Range Rover Velar P380 SE Review: Taking a Different Approach

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Sometimes style is everything. In the age of Instagram, appearances are more important than ever and brands are having to make the appeal of their products more and more bold.

Land Rovers of old were boxy functional things, meant to go places other vehicles couldn’t. If you bought a Range Rover, that just meant you wanted to bring the comfort of your living room along with you to such remote locations.

My oh my, how the game has changed.

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SUVs are quickly becoming the preferred mode of transport for the masses, but it has absolutely nothing to do with off-road capability of any sort. Most SUV buyers know they will never get a teaspoon of dirt on their tires, but they like the higher ride and perception of security they get in a big SUV. Okay, so technically the vehicles people are buying aren’t traditional “SUVs” in the sense that old Land Rovers were, they are SUV-Car hybrids known as “crossovers.” In short, they are generally built on a car’s chassis and drive like a car does, but they sit higher and have the design features and practicality of an SUV. Crossovers are a best of both worlds solution for the automobile, and it’s no wonder that they are taking over the market with such force.

Land Rover has been one of the leaders of this charge in the luxury segment, being the first with a small SUV, the Evoque, and now with a whole new offering tailor made for the modern buyer of mid-range luxury crossovers. It’s called the Velar, and I think it sets a totally new bar for style in the SUV market.

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There are a lot of good-looking SUVs out there, but how many have you seen that really please the eye enough to make you just stop and gaze? For me, the Velar is the first one to do it, the first beautifully striking SUV.

I mean, how many SUVs would you describe as sleek? For my eyes, the Porsche Macan and the Alfa Stelvio come close, but they’re still very bulbous in shape. The Velar, on the other hand, has a single swept shoulder line that defines the shape of the entire car in a way that really puts it in a class of one at this point. I saw a black Velar rolling through a parking lot the other day, and its design gives it so much presence. The world around it seemed to stand still in a way similar to that of something much more exotic. It’s a head turner in a way none of its peers can rival.

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So the Velar looks incredible and works well as a fashion accessory. The inside does a good job of cashing the checks that the outside writes. Open the door and you are greeted by a remarkably clean interior design, luxurious materials, and some nice details for the observant among us. It has a rich feeling without the clutter of a car that’s trying to be too modern for its own good.

On the road, I found myself relieved. The Velar is quite capable, but it isn’t intent on being a sports car like it’s sibling, the Jaguar F-Pace. I was worried the two might feel like the same car in different outfits, and that would have ruined the character of the Range Rover. The sports car stuff is great for the Jag, but a Range Rover must be more relaxed in nature. If the Jag is a swinging nightclub for dirty dancing, the Range should be a chill lounge for relaxed conversation.

That’s not to say the Velar lacks capable performance, but more that it chooses to deploy it differently. The top-range P380’s supercharged V6 grants plenty of power to maneuver with ease in the real world. Its handling is competent and responsive, but never feels genuinely sporty. It will perform if called upon, but the Velar isn’t going to encourage such behavior. It’s a smooth machine, meant to whisk you down the road without any drama. I’d even go so far as to say I felt echoes of the sailing feeling I get in a Rolls Royce. It holds true to the British style of luxury, and it couldn’t suite the modern Range Rover brand better.

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Cards on the table, I’m more of a Jag guy. I like driving fast and pushing corners on the road. But I do enjoy and appreciate a different approach, even if it’s not my own taste. What I will say, is that the Velar made me relax with its chill vibes, and that says a lot because I like to drive pretty aggressively. Any car that can inspire me to just chill and cruise must have a sublime character.

For buyers who want a more sporting Velar, they do offer an “R-Dynamic” trim that will make it more of a sporty experience. I do hope they didn’t go too far with it though, because the Velar’s sense of measured restraint was my favorite thing about it. The Jaguar F-Pace S literally feels like a big rally car, and I think that would feel wrong in a Range Rover.

Dollars and Sense

The Velar I drove was around $81,000 with options. The Velar P380 starts around $64,000 and with options it can reach over $90,000, so the one I drove was a mid-range model. I didn’t feel like it was missing anything, though.

In terms of comparing the Velar to its rivals, I’m not sure there is any truly direct competition out there. Sure, the Velar’s size and price square it up against the Porsche Macan, Audi SQ5 and Mercedes AMG GLC 43, but the Range Rover has a completely different ideology. It’s not trying to be an SUV sports car, it approaches luxury more in the way that Bentley and Rolls Royce do. Comfort and style are the clear priorities.

I suppose the Velar’s most direct competitor is the Porsche Macan because it matches the caliber of luxurious feel you get with the Range Rover. The Audi SQ5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC all feel a level below, at least to me. The other possibility I see is cross-shopping a well-optioned Velar P380 with the Mercedes GLE Coupe or BMW X6. The GLE and X6 are a size up in the SUV market, but they offer a similar emphasis on style (though I happen to dislike the whole SUV-Coupe thing).

All and all, I think the Range Rover Velar is a top option for anyone looking for a luxury SUV with a high sense of style. And if you aren’t looking for an SUV that masquerades as a sports car, the Velar may well be the best option in the range.

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Verdict

I think the Range Rover Velar resets the bar for style in the SUV market across the board. In addition to that, it is a well-executed luxury item for the modern consumer. I loved it’s classic sense of luxury that is all too often foregone these days. The Velar is a masterful mix of modern style and technology with a traditional ideology at its core.

I think the Velar is a pretty unique experience at this point, and I do recommend a test drive for anyone looking for a luxury SUV.

-Nick Walker

MoM Score: Range Rover Velar P380 SE
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(2) Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 1
Final Score: 9 /10

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