Range Rover Velar – gorgeous from any angle

If the pretty Range Rover Evoque is the Gucci handbag of SUVs then the company’s new Velar is the Louis Vuitton suitcase. Big, bold and even more stylish, the Velar is set to be THE travel accessory of 2018. With both Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini launching super SUVs over the next 12 months, all-wheel drive, luxury cars like the Velar are set to remain first choice for any well-heeled motorist. Our D240 costs £64,160 and is powered by an eight-speed 1999cc diesel engine. It produces 240bhp and can average an impressive 49.7mpg (combined).

Velar slots in to the Range Rover line-up between the entry-level, compact Evoque and the rather bling Sport (no jokes about footballer’s wives – it’s a serious driving machine). The ‘full-fat’, original Range Rover is still the big daddy.

Expensive, smooth and simply gorgeous from any angle, Velar is a beauty queen in the everyday car park of BMW, Mercedes and Audi rivals. The steeply raked windscreen, low roofline and pert derriere are pure car couture.

I found visibility a little restricted around town through that narrow, rear screen but otherwise the interior is a revelation. Expect minimalist cool – with not one but two control screens that sweep away an ugly rash of dials.

Just like the futuristic Tesla, Velar takes interior design to a whole new level. The steering wheel buttons are touch sensitive, the graphics oh so sophisticated and the Meridian sound system is an ear tingling joy.

Land Rover appears to have thought of everything with the multi-purpose Velar. Even vegetarians are catered for with optional, textured cloth upholstery that pretends to be leather. Mouthwatering indeed.

Velar was the code name given to the concept Range Rover back in the 1960s – so this new model has pedigree. Not that anybody would want to go mud flinging in a machine that costs upwards of £44,000.

That’s the entry-level price. My mid-range 240D HSE costs in excess of £70,000 with a few ‘must-have’ extras, like head-up instrument display flashed onto the windscreen and rear seat entertainment.

Of all the Range Rover models, this one is primarily designed for the road, with a range of eco-friendly petrol and diesel engines. No doubt a hybrid will be along soon, too. Priced to fill the £30,000 gap between the Evoque and the Sport, Velar may be cute but it is still super capable on the rough stuff.

Most versions feature air suspension, which allows the driver to adapt the Velar to suit the terrain – or it can manage the whole lot automatically.

High off the ground and rather chunky, I found the Velar didn’t handle with the pinpoint accuracy of a sportier BMW X5. A Porsche Macan is the best driver’s car.

It’s difficult not to fall for the Velar, perhaps because it has the advantage of being the newest, most sought after SUV available and looks like nothing else.

German rivals do certain things better but as a beautiful package, the Land Rover is something of a head-turning tease. And you can’t really say that about any Audi, Mercedes or a BMW equivalent, can you?

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I don’t have a family, so I can admire the XC60 from afar and buy an inappropriate Maserati instead…

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For once I seem to be in the right test car for the weather conditions. Usually I have a rear-wheel drive BMW for ice (appalling), an MX-5 two-seater to go on holiday with a passenger AND dog (tight), or a bog standard saloon on a hot day when a convertible would be perfect (boring).

The point is that even with the keys to a candy shop of cars, it’s difficult to plan ahead and choose the right one. In Britain, spring can be a snow-fest, or a mini scorcher. It’s the only good reason to live by the Med, where the weather is always the same.

Which is probably why in 2015, car buyers seem to want multi-purpose vehicles that do everything. A one-size-fits-all, off the peg motor that takes every day in its stride, and whatever you throw at it.

While the XC60 is never going to set your pulse racing, it’s a brilliant family SUV. Fortunately, I don’t have a family to ship around, so I can admire it from afar, tell my friends it’s perfect for their kids – then go and buy an inappropriate Maserati instead….

Renault Captur – Useless For Carrying Pencils

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Compact SUVs – there’s so many of them out there these days that they all seem to blend into one. Ten years ago we would have bought a hatchback, now everybody want’s a family car that’s high of the ground with chunky styling.

On paper, the Captur isn’t that different. Despite the looks, it’s front-wheel drive only, which means the 20cm of extra ride height only aids visibility and nothing else.

Yet in the metal, the Captur is actually rather good. It’s been well thought out by the designers, with deeply sculpted side panels, a funky front end that encapsulates a big Renault badge, plus plenty of personalization options. The chrome exterior pack looks especially neat.

And this youthful approach continues inside, with colour-coded seats, a wrap around dashboard and seven-inch display screen.

My favourite feature are the seats bins on the back of the front seats. They are strands of bungee chord shaped liked a spider’s web. Look great – but crap for carrying your kid’s pencils…

Thursday – Get ‘Orf My Road!

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Bloody typical! I’ve just had an altercation with a local farmer, head to head down a narrow lane, my Q5 against his poo-covered tractor. Not sure what his problem was but apparently, I’m a city type who doesn’t know the ‘way things work’ in the country’.

Now, was it just because I was driving a posh Audi? Would it have been the same if I had been in my ancient, poo-covered Land Rover I wonder?

Maybe it was the fancy daylights, the ’13’ on the registration plates, or the angry front grille (see earlier post)? Has Audi become the new BMW – the most despised premium brand on the market?

I’ve grown to like the Q5, especially since I found the dynamic drive button. It’s also fairly inoffensive, unless you are an angry farmer.

I’m also sure that with privacy glass, bling wheels and sporty bits, it could well be a ‘townie’ car. Especially if you are an angry farmer in Gloucestershire…

Monday – Interior As Cool As A Coupe

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Just look at that dashboard layout – it’s so damn Audi. Minimalist, efficient and just oozing quality. And the Q5 is a family car, not some uber cool coupe. Yet it feels every inch as good in the driver’s seat, when you pop the key in the slot and the whole lot springs to life.

There is a raft of very good SUVs out there for a lot less money – think Kia, Hyundai – but you just know that when a customer sits behind the wheel of a Q5, it’s going to set an impressive benchmark.

It’s all about the details. The feel of the squared off steering wheel in your hand, the precision of the automatic gearbox shift and those buttons and dials, all beautifully tactile and positioned.

I can’t think of how a Q5 would fit in my life because I don’t have kids or grandchildren to ferry around. But I know that if I did, this would probably be the only serious competitor to a Land Rover Freelander that I would consider.

 

 

 

 

Saturday – One Man Went to Mow

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A Q5’s isn’t cheap to buy compared to SUV rivals but as well as Audi quality, you are getting one very big car. I’ve just squeezed a huge lawn mower in the boot and it didn’t eat into rear seat space one bit.

The back seats are massive too. The Q5 really can carry five adults in comfort, with acres of leg space and excellent headroom as well. With or without lawn mower in situ. Lower the back seats and luggage space is almost trebled. You can also spec up the car with a folding front seat.

The cabin itself is a delight. A mix of quality leather and soft plastics which should make any school run a pleasure.

And the high driving position gives excellent, all-round visibility, one reason why people opt for SUVs in the first place. I have to give the sat nav system a mention too – quite possibly the easiest unit I’ve tried in ages. Still can’t my iPhone to synch with the Bluetooth though…

 

Saturday – A Swiss Army Knife Of A Car

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Jeremy My biggest fear about having kids and growing up? Obviously, the thought of driving a people-carrier. Who wants to open the door in the morning and be confronted by a Ford Galaxy or something with seven seats, shaped like a wet sponge and built by Nissan? Me neither.

So the rise of the SUV has been a blessing for us forty somethings. Sorry, fifty somethings, I keep forgetting my recent significant birthday. And judging by the huge number of SUVs on driveways up and down the country, the rest of the car-buying British public feel the same too.

One of the more popular models around these parts is the Mitsubishi Outlander, probably because the company has its UK operations based in Cirencester. Quite frankly, there are loads of them. Waitrose is like a forecourt for the company, so expect a Waitrose special edition Outlander any day soon…

I’m just back from the shops and I can see why. Our GX5 test car is at the top of the range. It’s loaded with equipment, including sat nav, leather seats, adaptive cruise control and the rather neat ECO driving mode. Now I thought this was a bit of a gimmick but it actually works!

Today I have managed 46.1mpg in everyday driving. That’s in a four-wheel drive with the air conditioning on and three people on board. Considerably better than expected – and obviously rather more than the sadly departed Jaguar XKR-S. More tomorrow….