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Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Range Rover Velar: A tale of two rad road trips

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Range Rover's Velar is a sporty city slicker with some off-road aspirations. (Jaguar Land Rover)

When Jaguar Land Rover unveiled the Range Rover Velar a year ago, some auto aficionados asked, "Why?" and "What is it for?"

By year's end, though, the Velar was a winner. Jaguar Land Rover reported it was the top-selling model in the entire family for the October-December sales period.

The Velar's design is sleeker and sportier than the boxy Range Rovers with which it shares its badge.

It drives and handles that way, too. Around town and on country roads, the SUV feels light and nimble. Easy to drive, the Velar benefits from pretty good visibility, despite the sloping rear of the vehicle, and a very good back-up camera.

The switch in drive modes from Eco to Comfort to Dynamic cranks up the sporty sensations, and helps make the most of the supercharged 3-liter engine that drives the Velar.

It's a little tippy in the corners, reminding the driver with every curve that, despite the responsive engine and the paddle shifters, this is not a sports car.

But on the long run between Los Angeles and Prescott, Ariz., the Velar proved a very comfortable traveler. The front seats are capacious, highly adjustable and very comfortable, and come standard with heating, ventilating and massage functions. These got high marks from my co-pilot.

The rear seating area was equally comfortable, but more of a mixed bag. Because the Velar maximizes on cargo area -- there's enough space with the seats folded down to load two mountain bikes -- it doesn't provide a lot of rear passenger legroom. But the rear seats do offer an adjustable lean angle, a relative rarity even in luxury SUVs.

The adaptive cruise control system was among the best I've tried, maintaining speed and following distance with aplomb -- though it did seem to brake and accelerate too abruptly in certain situations.

I found much to admire in the spare, stripped-down dash design, which may be second only to the new Tesla Model 3 in its crisp, clear lines. The dash and the enormous sunroof increased the Velar's airy, attractive environment.

But as with the Model 3, I found my eyes traveling to the infotainment screen too often, and staying there too long, when I wanted to adjust things like the temperature, or the fan speed, or the seat heater.

There was also more tire and wind noise than the sleek design of the Velar seemed to promise. At times it seemed to overwhelm the otherwise very good Meridian sound system -- a $3,060 upgrade.

Because it is a Range Rover, and belongs to the venerable Land Rover family, the Velar comes prepared for off-road rambling.

Equipped in standard format with driving options for Grass Gravel Snow, Mud Ruts and Sand, this model also featured a lockable rear differential and an On/Off Road Package that included a variety of driver assists.

Despite these, and settings that can raise and lower the ground clearance, after a 30-minute off-road experiment with deep sand and rocks the Velar did not inspire much all-terrain confidence. This would not be the Range Rover to buy for an assault on the Darien Gap.

But for a stylish, comfortable assault on the urban anthill, the Velar is a sociable climber.

--Sponsored Video--

2018 Range Rover Velar

Times' take: Jaguar Land Rover's sleek top seller

Highs: Sporty, stylish and fun to drive

Lows: Noisy at high speeds, distracting infotainment screen

Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger SUV

Base price: $77,100

Price as tested: $90,170

Powertrain: 3-liter, six-cylinder, supercharged gasoline engine

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 380

Torque: 332 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 18 miles per gallon city / 24 highway / 20 combined

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times

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