Taking the Veil

Last week, JLR unveiled Velar, the most ambitious Range Rover variant yet. But Driven to Write asks, is there a cuckoo in the nest?

Image: The Car Connection
Image: The Car Connection

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.

Image: Daily Express
Image: Daily Express

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…

Image: Digital Trends

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.

Image: Motor Authority
Image: Motor Authority

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.

Already falling behind. Image: Top Gear
Already falling behind. Image: Top Gear

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?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “Taking the Veil”

  1. The leather-free interior is good news. I do hope this is setting a trend.
    But for the rest, I’m a bit puzzled. Which exactly is the niche they put the Velar in? It’s not an Evoque replacement, is it? So slightly bigger, but not as big as a RR Sport?
    Whatever it may be, I’m still in for large windows and short rear overhangs, so I won’t have to care too much about the Velar’s positioning.

  2. The gist of this is that LR occupies a richer market niche than Jaguar; Jaguar is wasting effort on CUVs; Jaguar probably only needs two cars in its range (and why not? say a saloon and a coupe).

  3. If I wanted a car like this, I think I’d prefer one from the long established masters of such things, rather that a company whose USP is/was svelte saloons. I can see the attraction of this. The rear visibility doesn’t look quite as crap as the Evoque’s, but I think it would put me off.

  4. Jaguar is not wasting its time with the F-Pace, if sales figures matter – it is on course to go from zero to their best selling model. Just goes to show that the market mania for crossovers continues (for now).

    You can imagine Jaguar execs wincing when they revealed their new baby to their Land Rover colleagues… who promptly took their work and remade it for their own purposes. This is the first time that JLR has spun both a Jaguar and a Range Rover model off the same platform – and the clear verdict is that the RR is more upmarket, possessing more brand equity. This is not a surprise.

    The exact positioning of the Velar doesn’t really matter. JLR are simply following their bigger German rivals and acting in a ruthlessly commercial fashion – they can make money from the F-Pace, but they can make even more money from the Velar, so why not? It’s well-timed, with the Range Rover Sport now half-way through its model cycle.

    But I still think the RR Sport will sell – if the F-Pace is anything to go by, the Velar won’t be as refined as its big brothers, and of course it lacks a 7 seat option.

    One final word – the design is very professional, very competent, but McGovern’s self-satisfaction is increasingly grating. The bonnet vents and side chrome detail are pure frippery, nothing more. Neither has any functional use and I’d argue both could be removed… so much for ‘reduction by design and engineering’.

  5. Land Rover’s rise has been remarkable. In 1988 they were a two car marque; now they offer six models (seven if you count the Evoque convertible). Incredible.

  6. Land Rover have taken Jaguar’s old maxim of space, pace and grace, and repackaged it for our times. People are less and less interested in driving per se, but are still sold on conspicuous wealth and capability in reserve. Whether that capability be load space, continent crushing pace, or the ability to ford a swollen Amazon tributary without dirtying your ball gown, a Land Rover does it all.

    Gerry McGovern’s influence is interesting. In many ways Land Rover are the last surviving bastion of the industrial design ethic fostered by Roy Axe at Austin-Rover. Place a pre-chrome grille era Rover 800 or R8 200 next to a contemporary Land Rover and, inside and out, the basic same themes are all present: a floating glasshouse; rational rectilinear forms; a low, horizontal dashboard. One wonders what would have become of Rover, had they the confidence to continue with those themes? Perhaps JLR would be RLR and Jaguar would be the defunct brand.

  7. Japanese flagship cars used to be sold with wool, velour or other fabric as the top upholstery option. The W126 Benz had amazing velour seats. Hopefully, as Eóin and Simon already said, there will be alternatives to leather on high-end cars once again.

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