Is the Velar the best-looking Range Rover of all time? Possibly. And in stuffing a gap in the Ranger range that nobody had really realised needed plugging until the company began filling out its offerings in recent years, it might just be the middle ground to take the British brand to the masses like never before. In many ways, the main surprise here is that Range Rover has taken so long to catch up with countless competitors with long-established mid-size SUVs.
Granted, this isn't some entry-level budget buy to entice those who have never previously considered adding a luxury SUV to their garage, coming in above the jaunty Evoque and below the full-size RR Sport. But with its base price of Dh263,235, the 2.0-litre version of the Velar isn't completely stratospherically unobtainable and certainly seems well-weighted to take on any number of the German carmakers making comparative killings in the field.
That said, the test car in my possession, the top-whack R-Dynamic HSE, isn’t quite so easy on the pocket at Dh420,000, but its 3.0-litre supercharged engine does make it a fairly potent little number. It will knock over 0-to-100kph in 5.7 seconds – that gives it the edge on sister SUV the Jaguar F-Pace, a vehicle with which it shares many parts of its architecture. It is electronically limited to 250kph.
The Velar name harks back to the handle bestowed on late-1960s pre-production prototype Range Rovers, but that is really about the only link with those early off-roaders. The all-wheel-drive Velar can doubtless handle decent punishment when it comes to all-terrain travails, including being able to wade through 650 millimetres of water, but it isn't likely to bother the prowess of its big brother the Sport in such pursuits.
When on the tarmac, however, this being a Range Rover, naturally the ride is as smooth as a marble worktop padded by cotton wool. The 20-way adjustable seats, which have both cooling and heating facilities, ensure that the entire experience is just about as comfortable as lounging in your front room. Reclining in the back isn’t, as you might expect, quite the leggy experience that the larger Sport provides – although the 673-litre luggage capacity of the boot is still nothing to be derided.
In terms of styling, the Velar melds design elements from the cars above and below it, transposing the Evoque's rounder edges onto the tougher outlines of the Sport. Especially from the rear, with U-shaped lights and nicely integrated dual exhausts, it is a mean-looking machine without edging into the Sport's big bully-boy swagger. The pop-out door handles, a flush feature we also saw recently on the Jaguar I-Pace, add to the premium feel.
The standard kit on my test car includes park assist, rear-view camera, blind-spot assist and lane-keep assist, plus reverse traffic detection. As per regular service with Range Rover, the options list could fill an encyclopedia volume.
The two 10-inch touchscreens allow a tremendous amount of information to be displayed, although personally it makes me feel a little overwhelmed; likewise, while the perched driving position will, for many, be a key selling point, I would prefer to sink into the Velar a little more. The ride isn’t at all top-heavy, though, with plenty of poise and precise placement.
As far as mid-size SUVs go, if your budget allows and you aren’t looking for a purely performance-related drive, you would be hard-pressed to justify buying anything other than the Velar. It is as competent and as classy as we have habitually come to expect from Range Rover, with those aforementioned good looks sealing the deal.