While still famous for premium-trimmed vehicles with off-road capabilities, Land Rover has taken a hard left onto luxury avenue in recent years. Rumors are stirring that the brand has sacrificed some of its utilitarian edge for creature comforts — especially with the release of the ultra-stylish Range Rover Velar.
With the Defender yet to peak its headlamps over the horizon (and rumored to be electrified), JLR is hoping to get back some of its overlanding chops by affixing the SVX badge onto more models. However, the company’s Special Vehicle Operations unit will only touch Land Rovers — allowing Range Rover to maintain its suburban chicness while not muddying the two brands’ identities.
I’m normally among the first to roll my eyes when automakers speak about “brand identity” and other such marketing claptrap, but when Land Rover employees speak of how the new Range Rover Velar fits in with the brand, it is hard to deny that they’re being accurate. Whatever it is – or isn’t – the Velar has a certain feel about it that only its stablemates share.
More on that later. First, an introduction. For those that don’t know, the Velar is meant to slot between the Evoque and the Range Rover/Range Rover Sport in the Range Rover lineup. It’s also meant to be a more-stylish alternative to the slightly gawky Land Rover Discovery.
The Velar sits in a weird space in the luxury SUV landscape. Its closest competitor may be the Porsche Macan, but the two don’t line up exactly in terms of performance. Jaguar’s F-Pace, which shares its platform with the Velar, plays the part of both sibling and rival, while the Audi Q5 is also in the conversation. But price, specs, and mission vary among these four – as well as others, such as the BMW X4 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.
Land Rovers and Range Rovers are supposed to offer luxury, off-road capability, some on-road fun, and charming (and not-so-charming) British quirks. They’re also sometimes tarred with a reputation for spending more time in the shop than on the road.
It’s 2017. If this isn’t The Year Of The Luxury SUV, then surely we’re fast approaching The Year Of The Luxury SUV.
Therefore, Land Rover can pretty well do whatever it wants. “A brand like ours,” says Land Rover’s chief design officer Gerry McGovern, “has this ability to stretch.”
Bentley Bentayga rival? “Absolutely,” McGovern says.
Identically sized Range Rovers? “If they had two personalities then they’ve both got equal appeal but to different customers,” McGovern tells Automotive News Europe.
There’s no reason to doubt Land Rover’s self-belief.
Eager to fill a price gap in its Range Rover lineup, Land Rover has come out with a new midsize offering — the Velar. Positioned between the smaller Evoque and larger Range Rover Sport, the Velar is a tasteful and subdued example of automotive opulence. While it’s best to reserve final judgement until after fully experiencing a model, the design both inside and out represents something fresh, possibly signalling a new direction for Land Rover styling.
I speculated last month that the Velar’s teaser images might not be representative of the actual car, due in part to its ultra-modern-looking center console. However, that concept car interior stuck around, resulting in an incredibly spartan and contemporary cabin. It’s almost entirely devoid of buttons, replaced by minimalist design more elegant and clean than even what Tesla has on offer. Land Rover refers to the interior as a “calm sanctuary” for the Velar’s occupants. The majority of the contact points for non-essential functions occupy hidden-until-lit touch areas that, according to JLR, can be endlessly customized.
Land Rover has confirmed Velar as the name of Range Rover’s new luxury crossover, positioned to rival Porsche’s Macan.
While Velar sounds hand-picked to hang in the air and mimic the vowel placement of the Macan, Land Rover has used it before. According to the company, the name is derived from the original Range Rover prototypes from 1969, dubbed Velar as a way to disguise or veil them. Although why any vehicle before the Defender would need a secret working title is rather baffling when the company called almost every product it made before 1983 either “Range Rover” or “Land Rover” — sometimes tacking on a generational identifier, like “Series III.”
Still, any tieback you can make to your heritage is a win when it comes to marketing. Velar also fits Range Rover’s premium image and borderline sensual naming strategy that started with the Evoque. These are names that would work just as well being whispered by a model in a perfume advertisement; they just so happen to also be the names of two British sport utility vehicles.