Flash & Dash - Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography
The Velar is a good look but some reckoned it lacked cylinders under the bonnet to snare their interest. Now SVO, JLR’s go-fast division, has devised a V8-powered version. Is the result as epic as its long-winded name?
Kiwi buyers in the upper stratosphere of the market like their luxury with a solid dose of performance. M, AMG and RS models all do exceedingly well here, and it’s a similar story over at JLR where its SVR offerings are well received. A while back we drove the Jaguar F-Type SVR, a rowdy cat full of grunt and growl, and there’s a similar offering from Land Rover with its Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition. While the name is a linguistic smorgasbord, it’s another high-end performance option for the deep pocketed.
Moreover, it’s no cut and paste of the F-Type SVR into the Velar shell. SVAutobiography models major more on luxury, but this Velar, being the Dynamic Edition, still has plenty of go. Think of it as a measured blend of sports and luxury.
The team at Special Vehicle Operations oversaw the development, which has this Velar riding on adaptive air suspension but the chambers have a reduced volume. This effectively alters the ‘spring rate’ for more responsive handling. The distribution of the permanent AWD is variable but the Velar doesn’t throw as much rearward quite as often as the F-Type. There are 21-inch forged alloys (22s are optional) sitting over enlarged brakes, the two-piece rotors measuring 395mm up front. The steering, eight-speed auto and the active locking rear diff have been SVO’d to a degree, while bigger roll bars have been added. The firm’s charged 5.0-litre V8 gets another outing here, its 405kW/680Nm outputs put to good use.
Much of the Velar’s suave silhouette has been retained for the SVADE, SVO going easy on the styling steroids. The front bumper plunges deeper with more grille real estate, the side skirts flare subtly while the rear houses a quartet of OTT tailpipes for the tuned, active exhaust system.
There was no need to overdo the interior either, limited to quilted Windsor leather seats, an ebony suede headliner and dark alloy detailing. The SVADE is not a limited edition as such, but will only be produced for one year. It starts at $187,900, and this one here totalled $208,350 thanks to extras like the head-up display, 22s and the $14,200 satin metallic finish!
But the flash paint adds to the Velar’s immense presence which, along with the black detailing, big 22s and a staunch stance will get you noticed. You wouldn’t call Velar small, but it’s not huge inside either. It’s not Range Rover Vogue tall, so is easier to board. We’d say it’s a tad cramped behind the wheel; you tend to brush up against some part of the dash on your way in. The finishing you’ll find suitably palatial however. Its leather is soft, supple, stitched and quilted, while the massage function soothes on your ride home. The off-white hue is not the most serviceable but sure does impress. There’s a big sunroof and the black suede headliner is something everyone just has to stroke. The door handles feel to be hewn from solid metal while the brushed alloy trim detracts your eye from the plastics on the centre console that really should be lined with something soft.
There’s precious little storage space about and the centre console is awash with shiny, reflective surfaces. While it all looks super after Jeeves has polished it up, it’s a smeared mess of fingerprints in the sticky summer heat, as are the flash looking screens. The infotainment system is much like your smartphone in that it takes a series of swipes and taps to get the job done but familiarity certainly helps. The system responds quickly but the soft buttons are small, and it can occasionally take an age to fire up first thing. The lower screen also configures LR’s Terrain Response system but with 22s and the $14k paint work, you’re not really going to bash this about with any great enthusiasm off road.
The air springs deliver a fine ride despite the oversized 22s hanging off the axles. This literally drinks up the bumps on ugly street surfaces for a relaxed vibe, while it glides over speed humps. We like how the trans isn’t so hung up on economy; give the gas a slight prod and the auto will drop a gear for added urgency, even though the eight could easily summon the torque to pull in-gear. But you’ve bought a V8, you don’t want to hang about trying to save a few teaspoons of juice; you want to get gone. Give the pedal a seeing too with your Versace moccasin and the Velar sits back on its haunches and lunges forward, the exhaust trumpeting the excess marvellously. This behaviour does nothing for the economy so expect fuel use in the mid to high teens. And it will empty the tank quickly, despite having a generous 82L of reserves.
But it’s hard to complain given the powertrain doesn’t emit a bum note. You don’t hear a lot from the engine, but you can certainly hear the byproducts of its power and there’s no exhaust drone when cruising, just a lovely purr.
It’s an easy ride to tackle the traffic in with active cruise that works right down to a stop, though the final halt needs smoothing. RR likes to bestow a big steering wheel on its vehicles, and this is no different, though the action is light when parking. The turning dimensions aren’t the tightest but not horrendous either while its generous width means some car parks are a squeeze. The rearward view is hindered by the chunky C pillar but the camera has a wide angle and there’s a 360-degree view, though the image is small on the wide but narrow display.
Practically speaking, the boot is decent in width and length with a space saver stored underneath and the seat dropping easily to fold flattish. It’s a four seater in reality as the middle spot lacks legroom while being unforgivingly hard. Otherwise those in the rear will be most comfortable.
And drivers shouldn’t have too much to gripe about either. The Velar SV should go well; there was reportedly 63,900 hours spent on fine-tuning the dynamics. The V8 dominates proceedings however. It’s simply grand, with go everywhere and it blasts to almost seven thousand rpm. It sounds heroic with the exhaust in loud mode. The trans is a rapid slurrer of the ratios; the changes aren’t slammed through but are certainly fast. Rapid but refined sums up the SVADE, a fast GT dressed as an SUV. The air suspension in Dynamic mode soothes the bad bits at speed while settling the wayward body movements. This isn’t quite so locked down as other fast SUVs though, and always feels like there’s a decent mass on the move. The brakes sure feel it under duress. It can turn deftly considering its dimensions, and there’s a good feel for the action at the helm, the impending understeer well communicated. As such, it likes a smooth line through bends rather than being thrown about. There’s bags of traction of course, and it’s not fussed by quick directional changes but the front end grip isn’t quite there. Then it goes without overt torque vectoring or active roll control so that’s not unexpected. It’s certainly an interesting drive, if not the ultimate dynamic device.
As a package blending luxury with a dash of dynamism and plenty of straight line speed and thunder, the Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition shouldn’t disappoint its target audience.
Model Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition Price $187,900
Engine 4999cc, V8, SC/DI, 405kW/680Nm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Vitals 4.40sec 0-100km/h, 11.8L/100km, 270g/km, 2163kg