Getting acquainted with the Range Rover Velar

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I recently attended the Media launch of the Range Rover Velar in Cape Town. The trip was curated to begin our journey at the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch. Like art, this was the next step in the transformational journey that Range Rover is on. We took the Velar out through the low-lying fynbos fringed roads stretching up the West Coast and ended our experience at Bosjes with a light lunch. Here’s what I thought about the Velar.

First Impression:

At the onset, it’s necessary to acknowledge a few truths; the Range Rover Velar looks the part:

Successful. Ambitious. Aggressive. Intimidating.

Doesn’t our perception of a car rely largely on how it is marketed? I’m not talking about the ads that we see on billboards or TV commercials, but rather how we perceive it on the road and in parking lots.

It’s safe to assume that women who prefer larger cars travel shorter distances, are likely aged 28 and older and come from larger households that are more likely to have children (3 plus). For this woman, fuel usage is a subsidiary factor, and I’m told that the Velar consumes way too much fuel. But who’s counting.

For me, intimidation factor is most important when it comes to the overall look of a car – if it’s high enough when I stop at a robot, there’s a lesser chance of having my windows smashed and broken into. Being in a larger car doesn’t give you any sort of superiority on the road, it just makes you and your passengers feel safer on the road.

Having test driven and compared all the new models of the Range Rover Velar against my current Landrover Disco 4, the Velar appears smaller in size in comparison. In fact, the company is placing it at as a size in-between a (compact) Range Rover Evoque and (larger and bulkier) Sport (if you can visualise the 2). I’m not saying that it feels any less safe. In fact, the first thing that I noticed while watching the footage of the making of the Velar at the official Media launch in Cape Town, was the receding door handles that automatically retract flush into the door once you reach a speed of over 10km (Read: Anti-hijack). But if you’re concerned that Johannesburg might drop to 3 degrees in Winter, fear not. Your Velar handles can crack through 4 layers of ice if applied directly on to it! 

Because my current car is much larger (wider and taller in comparison), I found parking the Velar much easier. The models that I might have driven came standard with the Parking Packs included, however I believe that there are 4 Packs that are optional extras, with the Park Pro being the one to eye out if you’re like me and still can’t parallel park. The cameras are located basically all over your car so you’re likely to see or hear if you’re about to bump something or too close to something on the interactive displays. I’ve realised that this is pretty much one of the features that I must have and will skimp on something else (I’m sure what the pricing is though, so I’m not certain how much of a skimp it will be!).

Lighting is usually the next thing that I look at when I take notice of a new car, or a car behind me. Although some features may not be seen during driving, like when the external light levels darken, a powerful and distinctive headlight switches on automatically (technical term: adaptive matrix LED lighting). I’ve noticed this feature with my Disco 4 so it’s nothing new to me however this feature will only work when there are no other cars around. The LED lighting is striking and sleek though even though the actual housing appears narrow.

I’m not here to go much into the aesthetics. Once you see a Velar, you will want to test drive a Velar and ultimately land up buying a Velar because you love what it looks like from the outside and the technology inside will mean nothing to you. It will mean something to your husband though.

How many does the Velar seat:

The Velar is designed to seat 5 passengers, so this rules out anyone who has 4 children. (Unless this is your secondary car and they’re not all with you at once). The boot space appears fairly small (in comparison to my Disco 4, which to me can convert into a small bakkie if I needed it to!). Once the seats drop down, you’ll appreciate all the additional space if required.

Interior Technology:

There are quite a few categories that need to be discussed, so scroll down to the ones that interest you the most.

On first glance there was way too much happening for me. It felt like it was somewhat of a tech-overload. But many of these functions only appeared on the screens with very few actual ‘knobs’ or switches on the dash. The technical term for the whole interactive system is the ‘Touch Pro Duo’ or actual name: ‘InControl Touch Pro Duo’.

Interactive InControl Touch Pro Duo:

This appears as a 2-part touchscreen system which allows the driver to simultaneously view and interact with multiple features at once. For instance, you can use the navigation system in the upper screen while playing media on the lower screen. The top screen is used for infotainment, navigation and camera footage while the screen at the bottom controls the climate and vehicle setup. You can also control the air conditioning and heating and if you’re on the Seats menu, you can control the intensity of the massage feature (only available to driver and passenger) or the temperature of your seats. There has to be a way to minimise what is displayed on the system when it’s not in use so it doesn’t appear as if there are too many distractions when you are driving.

Navigation:

Speaking of driving, one of the nicer features for me is that you can view your navigation directly in front of you as opposed to viewing it on the Touch Pro Duo. Its also an option to leave it there if that’s how you’re used to driving. I found the navigation failed in comparison to using Google Maps on my cellphone. Traffic doesn’t update automatically so it doesn’t show up as a feature. It doesn’t always give you the most accurate route and doesn’t offer alternatives (although I’m certain there could possible be a way to avoid u-turns and provide another route option instead). In fact, the navigation was completely off on our last route to the airport and kept on insisting that we did a U-turn when possible. For a feature that I use almost daily (I always check the traffic when I leave home) and for all the technology that the car promises, traffic and best routes should have been a standard on the car with an automatic update when necessary.

The only actual way to figure out just how many features are available on the InControl Touch Pro Duo is to play with the controls as much as you’re able to when taking it out for a test-drive (or after you’ve purchased one). You’re likely to finally find what you were looking for, or discover some new features that aren’t highlighted in the manual.

I find the whole system of touch screens slightly dangerous, no matter how innovative it is to the best of drivers. I don’t like having to actually turn my head to look at the screen because there isn’t a voice telling me that I’ve actually touched the wrong button. In this instance, you will need to go back, and obviously, turn your head again to locate that button. This is best suited for your passenger to play with, or at best, once you’ve mastered all of the options and all of the touch controls on your screen.

Bluetooth and Wifi:

Like many of the newer cars, the Bluetooth function is a standard, and a necessity for hands-free communication while driving. We also discovered that a Data card was inserted into the sim slot so we had access to 4G WiFi during our test drive. If I drove a Velar, this would be one of the first features that I’d turn on – in fact, it should be a standard in all cars. You can actually connect up to eight devices on the Velar and while we’re on numbers, there’s a 60GB hard drive for media storage (although I’m not sure that I’d ever actually use this feature).

Charging ports:

USB ports seem to be a standard in most newer cars and the Velar has 2 in the front as standard and offer two more in the back as an optional extra. To be honest, I’m not sure why it wasn’t included as a standard actually, given the amount of time children spend on devices when traveling on long-distance trips.

Ambient Lighting:

As a nice-to-have feature, ambient cabin LED lighting can be configured to a few different colours. It changes the mood and is a slightly gimmicky novelty for kids. I’m only mentioning this because it’s a feature that my kids would be impressed with.

Steering Wheel:

I can’t conclude this section without mentioning the heads-up display. Directly in front of you, (in front of the steering wheel) there’s a projector, which produces an image that hovers just above the bonnet as you look out the windscreen. The image shows your speed and your navigation. There are a few other extras which I didn’t take note of (not because it wasn’t important, but rather didn’t likely appeal to me). I found this easier to focus on rather than have to adjust my eyes (and head) to look at the other screens.

Another nifty feature is the touch knob to control the volume. It’s a nice-to-have little gadget that is actually not a necessity but rather a feature that I’d find myself playing with more than it was intended to.

Interior Design:

There are many interior colour combinations to choose from, but I wouldn’t rush off and order my Velar with Light Oyster as an interior colour choice. Determine your needs as a driver, and consider the passengers that you are commuting. Even though the lighter colours appear tempting, it’s not worth the extra effort of having to clean any discolouration on the leather. The seating is comfortable but most importantly there are 4 ‘climate’ zones, which mean the driver, passenger and those on each side of the second row of seats are able to control the temperature of where they’re seated.

Storage space, cup holders and the just-because space that we need:

The Velar has one cubby, which doesn’t store much other than the service book and car manual. There isn’t room for much else in there so consider having to keep tissues or small toiletry bags on the side of the door, or in the boot if absolutely necessary.

There are 2 cup holders in the center console. The one is snug in size and can hold a bottle or can, but the other (which I actually think might not be able to store either of the 2) appears large enough to hold a mug (which means a bottled water sways side to side when driving). I’m telling you this because I know that is what I look for in my own cars! I have a mug of tea that travels with me during that early-morning school drop-off or the paper coffee cup that needs to fit in snug on my afternoon coffee pick-up. If there wasn’t space for either of these things, my car just wouldn’t make sense to me.

There is limited space on the side of my door too. I mean, I’m not moving into my car, but I’d like to make sure I have some space for some personal items that make my car, mine.

If you’re looking for space to hide keys, cash and cards, the center console (where the USB ports are) open up.

The Drive:

  1. Can it go over speedbumps – yes, with no braking required. In fact, you could go over a bump at a minimum speed of 100km.
  2. Can it take a bend – gently, but firm. The tyres keep you fixed securely on the road and if the car detects any under steer during a corner, it will automatically perform light braking on the inside wheels to make sure you keep on your driving line.

A car will go as fast as you need to take it however, after comparing the drive of a V6 Supercharged to a 4 cylinder Diesel, I would consider just how much extra I’m willing to spend just for a few additional kicks on the highway. There’s a noticeable difference if speed is priority to you. If you’re doing mainly short commutes, I would rather splash out on some nifty extras.

One of the key features for me is the steering wheel. It is light and easy to handle especially if taking it out for long journeys. I found the overall comfort of holding it outstanding and somehow this all amps up every other design feature on the car. If you’re a one-hand-steering-wheel-turner, you will find the handling on this remarkable.

Let’s briefly discuss it’s off-road capabilities, or should I say, superiorities.

Our route took us onto some (many) dirt roads during our drive through the low-lands. The Velar took this all in it’s stride. There isn’t much more that you need to know other than we did this all at over 120km. It can handle dirt roads with ease, I see no reason why inclines might be a problem. Did I mention it glides over water?

Images supplied

Before you rush out to test drive the Velar, or any vehicle, here is a detailed article on how to test-drive a vehicle. Have a read here

For more on the actual launch and our experience in the Cape, view images on my Instagram: naqiyah_mayat

 

 

 

 

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