Looking beyond the pretty wrapper
Let’s face it—there just aren’t a ton of new vehicles out there that are just so very good-looking that they can make grown rational adults do stupid things such as spending $51-90 USD large on an SUV that can be had for thousands less at the Jag store—wearing almost as fetching a wrapper. Almost. As one of those rational folks whose knees go totally wiggly for the interior and exterior styling of the Land Rover Range Rover Velar, I seek to provide a public service here to my fellow right thinkers by presenting 11 hard-nosed objective plusses and minuses, surprises and delights with which your left brain can help talk your right brain into or out of the gorgeous new Velar.
Tesla Door Handles
The mechanical engineer in me frets about motorizing things that are much more easily left mechanical. Sure, aero-flushness is good for fuel consumption, but it can easily be accomplished the way sister brand Jag does it (press the forward edge of a flush door handle, and the back pops out). The Velar’s handles motor out when the car is unlocked (via fob or a press of the button on any handle), and they only retract when you relock the car. But at least unlike the electric-release latches on a Tesla Model S, the deployed Velar handles are mechanically connected to the latches. And hidden inside the key fob is a slim key that can manually unlock a Velar with a dead battery. Pretty cool.
Free Gerry McGovern Gesture Drawings
Every Velar comes with not one but two free copies of the “gesture drawing” illustration that was so very faithfully brought to production as the Range Rover Velar. Just approach or leave the car at night, and puddle lamps project these drawings down from each rearview mirror. Quite cool.
Illuminated Sill Plates Galore
Illuminated sill plates are now being offered on cars priced up and down the status ladder, but open a front door, and in addition to the backlit “R-Dynamic” sill plate, under-dash footwell lighting seems to spotlight the metal “Velar” nameplate on the floor mat. And much less expected amongst wagons and utes in any class is an illuminated cargo area sill plate. Nicely played.
When parked and locked, the steering wheel buttons, instrument cluster, and central display screens and knobs are all black and featureless. Climb aboard with the key in your pocket, and the I/P screen proclaims your wise choice of upgrading to the R Dynamic performance model with the same logo you stepped over on the sill plate while the upper center display screen shows the green oval Land Rover emblem. The lower screen and the ambient lighting both glow, as well. Only after you switch the vehicle on do the steering wheel control functions, gauges, and screen menus come alive. Very dramatic. A few nits to pick: This seasoned menu prober was unable to locate the controls for altering the color of the ambient lighting (I later learned of a handy online owners’ manual that instructed me: “From the HOME screen, swipe the touchscreen to the left to access the EXTRA FEATURES screen. See TOUCHSCREEN HOME MENU. Option 11 is ambient lighting”). I did find the options for changing the upper center display’s screen saver image, the preferred blower fan demeanor (soft and quiet, balanced for comfort, powerful and fast), and for choosing the lower screen’s default display, however. I never did find a way to disable the automatic sunroof shade, which opened upon every startup and closed upon every shutdown, worrying me about its longevity.
Objects Behind are Farther Than They Appear
Now that rearview cameras are being mandated as standard equipment on everything, the fancy cars are trying to differentiate themselves with bird’s-eye view images and trickier wide-angle cameras such as the Velar’s. This is great for seeing cross traffic, but it made it look like I was about to graze the edge of the garage door every time.
One of the things everyone loves about the Velar’s interior is its sleek look, uncluttered by a squillion buttons controlling as many functions. A big enabler of this look is the multifunction lower screen with its two rotary knobs, the functions of which can vary depending on which screen is active. They usually control left and right temperature, but press them, and they’ll adjust the driver and passenger seat heating or cooling functions. Call up the Vehicle screen, and the left one selects among the many dynamic and off-road driving modes. There are probably more tasks they perform that I never encountered in a mere week with the Velar. Expect this idea to proliferate quickly.
Multitasking Favorite Button
There’s a little diamond button on the steering wheel that can be assigned not one but two frequently used functions. Options include cancel nav guidance, next audio source, audio mute, audio play/pause, access phone voicemail, microphone-mute, telephone hold, auto-reject a call, upper-screen off, and traffic alerts. Press the button quickly for one function, press it for longer to access the second function. (How many folks will discover and use the second option?)
Loads of fancy luxury cars offer massage seating. Nothing bums me out worse when driving one than when I find myself at the end of a journey after having forgotten to switch the damned thing on. Land Rover has solved this problem by allowing me to program the seats to automatically start massaging my back 5, 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes into a journey. Naturally I chose the 5-minute setting. I am not aware of another manufacturer offering this flash of brilliance.
Cut-Me-Off Default ACC Following Distance
As much as I love the auto-massage seat option, I hate having to manually shorten the following distance from the default maximum following distance to the closest after every ignition cycle. In any other setting, every other driver on the road will fill the generous gap ahead of the Velar retarding its progress on a busy highway. Machine learning will soon allow cars to infer our preferences, solving issues such as this—hopefully without turning all of our cars into homicidal HAL 9000s.
3-D Tunnel Vision Tail Lamps
The lighting supply world is really outdoing itself these days with organic LEDs, fancy light pipes, diffusing lenses, virtual reflectors and the like. The Velar’s taillamps probably incorporate several of these new technologies to create extra-deep-looking LED taillamps.
Any savvy designer puts a spoiler of some sort on the back of a two-box wagon or ute to encourage the air to separate cleanly instead of clinging to the rear window and sucking the car backward. Few of them put little vents like the two bright openings you can see in this one. They’re there to allow a bit of air to blow dirt and mist off the rear window. It might well cost a fraction of a drag-coefficient point, but the savings in rear-window-washer fluid might well be worth the tradeoff.
Read our 2018 Range Rover Velar V-6 First Drive review HERE.