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the sun times Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017

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Velar as luxurious as it is capable

Driving.ca

First Drive: 2018 Range Rover Velar

Brian Harper Driving.ca Alesund, Norway ? Mix the letters up in the name Velar and add an M; the unscrambled word becomes ?marvel,? which means to be filled with wonder or astonishment. Certainly the drive route planned by Land Rover?s team for its newest Range Rover sport ute exceeded expectations. The outer islands of Norway?s Atlantic coastline provide magnificent vistas of fiords, mammoth granite peaks, glaciers, cascading waterfalls and verdant forests, the sort of scenery that would make a nature photographer weep with joy. The area has roads that would challenge the bona fides of many of the mid-size Velar?s rivals, but proved a walk in the park for the tough but genteel SUV. OK, the Velar isn?t as breathtaking as any of the natural beauty that surrounded us on our journey, but it?s worthy of a double-take. The Velar is a pleasing intermingling of simplicity and elegance and is easily the most visually engaging of Range Rover?s now four-model lineup. In order of size, there?s the Evoque, Velar, Range Rover Sport and fullsize Range Rover. Created from a clean sheet using Jaguar Land Rover?s lightweight aluminum architecture ? the same platform used by Jaguar?s hot-selling F-Pace crossover ? the Velar is defined by the company?s designers as being ?visually reductive? and a preview of the next generation of Range Rover vehicles. There?s the formal, horizontal feature lines, the floating roof and the tapered upsweep at the rear. Then there?s the added touches, such as the slender LED headlights and the flush, deployable door handles that, while helping emphasize the SUV?s looks, also contribute to a coefficient of drag of only 0.32, making it the most aerodynamic Land Rover/ Range Rover model ever produced. The cross-pollination of Jaguar and Land Rover components doesn?t end with the platform; there are also the powertrains. The base engine is the 180-horsepower, 2.0-litre fourcylinder Ingenium turbodiesel that delivers a robust 317 pound-feet of torque. But the engine that characterizes the Velar as the most road happy of Range Rover?s lineup is the 380-hp supercharged 3.0-L V6 gas engine. For a 2,000-plus-kilogram vehicle, a 5.7-second zero-to-100- km/h time is nothing to be ashamed of. Certainly there was more than enough juice under the hood to get around the copious vacationers and day trippers in their RVs and trailers, though the ZF eight-speed automatic paused slightly before dropping a gear or three to accomplish the task. However, there wasn?t enough power on the face of the Earth when it came to dealing with the traffic on the Trollstigen. This stretch of narrow road through Reinheim National Park features 11 hairpin bends and a 10 per cent climb on the way up to admire Stigfossen, a waterfall with a 320-metre drop. Tour buses and caravans shuffling along, passing each other with inches to spare, stifled what would have been a dream for motoring enthusiasts with hot cars. Clear of such roadblocks, the Velar ate up distances in quiet comfort, the only sound penetrating the cabin being the hum from the tires, and even that depended on the road surface. Then there are the sport ute?s off-road abilities, which, typical of Range Rover?s formidable reputation, are ridiculous, far exceeding what any rational driver would subject it to. Rutted dirt trails as well as several man-made exercises put up by Land Rover staff, designed to test the Velar?s suspension and wheel articulation and climbing skills, were readily dispatched. In addition to all-wheel drive with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics and Adaptive Dynamics damping technology, a suite of traction technologies, including Terrain Response, Active Rear Locking Differential and All Terrain Progress Control, are at the driver?s fingertips. When equipped with the available (on V6 models) air suspension, ground clearance is 251 millimetres. Rather oddly, instead of providing Velars in the more popular trim levels ? base, S, SE and HSE in standard and sportier R-Dynamic ? Land Rover chose to assemble a flotilla of top-line First Editions. This is an all-singing, all-dancing model of which approximately 50 units will be offered in Canada for the first year only and at a suggested price of $95,000. Considering the base price for the Velar has been set at $62,000, the First Edition is not exactly typical. Built to impress with excess, it is loaded to the gills with high-end content and an abundance of extra features. Power is provided by the 380- hp V6 and the SUV features a wealth of extra features as standard equipment. They include a full leather interior, a copper weave carbonfibre trim, a 1,600-watt Meridian sound system, special 22-inch splitspoke rims and a unique Flux Silver satin paint finish, one of three exclusive colours. In the First Edition, the cabin, for the most part, is simply yet very stylishly turned out, with premium materials and complementary trims. Interestingly, Land Rover also offers a sustainable textile seat material as an optional alternative to leather. The exception is the new InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system: two 10-inch high-definition touch screens are integrated into the cabin behind hidden-until-lit surfaces. This ostensibly reduces the complexity of the dash by doing away with virtually all buttons and knobs, with the exception of two rotary controllers. Everything ? heat and air conditioning, navigation, audio and infotainment, the Velar?s driving modes and off-road functions, etc. ? is accessed through various icons and menus. Interaction is like using a tablet or smartphone: Swiping across the screen changes menus, pinching zooms in and out, and pressing and scrolling across the screen pans across maps. Graphics are excellent, but for those jumping into the vehicle for the first time, the choices distract from paying attention to the road ahead. A thorough reading of the owner?s manual will be a must! At 4,803 mm, the Velar is slightly longer than the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Lexus RX, and slightly shorter than Mercedes? GLE. The comfortable five-seater also has 558 L of luggage space behind the second row. There is any number of mid-size luxury crossovers on the market. And there are more than a few models with serious performance potential. The Velar is both, plus it?s a kick-ass off-roader. Gerry McGovern, Land Rover?s chief design officer, calls it the ?avant-garde? Range Rover. ?It brings a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand,? he said at the SUV?s debut. ?The Velar changes everything.? Corporate hyperbole is expected, but this much is true: the SUV is a fresh approach to luxury adventuring for the iconic brand. The Velar goes on sale later this summer.

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