Finally something from Range Rover to go head-to-head against the well-loved Macan S – but will consumers embrace it?
Photos by Azfar Hashim
Porsche’s Macan is a spectacular success story. Design a sporty SUV that’s not too big, fit it with a lovely engine and transmission, include respectable build quality and even before the official launch, truckloads after truckloads of ‘em were already spoken for.
Note the height in default setting
Now Range Rover seem to have taken the same approach.
... and in the lowest setting
While the Macan slots below the Cayenne – making it a ‘entry-level’ SUV so to speak – Range Rover introduced the Velar for buyers who wants (a) an alternative to the Macan S for obvious reasons, and (b) desires a Range Rover that’s not to small (Evoque) or too big (Sport). Having said that, with us today is the top-of-the-range R-Dynamic variant.
For reference purposes, let us compare the Velar R-Dynamic and the Macan S in terms of size. The Range Rovaah (say this in your best in cockney impression) measures in at 4,803 mm long, 2,032 mm wide and 1,665 mm tall; whereas the Macan S at 4,681 mm long, 1,923 mm wide and 1,624 mm tall. Then in terms of wheelbase, the Velar is the bigger car here with 2,874 mm while the Macan S with 2,807 mm. Hence if we’re comparing purely sheet metal to sheet metal, the Velar is already the winner.
The Velar’s advantage between the two doesn’t just end there though. Inside the cabin, it definitely feels airier and more spacious compared to its German counterpart, offering better shoulder and headroom. Quality wise, it’s your typical Range Rover affair: A good balance of both hard and soft plastic is used throughout to give the impression that - sounding rather cliché here - being luxurious but also hardy is its business.
But that’s not all. Range Rover went one up by making its entire control buttons digital; split into two different screens - they’re touchscreens, mind you - with the upper one for trip computer and the likes, along with the entertainment system and GPS. The second screen is for the Velar’s different driving mode - you can choose between Comfort, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, Sand, Eco and Dynamic - and is also where you go to for the digital climate control. Oh, you get the seat warmer/cooler and massager controls here as well, for both driver and front passenger. Luxury much?
The ‘digital-ness’ doesn’t end just there – even the driver’s display is digital and it allows the driver to choose a host of assistance, besides having the GPS screen on it as well. Perhaps what we’ll have in the next generation Velar is a touchscreen option, like an iPad…
As the range-topping variant, the Velar R-Dynamic here gets power courtesy of the Jaguar Land Rover P380 3.0-litre V6 engine that employs a Roots-type supercharger. It is then paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission; maximum output is a respectable 375 bhp, with torque 450 Nm. Figures once reserved exclusively for performance cars, it’s rather mind-blowing to see such numbers by an SUV.
Those numbers do not lie. In Dynamic, the Velar does sprint forward like a bat out of the cave, with an equally raunchy exhaust note; more so along the KPE, MCE and CTE. This exhaust note simply inspires you to egg on, behaving more like a sport sedan than an SUV; most times, restraint must be exercised to ensure the longevity of your driving license…
Still in Dynamic, the air suspension stiffens and the steering turns weightier hence giving you a higher level of confidence. During high-speed lane changes, you can easily notice how tight the Velar is with body movements well in control. But that said however, it could still do with a little more tightening up to be on par with the Macan S; taking corners hard and fast, it seem to succumb to understeer earlier than the Porsche.
Driving this SUV in a civil manner (read: Comfort mode), its cabin refinement deserves special mention. At highway-legal speed, engine noise is kept at a minimum, and the same can be said about both tyre and wind noises too. The suspension’s softer setting also makes it comfortable for all passengers on board. Complimenting this would be the smooth-shifting transmission, which impresses during city driving.
In a nutshell, the Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic here is a thoroughly packaged SUV that sits on the fence perfectly between outright brashness and civility; if ‘comfort’ is also on your priority list, picking this over the Macan S does make sense.
To be bold, this is one of the best cars I’ve driven this year.
There's the button that would be of great assistance if you so desire to go off the beaten path
673-litres boot capacity at your disposal; bring the rear seat down and you instantly have 1,730-litres
We're not sure whether you'd take $400k off the beaten path, but it's good to know that you actually could