(Pocket-lint) - Jaguar Land Rover has hauled the Velar name out of the history books to grace the fourth Range Rover model in the marque's long and illustrious history.
Granted, the original Land Rover incarnation was apparently pronounced "Vee-lar", as opposed to today's slightly more flowery "Veh-lar", and it never intended to go on sale, instead acting as a test bed for the soon-to-be-released Land Rover in the late 1960s.
But it paved the way for Land Rover to take its Range Rover badge ever more upmarket - and the Velar is arguably one of the most handsome and technically sophisticated models yet.
It is designed to sit somewhere between the Range Rover Evoque and Sport, while simultaneously avoiding treading on the Jaguar F-Pace's toes. As a result, it features most of the off-road capabilities found in its larger Range Rover siblings but also proves remarkably comfortable on road.
However, it is inside the vehicle where the most impressive updates reside, as the Velar ushers in a brand new approach to infotainment - something for which isn't historically famed.
It seems Range Rover doesn't have to do very much to shift an impressive number of models these days and even with some negative feedback from the press (we're looking at you Evoque), the badge continues to go from strength to strength.
In that respect, JLR could have been lazy with Velar but it hasn't. Far from it, in fact. The fourth vehicle to wear the Range Rover badge looks fantastic, is a supremely comfortable cruiser, while the interior tech sets a new benchmark in design and usability.
Yes, the more powerful and more generously specced models rapidly tickle the Â£60,000 mark - but that does buy a great deal of technological wizardly, as well as many envious glances.
A titan of tech and a lesson in styling: the Range Rover Velar is a contender for the SUV crown in 2017.
Range Rover Velar
- Cutting-edge infotainment tech
- Handsome looks
- Comfortable and refined interior
- It's expensive
- Interior finish isn't quite perfect
Range Rover Velar review: Design
Gerry McGovern is a bit of a rock and roll star in the world of vehicle design and his recent work for Land Rover has proven a smash hit among customers worldwide.
His Velar builds on the sleek and swooping lines of the Evoque - but it also benefits from some added muscle around the wheelarches, larger alloy wheels, a sleek floating roof design and new clamshell bonnet.
The LED headlights and rear taillights are piercing, to say the very least, and there are plenty of neat touches to amuse those meeting the vehicle for the first time, such as the flush door handles that electronically pop out of their housings when the vehicle is unlocked.
This top-spec R-Dynamic model - which benefits from a unique, deeper front bumper and burnished copper detailing - oozes premium appeal, which is a good considering it costs over £70,000. But more on that later.
The bottom line: this is the least SUV-like SUV that Range Rover has ever produced. It sits on the same platform as the Jaguar XF and shares lots of metal bits with the road-biased Jaguar F-Pace, but it still manages to give off an aura of exploration. Clever stuff indeed.
Range Rover Velar review: Engines
There's plenty to choose from, with a 180hp 2.0-litre diesel engine kicking off proceedings. This unit can also be specified with 240hp or diesel fans can step up to a 3.0-litre, 300hp version if pulling power is needed.
There are also two petrol models - one a 2.0-litre (outputting 250hp), the other a fire-breathing 3.0-litre V6 (outputting 380hp). It is the latter that we have been lucky enough to enjoy over the past few days for this very review.
Naturally, there is plenty of pull from this engine and it can happily propel the chunky Velar from 0-60mph in just 5.3 seconds. This is also thanks to the liberal use of aluminium throughout the construction, which means the newest Range Rover in the family tips the scales at just over 2,000kg (sounds heavy, but all considered it's not).
Another benefit is that the Velar manages around 30mpg under normal cruising conditions, despite the throaty V6 burbling away in the background. That's not too shabby for a quick Rover.
Power is driven through a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, which also benefits from paddle shifts should the driver want to take full control.
Range Rover Velar review: The drive
A Range Rover has always served as a status symbol, but it has managed to reign supreme as the king of the Chelsea tractors for so long due to its incredibly comfortable ride, whisper-quiet interiors and elevated ride height that offers a sense of grandeur to anyone who gets behind the wheel.
Despite the Velar's relatively diminutive proportions, it still feels like a Range Rover product to pilot. The driver sits above the long and boxy bonnet, the seats are sumptuous and plush, the steering is magnificently light and the air suspension does a wonderful job when soaking up bumps in the road.
The big V6 petrol engine makes some pleasing noises under hard acceleration, but it quickly settles down into a near-silent idle when cruising at motorway speeds.
Our test route took us on some districted stretches of the autobahn and even with the new digital displays reading very silly top speeds, it was still possible to hold a hushed conversation in the cabin.
Various driving modes - ranging from Dynamic to Eco - alter the mood of the vehicle at the press of a button. Opt for the former and the steering becomes heavy, while body roll is reduced thanks to air suspension adopting a lower ride height.
It takes corners with ease, if not with dynamic prowess, and cleverly manages to hide its overall bulk well, although the Porsche Macan takes the crown as the true king of the sporty SUVs, while the Jaguar F-Pace is arguably contender to the throne.
Range Rover Velar review: Off road smarts
Of course, the Velar can only truly wear the Range Rover badge if it can handle the muddy stuff. And it sure doesn't let the side down.
The all-wheel drive system is marshalled by the marque's tried and tested Terrain Response 2 technology, which allows the driver to easily select from a number of pre-set conditions - sand, gravel, snow - and allow the vehicle to deliver the correct level of traction.
There is also a low traction launch function, for pulling the Velar out of sticky situations, hill descent control and gradient release control, which progressively release the brakes when moving away on an incline.
Unfortunately, this particular test route didn't include a full off-road section but we did manage to find some desolate beachscape upon which we could test the grip and the Velar didn't seem fazed in the slightest.
It is highly unlikely that the Velar will ever go further than the off-road car park at the local fete, but its impressive wading depth and mud-plugging abilities serve as further strings to its bow.
Range Rover Velar review: Infotainment and in-car tech
The real excitement comes from the Velar's masterful display of in-car technology.
JLR's new Touch Pro Duo system debuts on Velar, featuring not one but two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that sit neatly in the centre of the leather-clad dash.
According to David Doody, the vehicle programme director for Velar, the system was a result of the reductionist theme that runs throughout the cabin.
"Gerry McGovern had a very clear vision when it came to this project and he wanted everything to be cleaner, lighter.
"But more and more features and technologies were coming through on this vehicle, it was becoming overly demanding on the switch count within the car, which was contrary to the design vision.
"To offer the level of functionality but to keep to the design brief, we realised we needed touchscreens - and this was the best configuration we found. It's extremely user-friendly."
JLR turned to Panasonic for inspiration and keen tech fans will have spotted a similar set-up being showcased at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, which featured seemingly floating dials sat atop a touchscreen display. These were called Magic Knobs and, luckily, JLR developed the idea and obviously reworked the name (to Magic Dials) to work in Velar.
The result is beautiful, as the capacitive switching on the steering wheel and most of the dash appears piano black until the vehicle is unlocked. As soon as the owner hops into the car and hits the start/stop button, the vast array of screens burst into life, offering vibrant colours and stunning HD graphics to boot.
The system is quick, with a powerful Intel processor and 60GB solid-state drive stashed in the boot ensuring menus can be adjusted and controlled shortly after the ignition button is depressed.
Despite being physically larger, the Volvo XC90 is arguably one of the Velar's closest rivals, particularly in terms of cutting edge interior tech. But one of the major quibbles with the Swedish system is the fact that everything is relegated to a touchscreen, which makes the business of quickly adjusting heaters and other functionality a bit fiddly.
The simple addition of two floating rotary dials in the Velar negates the need to delve into layers of menus to adjust settings.
The two screens work in harmony, with all the regular use items, such as navigation and audio, contained to the top screen (this can also be setup to the user's preferences and swiped between like a tablet), while the bottom screen deals with climate, drive control and other vehicle settings.
Navigation is equally intuitive, using familiar pinch-to-zoom and pin-dropping to mark waypoints and locations. It can also be specified to run a built-in SIM for live traffic information, over-the-air updates and the usual web browsing capabilities.
On top of this, there is a pin-sharp head-up display, as well as an impressive suite of driver assistance features, such as rear traffic alerts, myriad external cameras and even a wading depth indicator.
Range Rover Velar review: Interior
The Velar's surrounds are understandably plush and JLR has gone to great lengths to cover as many surfaces as possible in soft, hand-stitched leather.
Our test car was decked out in a stunning Silicon Silver paint job and contrasting Nimbus/Ebony interior, which might prove a little garish in some eyes - but we think it works a treat.
The bright 12.3-inch interactive driver display, which replaces analogue instrument binnacles, is flashy and responsive enough to rival Audi's Virtual Cockpit.
There are also some additional neat touches, like the copper weave in the Meridian Signature Sound System's speaker covers.
But a few areas let the Velar's interior down: some of the plastics used at the lower end of the cockpit feel a bit cheap. Give the beautifully leather-wrapped dash a knock and it sounds hollow, while tread plates and piano black exterior plastic flourishes are susceptible to scratching and wear.
It's nothing major but the Porsche Macan feels that little bit more solid inside, even if the overall aesthetic is far sportier and focused than the relaxing interior of the Velar.
Also, Range Rover is the first premium SUV manufacturer to offer an alternative to premium textile material instead of leather. Developed with Kvadrat, this sustainable fabric features wool-blend textile contrasted with a Suedecloth insert that is fashioned from recycled plastic bottles.
A titan of tech and a lesson in styling: the Range Rover Velar looks like it'll own the SUV crown for 2017 and beyond.