Driving Dynamics Shine in the Range Rover Velar S

In this adventure

Editor’s note: How the 2018 Range Rover Velar performed in a comparison by Trucks.com and mountain bike enthusiasts with the Toyota Sequoia, GMC Canyon Denali and Subaru Ascent on a round trip from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, Calif. Find the other vehicles and the full report here.

The Range Rover Velar, all new for 2018, is a midsize sport utility vehicle aimed at luxury buyers looking for an engaging and comfortable drive.

Trucks.com tested the Velar on a recent excursion to Santa Cruz, Calif., to meet up with a team of mountain biking enthusiasts. Leveraging their experience in the sport, Trucks.com evaluated a group of vehicles to find the perfect transport to mountain biking trails.

The other vehicles were the 2019 Subaru Ascent, 2018 Toyota Sequoia and 2018 GMC Canyon Denali.

The SUV boasts sleek styling topped by a long roof that tapers at the rear like a station wagon. The look captures attention, and its low center of gravity gives the vehicle versatility. It has a starting price of $49,900. The vehicle Trucks.com tested had trim and other options that brought its suggested price to $69,461 including $995 destination charge.

The Velar’s journey started with a 365-mile trek north from Long Beach to Santa Cruz.

On the road, the Velar scored high marks across the board for its driving dynamics and engine responsiveness. The Velar performed well in Santa Cruz, whether cruising in comfort along the Pacific coast or diving into banked turns through a series of forest preserves.

The electronic power steering is direct and communicative while the suspension is comfortable on the highway and exciting in twists. The engine provided a sizable punch, especially in Sport mode, without the characteristic loud whistle of other superchargers.

The Velar comes with permanent all-wheel drive and active air suspension. This model had the Velar S trim, powered by an optional supercharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 380 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Although it had the ground clearance and technology needed to tackle tough terrain, the Velar was not built for outdoor adventure off the showroom floor. It lacked a tow hitch and roof rails as standard equipment, musts for any vehicle that buyers plan to use for mountain biking and other outdoor activities.

“With the glass moonroof the Velar is not so good for mountain biking,” said Evan Soroka, an outdoor enthusiast and yoga instructor from Aspen, Colo. “I would probably add a hitch to the back. It’s not sexy, but it’s more functional.”

Fortunately, there are workarounds for the vehicle’s lack of a tow hitch and roof rails. The mountain bikers used a handy SeaSucker suction cup rack to mount a single bike on the roof. There was room to mount two, but the Velar would need a tow hitch to haul more. It’s available as a $665 factory option when ordering the vehicle. Roof rails are a $410 option on the Velar.

However, accessing the roof in an SUV is a challenge, especially for shorter drivers. In a rush, Soroka opted to fold down the Velar’s second row of seats and toss her bike inside rather than mount it to the SeaSucker.

“It’s not ideal,” Soroka said. “I used to throw bikes in the back of my old Subaru Outback, but I wouldn’t want to do it in this. This car is meant to be clean.”

The SeaSucker system is simple to install but requires that the front wheel of the bicycle be removed. One slip while mounting threatens to send the sharp metal forks across the vehicle’s glass moonroof.

The Velar stood apart from the other vehicles in Santa Cruz for its large and often complicated infotainment displays. The SUV sported dual 10-inch color touchscreens on its center stack — one on top of the other — to adjust vehicle settings and functions from music and navigation to ride height and climate control.

The vehicle’s electronics sometimes left drivers scratching their heads. Some actions required pressing both the touchscreen menu and adjusting hard controls. It took several steps to set a destination for navigation. An orange marking on the digital fuel gauge tricked all four of the mountain bikers and several Trucks.com staffers into mistakenly believing the tank was empty, even when full.

“The gas gauge is ridiculous,” said Bryon Dorr, a mountain biker and outdoor adventurer from Reno, Nev. “Don’t complicate things you don’t need to.”

Land Rover’s InControl infotainment system was unnecessarily confusing. However once past the screens’ steep learning curve the vehicle offered helpful features such as a posted digital speed limit display in the instrument cluster.

Inside the cabin, the Velar sported contoured leather seats that some in the group thought were too firm. Steep side bolsters and good support were comfortable for 70-mile drives but could become bothersome depending on preference.

Surprisingly the Velar did not come equipped with adaptive cruise control, a feature that’s often included in less-costly vehicles. Land Rover offers adaptive cruise control and other automated safety features in the Drive Pro Package for an extra $2,065.

The Velar has an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 18 mpg in city driving, 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg overall.

The bottom line: The Velar is a stylish slick driving car in full luxury trim. But its price and lack of out-of-the-box “adventureness” is a drawback for those planning to use it for transport to rugged outdoor activities. For mountain bikers, the SUV falls short in overall value relative to its price tag.