Range Rover's Luxo-Muscle SUV - the Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition Review by Rob Eckaus
The complete package when it comes to SUVs
By Rob Eckaus
SF Bay Area Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Never having much exposure to Land Rover except for a fun test ride last year when I was exposed to their thoughtful luxury, I was still pleasantly surprised with the snarling 2020 Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition. More like shocked, really. Never mind the excessively long name, what is under the hood is what grabs your aural attention.
Range Rover is the more luxury focused model line-up versus the off-road oriented Land Rover. Its visually striking for an SUV, with the black greenhouse and 21” large split-spoke wheels with red calibers. A nice contrast with the Indus Silver paint. The upturned rear end styling gives it a high stance appearance with very noticeable tailpipe shrouds. More on that later.
Despite the opulence, the engine has a small block V-8 with an unholy roar without the supercharger whine. It’s a luxurious, muscle SUV that is very quiet when not a full throttle and wonderfully comfortable at highway speeds. The engine settles down, tire noise isn’t noticeable. Even with its weight, height and 550hp from the corporate family shared supercharged 5 liter V-8, 75mph+ cruising it provided 22mpg. Increasing to 80mph saw 1800rpm on the tachometer for reference. Of course, fuel economy won’t be stellar, its rated at 15 city and 20 highway. That is offset with the convenience of a 21.7 gallon fuel tank..
How fast is it? For reference, Car and Driver recently tested the acceleration, achieving a 12.2 second ET @ 115mph in the quarter mile. Despite weighing 4595lbs, there is no doubt whatsoever this is achievable.
It’s not the tightest handling SUV, but performs the way you’d expect a luxury sedan to corner but with very little body roll. Head toss is unnoticeable unless going over large pavement differences like a sloped driveway to a crowned street. The tires are Pirelli Scorpion All-Seasons, 265/45/21s but optional 265/40/22s being a wheel and tire option. The Velar looks fairly large, but with the 113.1” wheelbase, the turning radius is 38.5’ which was perfectly fine for parking lot maneuvering. Parked next to the wife’s Audi SQ5, I was surprised to see that the peak of the Audi’s roof was higher than the Velar.
The perforated seats are not actively ventilated but it is an available option. They are heated and have a massage function as part of this model edition. The side bolsters are adjustable by rotating one of the adjustment knobs, and your back forms to them to the seats nicely when the tension melts. And that’s before the massage! Like your favorite pillow but cut into a tiny piece, the headrests are perfect in their cushioning. There’s plenty of room for rear passengers and cargo, being a good sized two-row SUV. The rear occupants also have a sweet little digital display with left and right-side temperature, fan speed and air direction options with matching metal bezels.
The interior touchscreens work great, although there are a lot of small icons to deal with. But the icons are intuitive and during the one week never referred to the owner’s manual except to discover the seat adjustment knob rotates for the aforementioned lateral bolster support. Like many touchscreens, the fingerprints are ever present.
Commuting in the Velar SV is effortless, the daily slog of stop and go traffic is made easier with the driver assist systems. Land Rover calls their lane keeping assist Incontrol. It provides small, constant steering corrections which conveys it’s always working during the lane keeping and does a very good job. You get the idea it’s never sleeping. Of course, turn lanes and other openings to the road can confuse it a bit.
The Adaptive Cruise Control in bumper to bumper and high speed traffic works quite well except, like other systems, it has a delay in braking while a vehicle enters your lane and the following distance gets too close. In traffic, it slows nicely except when coming to a complete stop when it’s not as smooth as a human gently braking. It still doesn’t recognize brake lights in the distance though so setting the furthest following distance has it’s advantages. For basic commuting, it’s great. One nice feature is the lane keeping assist and cruise control resumes when manually back on the throttle which is very convenient.
The driver centric controls and displays are first rate. The steering wheel buttons are easily manipulated by the thumbs. The beautiful center color display is configurable, with map, entertainment and vehicle information displayed. The heads up display is also large with multiple information displayed such as mph, transmission selection, incline, wheel direction and more depending on the mode selected.
The various drive modes provide ride height, suspension firmness, throttle response and exhaust differences. Comfort was just fine in terms of engine response and driving. It wasn’t too mushy, the throttle response satisfactory, but the louder exhaust option was preferred. You get that in the Dynamic mode, and the ride was still very nice but some expected stiffness over bumps. The that engine note just stays with you though. Using the paddle shifters becomes habit forming. It’s as if you’re sitting much lower, in a small two-door, on a track….
When selecting the Access height mode, which as you guessed is for loading/unloading, looks perfect with a lower stance. Unfortunately, above 22mph or so it reverts to the normal ride height of 8.1” of ground clearance. The parking mode seemed to sense when the vehicle was about to park and would shut off the vehicle when the rotary gear selector, which rises up when the vehicle is started, is turned to park, another little occasional thoughtful feature.
Land Rover doesn’t just make street queens and they don’t’ mess around. When the large, 511 page owner’s manual was finally consulted to get some specifications, holy cow (pun) the leather envelope smelled really good. Assuming the highest ground clearance of 9.9” is selected, the approach angle is 24 degrees, departure is 26 degrees. The wading depth is 25.6” but the Land Rover USA website states 23.6” . I am curious to know what system or component is at 26” or higher where its not recommended getting emerged in water. Another surprise found in the owner’s manual is the service interval is 16,000 miles. Significantly higher than many cars I’ve come across.
Complaints are minor. The infotainment system glitched a couple of times even though Apple CarPlay would start immediately. This in no way would this stop us from considering this SUV, even at it’s as-tested price of $94,655. The split lid center console was especially appreciated, even though it was a little shallow and small. Two minor things stuck out from a questionable visual standpoint. The exhaust shrouds have a large gap from the tailpipe. Approaching the vehicle, you can easily see the ground between them. The other shocker was when opening the hood, there was no plastic cladding hiding the supercharger and engine. That seems very unusual these days!
Land Rover is the real deal when it comes to SUVs. This is part of the Special Vehicle Operations division and it shows. Not only that, they operate three! Land Rover Experience centers in the US. Ranging from 1 hour to a full day with various tailored programs, they operate at The Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, Biltmore hotel in Asheville, North Carolina and Equinox resort in Vermont. Speaking from experience at The Quail location, it’s not some easy trail, it is serious off-roading with inclines and declines, spotters, etc. You’ve got to give credit to them for offering multiple locations for driving experiences when driving schools in general have had a rough go lately.
The Velar SV is truly a luxo-muscle SUV, offering utility, opulence and performance making great sounds outside the cabin and inside via the stereo. A complete package that makes it a serious consideration for those seeking SUVs with that combination.
Check out the photo album on the Barely Streetable Facebook page to get a really good idea of the interior design and features.
P.S. - Stay safe. Be well! (For those of you reading this review in 2046, the year that The Auto Channel celebrates its 50th Year online, the P.S. refers to the 2020 COVID 19 Pandemic, which hopefully became just a footnote in history and not an ongoing tragedy)