Hmmm. Adding to the confusion is the dizzying array of variants on offer. There are 40 model grades, each of which can be customised to within an inch of its life. Provided you’re well-heeled, there really is a Velar for everybody.
The car we have here is an interesting blend of high and medium spec. The P380 badge brings a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine making 280kW and 450Nm, mated with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, while the SE moniker means it ranks as mid-spec on the equipment front.
Finally, the fact it isn’t an R-Dynamic means it misses a smattering of sporty add-ons, some R-Dynamic badging in the instrument binnacle, and bigger wheels.
The Velar is a looker in person. As an SE, our tester rode on 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, but there wasn’t too much bling adorning its flanks, allowing Gerry McGovern’s original design to really speak for itself.
White wouldn’t necessarily be our first choice, but the Velar does a great job blending classic Range Rover cues with a more modern, sporting shape.
Velar SE spec brings standard equipment like matrix LED headlights, flush-fitting door handles, navigation, a 17-speaker surround-sound system, and powered gesture tailgate.
As with essentially any Range Rover, our tester came loaded with optional extras, starting with 20-way adjustable, heated and cooled massage seats ($8150), the driver-assist package with blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control and high-speed AEB ($3965), the premium black pack ($2310), and the on/off-road pack with configurable drive modes ($1700).
With all of that (and more, stay tuned) added, the optioned P380 SE you see here is worth $128,787 before on-road costs. That’s just $7000 short of a top-spec Range Rover Sport with a diesel V6, and almost identical to the base Sport PHEV.
The cabin is well executed, just like the exterior, although there are a few technology gripes. It’s built around an infotainment and climate-control system relying on two 10.0-inch touchscreens, which takes a bit of getting used to, but offers snappy responses and supports the Velar’s pared-back aesthetic once you’re used to it.
With that said, it’s slow to start up and attracts fingerprints at a terrifying rate. The graphics on the main infotainment screen are a bit low-rent compared to what’s offered in the latest Mercedes and BMW systems, and the fact you have to pay $520 for smartphone mirroring and $940 for DAB radio is criminal in 2019.
Although parking sensors and a 360-degree camera are standard on the SE, the camera lags behind the best for clarity. The parking sensors can be frustrating, too, failing to automatically activate as you edge towards an obstacle at low speeds.
Away from the technology, the Velar has a stunning interior. Our tester had the Interior Premium Textile Pack ($2500), which brings soft suede-look seat trim and dappled grey textile highlights for the armrests, headrests and seat bolsters, along with blonde wood inlays for the doors.
Add a pinch of gloss black, stir in a few chrome highlights, and you’re left with one of the best-presented cabins on the market today. It’s just a really nice place to spend time. The sort of interior that makes you breathe a sigh of relief when you step inside. Maybe that’s just the heated, cooled, and massaging seats.
Although there’s a more expensive stereo on offer, the standard 17-speaker Meridian set-up will be more than enough for most. I’m a podcaster usually, but it seemed silly to waste the Velar’s system on nerdy discussions about technology or basketball.
Audio highlights? Trouble by Taylor Swift on low volume, Aviation by The Last Shadow Puppets at normal levels, and Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine cranked loud enough to scare passers-by.
It’s lovely, but the interior isn’t all that practical given the Velar’s size. Front passengers are well catered for, but the pinched glasshouse and long luggage space mean legroom is average behind taller drivers, and visibility out is limited.
With 558L of luggage space, the boot has more than enough space for prams, bags and sporting equipment, but the electrically operated hatch doesn’t open quite high enough, putting tall drivers at risk of a concussion if they (we) aren’t careful. The Evoque actually outdoes it for load space, despite its compact footprint and lower starting price.
Prod the start button and the range-topping (for now) supercharged petrol engine springs into life with a muted snarl. It’s quite a raucous unit in the Jaguar F-Pace, but Range Rover has put it through finishing school, smoothing some of the rough edges to deliver a quieter, more grown-up feel.
The supercharged engine meshes perfectly with the eight-speed automatic, sliding effortlessly through the ratios around town. Flicking into sport brings snappy upshifts and intelligently judged downshifts under braking.
As a result, the powertrain rarely breaks a sweat, surfing the wave of torque on offer between 3500 and 5000rpm on light-to-medium throttle inputs. It rarely makes its presence known (although there’s a lovely hint of supercharger whine when pushed), but it’s the sort of engine that goads you into going fast without really meaning to, such is the smooth, quiet way it doles out its performance.
The trade-off for that performance is a healthy thirst for premium unleaded. Kez averaged 9.7L/100km on a highway-biased loop as part of his upcoming Audi Q8 and Velar P380 comparison, but you’re likely to see between 12L and 14L/100km in day-to-day commuting around town.
We’d wager the average Velar buyer will be able to afford the fuel bill, but economically minded buyers are better served by the range of four-cylinder diesels elsewhere in the range.
Alternatively, rich hedonists have the option of a supercharged V8 SV Autobiography. Although it’s objectively nice, the P380 occupies a tricky niche in the Velar line-up.
Thanks to its small (relative to the wider range) 20-inch wheels and air suspension, the SE is a comfortable place to spend time. There are bigger alloys on the options list and they’re tempting, but previously Jez found the 22s add “a layer of firmness that never allows a truly relaxing drive around town or along country roads”.
A hint of the outside world manages to filter through the controls, but it works with the well-weighted (variable-ratio) steering to give the Velar a planted feel on the road. It doesn’t feel outright sporty, but the air-sprung Velar isn’t a floaty barge.
Thanks to the air suspension, you’re able to raise the car up for greater ground clearance or drop it down for easier entry. Although our time in the car was spent exclusively on the blacktop – where most owners will spend their time – there’s a raft of off-road modes on offer capable of configuring the car for mud, sand, rocks… Essentially any terrain. Most owners won’t care, but the Velar will venture further off the beaten track than any of its style-focused rivals.
Servicing for the P380 SE costs $2450 over five years on a Land Rover service plan, with maintenance required every 12 months or 26,000km. Land Rover offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, in keeping with most of its luxury rivals, but behind the mainstream norm.
It’s hard to know what to think of the Velar P380 SE. Regardless of trim, the Velar is expensive, and the Evoque/Range Rover Sport are more practical purchases. But there’s no denying the supercharged V6 is a lovely engine, and there really is something to be said for cars that make you feel good.
Rational buyers will recognise there are better-rounded Range Rovers out there, but a car needn’t always be a rational purchase.