It's safe to say that the Land Rover brand finds itself in a pretty position within the global market.
As a purveyor of premium Range Rover and off-road ready Land Rover products for decades, the age of the SUV looks primed to be kind to the British carmaker.
With the brand offering the right sort of product for the global market, it's only reasonable to expect Land Rover to plug a niche where it sees fit. That niche, as I discovered, is in the medium-sized premium SUV market where style and a degree of off-road ability is prized.
Enter the Velar, the fourth Range Rover in the brand's portfolio. I joined the local motoring media in the Western Cape recently to give a number of variants of the newcomer a go.
There's no two ways about it, the Velar looks fantastic and despite the fact that Land Rover's designers claim it was designed from the ground-up, it most certainly resembles its bigger sibling, the Range Rover Sport.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing with the Velar cutting a more compact silhouette, cleaner lines and a more elegant aesthetic. Items such as full LED headlamps and the gimmicky, but infinitely cool retractable door handles make the car look and feel a bit more special. The Velar is therefore, in my opinion at least, a better interpretation of a luxurious British SUV than any other Range Rover currently on sale.
The inside of a Range Rover is where the driver needs to feel cocooned in luxury. In other Range Rover models, I remember being impressed by the fit-and-finish as well as the material quality. But, some of the ergonomics and indeed the resolution and functionality of the infotainment system lacked that cutting-edge feel when compared to the Germans.
In the Velar, these issues have been rectified, with a more logical layout of instruments and switches, as well as an all-new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which makes use of two screens, both 10-inch items, situated in the centre console which allow the user to switch between climate control, media, seat, smartphone and navigation functions.
The Velar might be smaller than your average Range Rover, but it isn't exactly a Turkish prison in there, with 673-litres of boot space and impressive passenger leg and head room. In terms of off-roading, the Velar has the brand's impressive all-wheel system which send power to the rear most of the time, until a loss of traction is detected.
Combine the all-wheel drive system with 213mm of ground clearance (optional air suspension provides up to 251mm), the Terrain Response 2 and All Terrain Progress Control systems, and you have a car that is pretty capable off-road, despite having heavily road-biased tyres fitted to most models.
The engine options within the Velar range are quite familiar, with the base diesel Ingenium engines displacing 2.0-litres and producing either 132kW/430Nm or 177kW/500Nm respectively.
The latter is twin-turbocharged and was on offer for us to drive. It made its presence known with an impressive lump of torque low-down and a reasonably low fuel consumption figure during our test drive.
The other diesel in the range is also impressive with 221kW/700Nm from a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo, making for effortless progress with a 0-100km/h time of 6.0 seconds along with incredible overtaking ability. This engine suits the Velar best, but comes at a price.
On the petrol front, there are two 2.0-litre turbo models, a lower output with 185kW/365Nm and a more heavily boosted version with 221kW/400Nm. These were not available for us to drive at launch.
Another model that we had a chance to sample was the rather sublime, but equally thirsty, 280kW/450Nm supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol. This is the most exciting model in the range in terms of driving fun, with a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 5.7 seconds and a wonderful exhaust note both contributing to its charm.
Badge and specification explained
If there's one thing that you can bet on, it's that in the premium segment, you're likely to come across some rather intricate and confusing model naming and badge designations.
In the Velar range it's no different, but I'll try to simplify. The range comes in either standard S, SE, HSE, R-Dynamic, R-Dynamic S, R-Dynamic SE or R-Dynamic HSE trims. In basic terms, the further you go up the list, the more features and technology the car will have and indeed, the more inflated the price becomes.
Then we get to the badge structure, which, if you see the letter 'D' at the rear, stands for diesel while the letter 'P' stands for petrol. The number associated with the aforementioned letter is the power rating in pferdestärke or PS, meaning a D300 has a diesel engine with 300 PS (221 kW).
Warranty and service
All Velar models come with a five-year/100 000km service plan, a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan and a five-year/100 000km warranty, as standard.
Article written by Sean Nurse