While the 2018 Range Rover Velar S did not make me feel like the King of New York City, as I had hoped, I did feel like at least maybe the Duke of my neighborhood. You know, still getting plenty of attention, but not too much, while having all of the benefits of being born into a world of no real responsibility. It was a nice feeling while it lasted.
(Full Disclosure: After seeing them all over New York City and checking our previous Jalopnik Reviews, I reached out to Land Rover to see if I could test a 2018 Velar for a week. A P380 S showed up later with a full tank of gas.)
Despite being one of the less-adventurous models in the Land Rover and Ranger Rover lineup, the Velar is still cool in its own right. It’s more of a styling exercise that expands the brand’s appeal to people who just want something luxurious with a nice badge to roll up to the party in.
But the Velar has come a long way to prove it not only makes sense for Range Rover to embrace a prettier model to scoop up more sales, but that the automaker can do a damn good job of it, too.
If the Land Rover is for hardcore off-road driving and overlanding for the wealthy, and the Range Rover is for suburban living and country clubbing for the wealthy, then the boaty 2018 Range Rover Velar is the final piece of the puzzle in its role as a satisfying vehicle for city living, priced for the not-as-wealthy. Think of it as the Urban Rover.
While the Velar may be the least-inspiring off-roader of the Range Rover lineup, at least on first impression, it’s still packed with technology and capability, and presents just enough ruggedness and stature interpreted through its overt stylishness to welcome any who may challenge how dirty it’s capable of getting.
But the Velar is first and foremost a comfortable design exercise, aimed at getting more asses into more perforated leather seats at a lower entry point for the brand while the rest of the lineup tackles the climbing mountains and fording rivers nonsense. And while it’s slightly more relaxed and delicate, the Velar doesn’t lose any of the confidence-inspiring character expected of a Rangie.
The P380 S moniker is representative of the satisfying 380 horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged six-cylinder engine dragging along the weighty and sleek mid-size crossover with up to 332 lb-ft of torque.
This one gets permanent all-wheel drive like all Velar models, with torque vectoring via braking, which can give each individual corner a squeeze as necessary to maximize traction. There’s also a pack of different drive mode settings including Eco, Dynamic (my go-to), Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand, also utilizing the adjustable air suspension setup for the occasional actual off-roading situation.
Gas mileage is claimed to be 18 mpg city, 24 highway, and 20 average, and I got about 18 mpg, which makes sense.
The optional equipment fitted to the Velar I piloted for the week included a $610 Byron Blue paint job, $255 heated steering wheel, $385 heated windshield, $870 sound system, two additional USB ports and an additional 12-volt plug for $205, a $565 active driver display system on the digital speedometer display, $510 for the damn powered adjustable steering column, a $570 Drive Package including blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and driver condition monitoring, and a $1,020 heated front and rear seat package.
The additional options, plus destination and delivery, put the price of this admittedly basic-looking Velar at a whopping $72,326. So is it really worth it?
I’ve seen Velars all over the city for months, and considering how distracting it is for me, I think it’s fair to credit it as a particularly striking design for a crossover. But upon first sight of this particular Velar, with its light color, shockingly pedestrian chubby silver five spoke 19-inch wheels, and base-trim bumper fitments, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
The vision in my head presents a long wedged wagon-like profile with dark accents, bold body lines and show-stopping wheels, driven by early-morning Manhattan types wearing weird overpriced antimicrobial clothing, a ponytail pulled so tight it must save a fortune on botox treatments, pants where the legs are hemmed far too high up the ankle, and some bullshit accessory like a smart belt.
As it turns out, that’s the R-Dynamic trim option I’m thinking of, which gets wheels a designer actually signed off on, a black roof, and new bumper treatments that show off the Velar’s exhaust, instead of hiding it like the bumper on the base model does. The Velar S is, in comparison, rather casual, and it completely reprogrammed the position of this crossover in my mind upon delivery.
It became very apparent to me how clouded my judgement of the Velar S was after a couple of days with it. Parking for photos, a group of construction workers looked on with quiet murmurings until one came over and asked me about the car.
He was very excited about seeing it, and wanted to know if it was the “new” one, what the paint color was called, and how much it cost. To see a group of people this excited and impressed by it had me backpedaling how much I had written off this particular Velar. Clearly the fundamental design caught people’s attention and held their interest. For a mid-size crossover to do that in Manhattan is pretty impressive.
The best part about the Velar experience is the punch of confidence the supercharged V6 engine grants you. It’s tuned in such a way that there’s no painfully obvious lag—you put your foot down, and while the power doesn’t rush in all at once, it does come in a satisfying and controllable wave.
Throw that power in with the tall ride height, the bright, appeasing interior layout, and the suspension’s smoothness over the absolutely trash roads of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and you feel unstoppable. Take it out of the city and it’s even genuinely fun to drive.
The steering is tight and intuitive, the eight-speed automatic delivers, the body roll is more of a satisfying lean, like a life-long adult rollerblader showing off at a skatepark, and the whooshing grumble of the engine makes you feel like you’re being pulled along the road in a chariot.
I had so much fun powering around in this that I’m convinced every SUV should be supercharged. Think about it. It will instantly make all of them fun, in a very immediate and direct manner that’s basically just throwing more raw power into the hands of the people. It fits the vibe of the SUV. Big. Strong. Important. Get out of my way. It just works so well.
Where else are the masses going to have access to a supercharged engine? Jaguar? This pretty much is a Jaguar! Let everyone else have fun. I’m talking Tahoes, Expeditions, Grand Cherokees. Litter the world with supercharged SUVs and I promise everyone will become more confident. Maybe it will even make the thought of having children bearable if it means you get to supercharge the morning school run.
Back in the city, the Velar’s presence is respected. People let you over to get around double-parked cars, pedestrians don’t run through the red hand gleaming over the crosswalk when they see you coming, but they do twist their necks with eyebrows raised as you squeeze by. Though that may have just been because a teenage-looking kid in a stained t-shirt was blasting Cher in a brand new Range Rover.
The interior is nicely padded, the seats are very comfortable, most surfaces are soft to the touch, with the broadest contact surfaces wrapped in a lovely patterned leather-like material.
Most of the dials and stalks are satisfyingly stiff with solid clicks on the settings. The driver display screen behind the steering wheel is clear to read with a great digital layout, there’s more than enough electrical sockets in the front and back, and while the air vents seem small, they are very effective at cooling you off in the humid summer heat.
Moving on from my loathing of the basic wheels and the fact that the Velar just ignores any decent exhaust treatment, inside is where most of my complaints live.
The dashboard houses two touchscreens. The higher one controls the navigation and most of the media, and also features the backup camera when reversing, and the lower touchscreen has seat settings, drive settings, general system settings and another menu for picking media input and changing the song.
The only physical controls on the dashboard are the volume knob, which is serves its purpose well, and the individual climate control settings for driver and passenger, which are plastic rings that you push to activate the heated seats, as well.
While it does add a nice futuristic vibe to the cabin, and is extremely similar to the setup in the new Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover, the response time of this infotainment system is not great. On startup it’s initially even slower, and it takes a couple of minutes to seemingly get “warmed up,” which should not be an issue in this day and age.
After living with it for a week, the navigation system never caused any major headaches and overall I did get used to the touchscreens, but I wouldn’t choose it over a setup with more physical buttons unless the reaction type to inputs could be vastly improved.
Another dashboard dial, the rotary gear selection knob, was wiggly, and it takes just long enough to rise out of the console to be annoying when you start the vehicle. If you’re going to rob a bank or T-P somebody’s house or something and worry about making a quick escape, save yourself a few seconds and just leave this thing running.
My rear passengers on a trip to New World Mall for some dumplings had no complaints. Despite one odd drive where I couldn’t get any of the audio inputs to play through the speakers, including the navigation and radio, which just sorted itself out by the next day, there were no major incidents concerning the Velar. Though, multiple people did have issues with cell phone reception in it over a half-hour drive, and I had issues with Google Maps freaking out ever time I used it in the car.
The 2018 Range Rover Velar P380 S delivers what it promises. It’s supercharged because you want to go fast, its interior is blanketed in softness because you want to be comfortable, it’s still engineered for going off-road because you want to believe you’re capable of an exciting and active lifestyle. And it does it all while pulling off a look that’s genuinely eye-catching.
The P380 S spec I drove around in for a week is a helluva crossover. When compared to something like the Porsche Cayenne with the same options, like air suspension, heated front and rear seats, and heated windshield, it’s still thousands of dollars cheaper without compromising any character.
The pop-out door handles are fucking cool, the bodywork is incredibly nice to look at, the interior is a great place to sit as the supercharged V6 drags you through town, and it comes with the pedigree and capability to do just about whatever you should reasonably want from it.
The 2018 Range Rover Velar P380 S is a strong, stylish truck that will turn heads and inflate your ego, with only a few minor annoyances to appropriately cut you back down to the real world.
Just do me a favor and dish out the cash for some nice wheels. It desperately deserves it.