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2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive (2023 - )

Its styling will be enough to tempt many, but with an enjoyable driving experience and upmarket interior finish, there’s plenty of substance to back up the style.

Starting price:
From £54,455

Why we love it:
  • Good to drive
  • Stylish design
  • Large boot
Where it could be better:
  • Entry-level diesel feels underpowered
  • The rear-seat space isn’t as roomy as it should be
  • Expensive at the top of the range

Introduction

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

Few cars carry as much brand recognition as a Range Rover. These 4x4s and SUVs have proven hugely popular over the years, to the point where the firm has expanded the line-up to make smaller and more accessible models. 

The Range Rover Sport came along in 2005 as a more dynamic proposition, followed by the compact Range Rover Evoque in 2011. The latest arrival is the Range Rover Velar – a mid-size coupe-SUV named after the original engineering prototypes of the classic Range Rover back in 1968. 

While still in the first generation of Velar, the model has had a series of updates over the years, with the most recent changes happening in 2023. At first, you might question if anything is new as it still looks remarkably similar on the outside, though there are a few differences as we’ll explore later. 

But it’s inside where the Velar has been updated the most, with the previous twin-screen infotainment system, replaced by one large curved touchscreen instead – mirroring the interior of the latest full-size Range Rover. 

There’s a broad choice of engines available on the Velar, including four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel units, as well as the P400e plug-in hybrid, which is an ideal choice for company car drivers. 

Standard equipment across the Range Rover Velar line-up is impressive, with the entry-level ‘S’ featuring 19-inch alloy wheels, grained electric leather seats, adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera.

The Dynamic SE trim adds smart 20-inch alloy wheels, along with a sportier design pack. Above this, the Dynamic HSE features 21-inch alloy wheels, pixel LED headlights and upgraded leather upholstery. At the top of the range, the Autobiography boasts 22-inch alloy wheels, massaging front seats, a 3D surround camera and a Meridian 3D sound system. 

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

Ever since the Velar arrived in 2017, this has been a car all about style. It adopted the now-trendy coupe-SUV design, which looks particularly cool if an optional contrasting roof colour is selected. Even six years after first going on sale, the Velar commands more street cred than many newer SUVs, and especially in top-spec models that ride on the larger alloy wheels, this is arguably the best-looking Range Rover.

The visual changes as part of this update are fairly small, and you really will have to look closely to spot the differences between the old car and this new model but there’s a fresh choice of colours and wheels, while the grille features a new pattern that helps to modernise the design. There are slimmer LED lights fitted at the front and rear too. 

Inside, the main change on the Velar is the addition of a large curved touchscreen, which replaces the two smaller screens found on the old model. Previously, the two displays weren’t all that intuitive, but this new screen is a big improvement. It runs on Land Rover’s latest software and is slick and easy to use, albeit there are a few too many functions operated through it

The use of just a single touchscreen has decluttered the interior, though perhaps too much as the centre console area looks a bit bare now. That said, the quality throughout is excellent, with higher-spec models especially getting plenty in the way of technology, including massaging seats, an advanced head-up display and clever 3D cameras that are even able to ‘see’ underneath the car. 

On The Road

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

Handling & Performance

The Velar comes with an especially wide choice of engines, with petrol, diesel and an efficient plug-in hybrid all available. All are linked with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and bring four-wheel-drive too. 

The range starts with the 201bhp 2.0-litre D200 diesel, which can manage 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds. If you want some additional pace, the D300 manages 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds courtesy of its 296bhp 3.0-litre engine. 

Moving over to petrol, there is the 247bhp 2.0-litre P250, which can accelerate from 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds, or the powerful 395bhp P400, which uses a 3.0-litre engine instead. 
For those looking for something electrified, there’s the P400e, which combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined 399bhp. With a 5.1-second 0-60mph time, it’s the quickest Velar currently available. 

Even with a fairly mild engine under the bonnet (our test used the D200 unit), the Velar drives far better than other SUVs in this class. It has a level of agility that’s impressive for a car of this size, while the ride quality on the optional air suspension is excellent. It gets the balance just right between performance and comfiness. The one thing we would say is that the D200 engine can feel a bit underpowered in a car of this size, so a more powerful unit might be preferable. 

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

Space & Practicality

The Velar sits in the middle of the Range Rover line-up, and could therefore be an ideal choice for those wanting a practical SUV but still with a fairly manageable footprint. That said, at nearly five metres long and two metres wide, the Velar is not a small car. 

Despite its size, though, the rear seat room is slightly underwhelming. It’s not exactly cramped, but there’s not all that much more space back here than a normal family hatchback. 

There is, however, a huge amount of boot space. It's both long and wide, while a completely flat floor makes it very easy to load heavier items in. Drop the rear seats and this increases to an impressive 1,690 litres. 

Ownership

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

Running Costs

If you’re able to charge a car at home, the plug-in hybrid makes a lot of sense. Range Rover claims up to 40 miles can be achieved once its 19.2kWh battery is fully charged, which allows for on-paper stats of 167.9mpg and 39g/km CO2 emissions. Virtually all your miles will need to be completed on electric to see such figures, though. The P400e is one of few plug-in hybrids that’s able to rapid charge too, with 30 minutes all that’s needed to get up to 80 per cent capacity, though this is an expensive way of running a plug-in hybrid. 

After this, it’s worth taking a look at the D200 diesel where fuel economy is concerned, as Land Rover claims 43.7mpg and 170g/km CO2 emissions.

Land Rover does not have the best reputation for reliability, with teething problems known to affect its models. You do get a three-year warranty with no mileage limit as standard on a new Range Rover, though, with free roadside assistance also provided for that time. 

Verdict

2023 Range Rover Velar First Drive

While the Range Rover Velar might be getting on a bit next to newer rivals like the Mercedes GLE Coupe, this is an SUV that still has plenty to offer. Its styling will be enough to tempt many, but with an enjoyable driving experience and upmarket interior finish, there’s plenty of substance to back up the style. 

While it might fall behind the best where practicality is concerned, the Velar’s extensive engine choice and generous equipment give you plenty of reasons to consider it. 

By Ted Welford
Nov 21, 2023

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