More shapely than the average 4x4

More shapely than the average 4×4

As a brand, Land Rover have done an admirable job in producing vehicles that are appealing and eminently suitable for their task. When the Range Rover was adopted by the Chelsea set, many jokes were made about the massive four-wheel driven tank being used in the confines of a city environment. Nonetheless, the hilarity of the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ was always undermined by the fact that the Range Rover was a phenomenally capable vehicle when taken off road and performed well enough on road.

As each iteration of Land Rover and Range Rover has become more polished as a road vehicle, they have lost none of their off-road ability to boot. I still feel a certain element of frustration when you see a parent transporting their little darlings to St Cuthbert’s School for the Disgustingly Wealthy in a fully-loaded 2.2tonne Range Rover that has never faced a greater challenge than mounting the kerbstone outside Quaglino’s, but the newer Range Rovers have been on a fitness plan. The new Range Rover Velar is now weighing approximately 1.8tonnes which is the same as a Ford S-Max. The Velar (at 4803mm) is also, near as dammit, the same length as the S-Max (4796mm). This is all leading up to something, I promise…

Yesterday, a friend arrived at our home at the wheel of a new Range Rover Velar that he had hired for the weekend. I was fully prepared to scoff at the outrageous size of it the 4×4 beast but, to my own surprise, I found myself liking it almost instantly. The new face of the silver-painted Velar was rather suave, and the rear is almost boat-tailed. The roof line is lower than the Range Rover Sport by 13.7cm and only 1cm taller than the Ford S-Max. You could almost call the Velar svelte.

The 7-seat Ford S-Max has been our family wagon for the last seven years and has done an admirable job carting us, extended family or parts of football teams. It is a vehicle that is plenty large enough to carry a family and anything over that feels somewhat excessive. So, it is with great surprise that we discover that the new Range Rover Velar has very similar proportions to our venerable people carrier.

Nicely executed touchscreen displays

Nicely executed touchscreen displays

As you might expect, the Velar is step up from the S-Max. As the Velar is unlocked, the flush-fit door handles slide out of the bodywork and pools of light emanate from the underside of the door mirrors, projecting a graphic of the Velar’s side profile onto the kerbstone. Upon opening the door, you are presented with a sumptuous interior of leather and aluminium and LED displays. Our two boys scrambled into the rear cabin eagerly and were treated to a view through the enormous panoramic glass roof. Legroom is generous both front and back, with three passengers seated on the rear bench in great comfort. Curiosity got the better of me and I open the rear tailgate to reveal a surprisingly cavernous load area. Range Rover quote a storage volume of 632 litres for the Velar, whereas our Ford S-Max is closer to 700 litres – with the first two rows of seats in place. So, the Velar’s load area is smaller but you’d still successfully stow several bags of golf bats or our family’s luggage for a fortnight’s holiday.

As my friend started the engine, I was disappointed to note that it was powered by a diesel. This is not a new trendy viewpoint that I have recently adopted. My parents ran French diesel-powered cars for years and we had an Audi A3 Sportback 2.0TDi of our own for six years, but I fell out of love with diesels when realising that we did the wrong sort of driving to warrant using an oil-burner. I have become used to the smooth hum of petrol engines and so, although the Velar’s diesel is undoubtedly creamy for its type, there is still an unwelcome thrum to this particular engine that I could do without. I would love to try out a Velar P250 to see what that would be like in comparison to the diesel. Land Rover PR – are you out there?!

The Velar proves to be draftier than you'd first expect

The Velar proves to be draftier than you’d first expect

To address the one, fairly small, elephant in the room: the Range Rover Velar is lacking in the rear passenger seating numbers, to the tune of two. I am choosing to ignore this deficiency as we won’t be needing seven seats forever. The boys and their friends will be getting ever larger and I’m only really going to worry about transporting our own, not the defensive formation of the Esher FC U15s.

The upshot of all this is the surprising (to me) conclusion that the Velar makes an appealing family car and will be on the list of cars to check when the first owners have (hopefully) lost a fortune on the initial cost price and I can pick one up for a song. This may take a while, but I’m prepared to wait.