There may be no better marriage of vehicle and environment than the 2018 Range Rover Velar and the mountain fjords of Norway. Both combine a rare blend of clean, organized sophistication and rugged, natural ruggedness. During a recent week-long exploration of the Norwegian landscape in the brand new Velar, the country unveiled a picture postcard view at every turn — and the machine made those turns with elegance and efficiency.
The Velar is a hugely important project for the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) family. An entirely new vehicle for the coming model year, the sport SUV continues JLR’s move toward smaller luxury utility rides under the Tata Corporation’s ownership. It seems a sound strategy as the crossover market is the biggest and most hotly contested consumer car class in the world.
While Jaguar won World Car of the Year at the 2017 New York International Auto Show for its F-Pace crossover, sister company Range Rover debuted the Velar to take on the mid-size SUV competition from Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With an MSRP starting north of $50,000 and climbing up the trim level tree toward $80,000, the Velar sits in a niche between the top of the line Range Rover Sport and the smaller Evoque.
The seaside highways and mountain roads of Norway would serve as the testing grounds for this latest Range Rover creation. The test ride journey began in the gorgeous coastal city of Alesund, looking out over the Norwegian Sea and lined with working boats and pleasure craft at every mooring. The topography of endless bays and inlets bond Norway forever to the sea, defining the country’s identity and forging the history and lives of its people.
Beyond the fishing nets and the chartered tours, Alesund is home to Norway’s Art Nouveau Museum – the Jugendstilsenteret. The decorative tradition of European Art Nouveau relies on organic forms and structures for natural aesthetics. The simple flowing lines of Velar’s exterior design fit that bill nicely, as the SUV started out as “clean sheet design” without a base in any previous Range Rover.
Employing lightweight aluminum architecture, the Velar relies on a visually simple approach — opting for balance and even lines that taper from front to rear on its well grounded 113.15-inch wheelbase. The SUV rides lower to the ground than the Range Rover Sport, making it the most aerodynamically efficient Land Rover vehicle to date (according to JLR engineers).
From Alesund, eastbound roads took the Velar to Norway’s most legendary driving attraction and one of the greatest roads in all of Europe. The Trollstigen runs through the mountains between Andalsnes and Valldal, curling 2,800 feet up a 10% incline with 11 tight turns. Running past Stigfosen Waterfall, the “Troll’s Road” is only wide enough for two narrow lanes — and there’s nothing between the driver and the valley floor than tire rubber and driving skill.
The Velar was up to the challenge with a 380 horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine linked to an eight speed automatic transmission equipped with sports shifters. That system provides ample guts for cursing up a mountain road or blowing past any highway traffic. That unmistakable Land Rover/Range Rover four-wheel independent suspension works with standard issue all-wheel-drive to create a sense of control, power and capability that’s so unique to anything JLR touches.
The other available powertrains include a more fuel efficient, 180 horsepower 2.0 liter diesel four cylinder and a 247 horsepower 2.0 liter gas four cylinder. The latter two are aimed at more urban-centric drivers who might not look to take the Velar off-road. But, no would-be buyer should ever forget every Land Rover or Range Rover comes equipped to leave the payment behind.
The Norwegian trail took our Velar up to the elite, mountain-top ski chalet at Strandafjellet. Ruling the Sunmore Alps, the Stranda is one of the world’s ultimate winter sports venues. With no snow in sight during a summer test drive, the Velar was allowed to climb and descend the ski hills from basecamp to peak via its suite of off-roading technology.
Quite simply, no automaker does these sort of SUVs better than Land Rover and its “rangier” partner. Whether navigating London streets, moving cross country from New England to Napa Valley or challenging the Trollstigen, the Velar and its kin always manage to feel utterly centered, stable and smooth without removing the sensitivity and feel for the road that a good driver so dearly desires. The Velar is as beautifully forged as any of the natural wonders the SUV passed during its voyage