Last week, JLR unveiled Velar, the most ambitious Range Rover variant yet. But Driven to Write asks, is there a cuckoo in the nest?
As the dust sheets were lifted off their new mid-liner, Land Rover CCO Gerry McGovern informed journalists, Velar is “the most car-like Range Rover we’ve done so far”. It also seems likely to become the crossover SUV that will convert customers who have so far proven immune to the crossover SUV contagion. Sleek in appearance (by crossover SUV standards at least), pared back and so very now, the new Range Rover variant not only makes rival crossover SUV’s look a touch over-wrought and top-heavy, it also casts some notable aspersions upon its closely related Jaguar-branded stablemate.
While brand-Jaguar design supremo, Ian Callum talks in terms of ‘incredibly disciplined lines and surfaces’ his Land Rover counterpart has this to say about his newest creation; “It’s reduction by design and engineering. If something is on the car, you take it off and it makes no difference, it shouldn’t be there anyway.” You can judge for yourselves whose approach is resonating more with customers. Counter to this of course, it could be argued that Mc Govern’s job is comparatively easier in not having a saloon or sportscar heritage to shoehorn onto an SUV template.
From an engineering perspective, these cars are very much twins beneath the skin because structurally, Velar shares its 2874 mm wheelbase and aluminium substructure with F-Pace, and will be built alongside it at JLR’s Solihull plant. Where the Velar differs however is that it will be all-wheel drive only, and comes with adjustable air suspension as standard, in addition to the full gamut of Land Rover’s Terrain Response technology.
To further differentiate both vehicles, Velar is longer aft of the rear axle. The remit for both cars is also different in that the seating H-point is lower in F-Pace, whereas the Range Rover retains the ‘command’ driving position RR customers expect. Furthermore, with air suspension, which is not available on its Solihull twin, Velar’s modus is that of comfort and effortless luxury, whereas F-Pace’s is… somewhat nebulous. Call it Pacey…
And then there’s Velar’s interior, which is a temple to minimalist contemporary style. Touch screens dominate proceedings; a large tilting ten inch jobbie handles navigation and media, while a lower mounted screen controls HVAC and terrain functions. This technology was first seen in last year’s i-Pace concept and is likely to be rolled out across future JLR products to varying levels of perplexity, irritation and abundant smudgemarks over forthcoming model introductions.
Another innovation for this class of vehicle is the (welcome) option of specifying a leather-free cabin, replacing it with a 30% wool and 70% polyester blend fabric. This is an apparent response to a growing number of customers who either view leather as immoral or downright uncomfortable.
As a material it’s also becoming somewhat passé, especially amongst the more environmentally conscious – (if that itself is not an oxymoron). Not only then does the Velar’s interior design and ambience knock its rivals for six, it also throws those of its Jaguar-branded stablemates into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Because forgive me, comfort and effortless luxury was once Jaguar’s remit, to say nothing of a warm and inviting interior ambience. But that was bad old Jaguar. New improved Jaguar is sporty, just like everything else, it would appear.
So in addition to being better looking, in possession of a notably superior interior, as well as promising to be more comfortable, better equipped and considerably more desirable to those for whom such vehicles fulfil their needs, dreams and hitherto unrealised aspirations, Velar is also going to be a far more profitable proposition for its JLR masters.
The typical Velar purchase price is expected to be around £61,000, although the First Edition which will be the model’s prelude will be priced at £85,450. Meanwhile the equivalent price for F-Pace is said to be around £45,500, placing the latter at a price point somewhere between Evoque and Discovery within the JLR firmament. This points to Dr. Speth’s market research concluding either that brand-Jaguar has made contact with its own tinted glass-roofed ceiling or that one is being constructed for it.
But not only are the upper echelons of the F-Pace range likely to feel the Velar effect, so too are its larger, more expensive RR brethren. Velar makes the now inconveniently named Range Rover Sport look even more like a leviathan and in some European markets at least, is likely to herald a shrinkage in sales as customers gravitate to the sleeker looking, more compact variant, which model for model will also work out (fractionally) cheaper.
It’s also likely to put additional pressure on the flagship model, which itself has been the target of a growing array of increasingly vulgar rivals. Ur-Rangie is probably now too big for most European tastes, but of course, scale will always be a marker of importance, so a move even further upmarket now seems likely.
But above all, Velar’s unveiling is vivid illustration that brand-Range Rover remains JLR’s trump card. Such is the global appeal of the nameplate, (and the sure touch of its design team) it can be convincingly attached to just about anything.
JLR have recently hinted at an even smaller RR positioned below the next generation Evoque, not to mention more car-like vehicles. In fact, it’s no longer unthinkable that a Range Rover branded full-sized limousine would sell in greater numbers than one with a Coventry leaper affixed to its bootlid.
Latest speculation even suggests Speth and Co are evaluating whether to consolidate their Jaguar-branded range of saloons and concentrate on more crossover-SUV’s, raising the question of what future brand-Jaguar can look forward to within JLR once they too become a predominantly SUV manufacturer?
When’s that i-Pace coming out again?