Despite the intrinsic constraints that an SUV’s utilitarian packaging can place on its designers, few can argue with the truly fetching two-box form that Jaguar Land Rover’s sculptors have made for the new-for-2018 Range Rover Velar crossover. But the Velar is more than just a pretty face positioned in the middle of Range Rover’s lineup of luxury utes: It also is outfitted with JLR’s new dual-screen capacitive-touch infotainment interface, which bolsters its case as a compelling subject for the 40,000-mile obstacle course that is our long-term test regimen.
While the Velar plays in a segment that includes the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, its 189.1-inch length puts it curiously close to the larger Range Rover Sport, not to mention within spitting distance of the Jaguar F-Pace and the Land Rover Discovery within the JLR empire. Generous cargo space is a result of its sizable footprint, as the Velar tops its class with 34 cubic feet of storage behind the second row and 70 cubes with the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats stowed almost flat.
Dressed to Impress
Pricing for the entry-level P250 trim level starts at $50,895, but MSRPs can top $90K with the V-6 and a handful of options, including numerous interior color schemes and trim finishes. Our P250 R-Dynamic SE test car, which sits one rung below the top-spec R-Dynamic HSE model, started at $61,095 and features a coil-spring suspension rather than the adaptive air springs that come with the V-6, brake-based torque vectoring, full-LED head- and taillights, and darkened 20-inch wheels (18- to 22-inchers are available) wrapped with Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season tires, size 255/50R-20. Other standard SE equipment includes automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, a driver-condition monitor, a 360-degree surround-view parking assistant, specific front and rear fascias, heated and power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, and copper-colored accents on the hood and front flanks.
The Velar’s concept-car presentation carries into the modernist cabin with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster (on SE models and above) and the twin 10.0-inch InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment screens in the center stack. Materials, including the satin-aluminum trim pieces and the geometric-patterned dash and door inserts, are attractive and feel high in quality. And there are ample amenities, including a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, and an 825-watt Meridian audio system with 17 speakers.
Helping to inflate our example’s final tally to $67,235 was a $610 coat of Santorini Black paint and the $1495 Drive Pro package (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and traffic-sign recognition). We also tacked on $1330 for front-seat heating and ventilation and heated rear seats, $615 for SiriusXM satellite radio, and $580 for the On/Off-Road package’s adaptive Terrain Response 2 system, All Terrain Progress Control (low-speed off-road cruise control), and configurable chassis and powertrain settings. Other extras included a $510 power-adjustable steering column, a $385 heated windshield, a $255 heated steering wheel, $205 for Argento Pinstripe interior trim, and $155 for a pair of USB ports in the second row.
Hitting the Road
While our long-termer’s black exterior and rose-goldish trim elements lend it a somewhat sinister vibe versus warmer color combinations we’ve seen, the Velar’s chopped-top silhouette and striking interior décor have earned it plenty of admirers. The power-extending door handles are a bit gimmicky—and they advertise when the vehicle is left unlocked—but overall the Velar positively nails the Range Rover aesthetic.
That it arrived at C/D HQ in February prompted us to fit a set of OE-size Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires ($250 each from Tire Rack) to get us through Michigan’s remaining cold months. A lengthy 2000-mile break-in period and extended winter weather delayed both our reinstallation of the all-season rubber and our visit to the test track. When we finally got there, the Velar did the zero-to-60-mph dash in a modest 7.4 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 15.7 at 89 mph—adequately peppy but well off the 380-hp V-6’s times of 5.7 and 14.2 seconds. Its so-so 0.84 g of stick on the skidpad is par for the segment, as is its 174-foot stop from 70 mph.
We’ve otherwise taken it easy on the Velar, with initial logbook observations noting the ample power from the 2.0-liter engine but also some unimpressive clatter at idle. The P250 moves with little athleticism, and its tonnage means the four-cylinder rarely gets a break, but the eight-speed automatic shifts unobtrusively and pairs well with the engine’s surge of low-end torque. While the Velar never goads us into searching out back roads, its competent body control and generally comfortable suspension make it an easy cruiser elsewhere.
Less favorable have been the reactions to the P250’s fuel economy, which is EPA-estimated at 21 mpg city and 27 highway. We’ve averaged only 20 mpg thus far, which, with the Velar’s rather small 16.6-gallon fuel tank, means we’re usually filling up every 300 miles or so. Even at the 26 mpg that our long-termer returned on our 75-mph highway test loop, that’s only about 400 miles between fill-ups. Blame the Velar’s hefty curb weight for much of its thirst (the P250’s 23-mpg combined rating is 3 mpg better than the more powerful supercharged V-6’s).
A Familiar Future
Electronic gremlins have plagued several recent JLR test cars, including our last long-term Range Rover, a 2016 Td6 diesel model, so it was with mild trepidation that we welcomed this specimen into our fleet. It’s not surprising, then, that the most prominent comments in the Velar’s logbook have centered on its high-tech computer interface. For all its functionality and high-resolution graphics, the learning curve is relatively steep, and its extensive configurability has prompted even tech-savvy drivers to chide it for being overly complex. Others have acclimated more quickly, but having so few physical controls on hand means that interacting with the two tablets on the console is impossible to avoid.
The upper screen is largely responsible for audio, navigation, phone, and settings functions, with the lower primarily used for climate controls and the myriad driving-mode setups. But along with the configurability of the digital gauge cluster, many of the display functions, such as audio information, can be shown simultaneously on multiple screens; the two rotary control knobs integrated into the lower screen serve multiple purposes, depending on the function toggled on the display. Using them can adjust cabin temperature, fan speed, or seat heating and ventilation levels, as well as driving-mode settings (driver’s side only). We’ll likely grow more accustomed to the setup and fidget with it less as we configure it to our liking, but it still presents a lot of options to sort through while driving.
As we’ve experienced with previous JLR systems, touch inputs for the dual screens also occasionally respond slowly and inconsistently. And one morning, at just 2650 miles, both displays failed to awake when the vehicle was started. Although the audio system resumed where it had left off the day before—albeit without any way to adjust it—none of the other functions worked, and the computer refused to reboot itself even after multiple ignition cycles. The Velar apparently just needed a rest, as its systems were back to normal the following morning; since there was no way to re-create the issue and no warning code to analyze and clear, a trip to the dealer likely would have been unproductive. Another glitch occurred at about 3450 miles, when the center portion of the digital instrument cluster began scrolling wildly and was unable to properly render the navigation display. This time a tap of the Menu button on the steering wheel returned it to working order.
More frustrating was a temporary powertrain glitch at around 4400 miles, which seemed to prevent the 2.0-liter turbo engine from making any boost. “There was no check-engine light or any stumbling, but I could run the engine to redline with my foot on the floor while accelerating with all the might of an ’84 Ford Fiesta,” testing director K.C. Colwell wrote in the logbook. The incident persisted through multiple ignition cycles and also affected the transmission, which refused to kick down even when pressing the accelerator past the detent in its travel. As with the infotainment issue, the gremlins were gone the following morning and the problem has yet to resurface.
Taking a Seat
Other commenters have taken issue with the Velar’s 10-way-adjustable front seats, which have eight-way power adjustments for the bottom cushion and seatback and two-way manual adjustments for the bulky headrests. What’s lacking is any type of lumbar control—a frustrating omission both at the Velar’s price point and given the excessively padded lumbar section of the seatback, which many drivers have deemed uncomfortable. Although stepping up to the $68,595 P250 HSE model would bring fancier 20-way-adjustable chairs with massage and lumbar control, those would have cost an extra $3050 on this SE. We’ve also noticed that dash-mounted toll-road transponders such as E-ZPass have trouble operating through the Velar’s heated, solar-attenuating windshield, with one driver having to hold the unit out of the open sunroof so as not to cause a backup at the tollbooth.
The Velar’s 16,000-mile intervals for scheduled maintenance combined with a lack of any lasting issues means our long-termer has yet to visit the dealer. Our only expenditures have been for fuel and for purchasing and swapping out the winter tires. While the Velar has made one trek to Pittsburgh, the bulk of its early miles have been racked up on local commutes, along with a couple of short trips to western Michigan and Ohio. Although we have several issues to keep an eye on—and some drivers have already ruled out the Velar for long-haul travel due to its lumpy front seats—its stylishly tailored practicality should help it accumulate its remaining 32,700 miles in fairly short order.