If you want effortless performance with semi-sensible running costs, though, we’d recommend the 296bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel (D300). It isn't as outright fast as the V8, but it pulls hard from low revs and can still officially manage 0-62mph in a hot hatch-rivalling 6.7sec. For everyday use, it’s definitely a good fit for the Velar and no costlier to run than the slightly less powerful D275 3.0-litre version.
Yet the engine with the least performance is the one we'd recommend, so much so we awarded it the 2020 What Car? Coupe SUV of the Year award. It's the D180 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp, and, while its 0-62mph time of 8.9sec won't get you foaming at the mouth, it's solid enough in the mid-range to get you going easily in town or on the motorway. And, as we'll discuss later on in this review, factor in the purchase price and running costs and it makes a lot of sense if you're not a speed freak. Meanwhile, if you want a bit more pep without ruining the fuel consumption, there's a pokier D240 version with 237bhp.
Unless you're completely anti-diesel, the two 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrols are the least recommendable. The most powerful of these has 296bhp (P300), so it's quick flat out, but there's less shove lower down than the diesels provide, so you need to work it much harder. The lower-powered 247bhp P250 version needs even more of a work out, but still delivers its power smoothly. Depending on which engine you choose, the Velar can tow between 2400kg and 2500kg.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Velar's standard, non-adaptive suspension is softly sprung and it proves more supple than a BMW X4 or Porsche Macan on standard springs. As a result the Velar deals with undulating roads in a gentle manner, but pockmarked surfaces and sharp bumps still cause it to fidget if you’ve picked the bigger, flashier 21in or 22in wheels. If you must have big wheels, think about adding the optional adaptive suspension. This is still a little firm around town but fine elsewhere.
If you want the cushiest ride, you should choose the optional air suspension; the caveat being that it's available only with the more powerful engines, and not our favourite D180. It allows you to adapt the Velar’s ride to suit your mood or the terrain you’re facing. Left in Comfort mode, the ride is more cosseting overall than it is with any of the Velar's other suspension systems. That includes a wafty high-speed ride that deals with crests and compressions in a gentle manner, but there’s enough body control at hand to prevent it feeling bouncy.
Range Rovers have never been known for pin-sharp handling or delicate levels of driver feedback, and the Velar doesn't change that. That’s not to say it handles badly. Around town, its light steering is effortless, yet it has enough precision on faster roads to let you place the car's nose where it was aimed.
Still, you cannot get away from the fact that the Velar feels heavier and less agile than many of its rivals. Whatever suspension set-up you go for, the Velar leans more than the Porsche Macan and BMW X4, although if you opt for the air suspension and switch it to its sportier Dynamic setting, things become a little more controlled.
Mind you, turn off the blacktop and on to craggier surfaces and the Velar impresses far more than its nearest and dearest challengers. It’ll scramble up steep, rocky slopes with surprising ease, before its hill descent control helps you safely down the other side. In this respect it feels like a true Range Rover and is at its best with the air suspension fitted – being height adjustable, this delivers even more ground clearance.
Noise and vibration
The four-cylinder petrol engines are decently smooth and quiet when you’re driving gently. Push them harder, though, and while the noise they make isn’t unpleasant, it's more hot hatch than Range Rover. Still, they’re better than the slightly grumbly four-cylinder diesels. That includes our favourite engine, the D180, although the BMW X4 20d's engine isn't much smoother.
If you’re after something sweeter, go for the D300 V6 diesel. It’s extremely hushed at low engine speeds, transmits next to no vibration through the controls, and, as the revs rise, growls pleasantly. Unsurprisingly, the P550 5.0-litre V8 of the SVAutobiography sounds satisfyingly throaty, even at idle.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard on all models, but can be laggy when you want a sudden burst of pace. Thankfully it’s nowhere near as dimwitted as those of certain key rivals, such as the more expensive Audi Q8. Fortunately, switching the gearbox into Sports mode sharpens up its responses and makes it slightly snappier to react, or if you really get frustrated, you can take control of gear changes yourself using the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
And what about the Velar’s motorway manners? These are pretty good: road noise is well contained at speed, but there is some wind flutter around its big door mirrors. Still, it’s quieter overall on a long trip than a Macan.