Not all vehicle launches happen in some exotic locale that requires days of travel for the payoff of a few hours behind the wheel—at least when you’re based in Southern California. Land Rover chose the scenic Coachella Valley for the U.S. launch of the Range Rover Velar, offering a perfect excuse to explore the scenic routes around the Santa Ana and San Jacinto Mountains on the way east from Orange County. Given that the Velar is a cousin of our Four Seasons 2017 Jaguar F-Pace, I decided to stage a bit of a family gathering while I was at it.
You wouldn’t guess that these two are such close relatives if you spotted them hanging out side-by-side in a parking lot. Sure, they share a 113.1-inch wheelbase, but that’s where the superficial similarities end. Jaguar’s Ian Callum and Land Rover’s Gerry McGovern had different challenges in front of them—Callum’s task was Jaguar’s first SUV, while McGovern had to find a way to split the difference between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport—and different design languages to work with. While some will accuse the Velar of being too plain, both look good in their own way and fit neatly in the hoity toity part of Palm Springs, so the image-conscious need not worry about being judged too harshly.
While they share powertrains, their chassis and suspension setups differ considerably. The F-Pace is, of course, the sportier of the two, with a more responsive throttle, and a suspension setup that’s firmer and more composed through turns. The Velar, in turn, is floatier and cushier on pavement, inspiring less confidence through the tights turns of Highway 74 that Rover chose for on road portion of the Velar drive than the F-Pace. But also as you’d expect, the Velar is set up to be far more capable off-road than the Jag.
This personality difference carries over to the interior design, with the Jaguar’s cabin offering a decidedly sportier ambiance (and heavier seat bolstering) than the Velar’s more sophisticated, luxury themed environment. The Range Rover definitely has the tech edge with its fresh two-screen design and haptic control setup, though we wouldn’t be surprised if something very much like it makes it into the F-Pace for its mid-cycle refresh, which we could see for 2019 or 2020.
If the design and dynamics of each weren’t enough to self-select the appropriate customer (in fact, it’s easy to see how a family could have one of each), the price difference between the two will drive the point home. The Velar’s starting price of $50,895 is $7,835 more than the F-Pace’s $43,060 and the spread doesn’t get any closer once you start checking the trim levels and options.
We’ve spent enough time in the F-Pace to know that it’s one of the best driving crossovers on the market. It’s been trouble free, has hauled trailers, hauled ass, and has proudly carried the Jaguar brand into a new market segment.
The Velar’s mission is clearly different and it’s been designed with a decidedly different customer in mind. But given that its underpinnings and powertrain options are similar to the F-Pace, inour minds that bodes well for the newest Range Rover offering. And though we haven’t spent nearly as much time with it as we have with the Jag, from what we can tell thus far, the Velar is an elegant, capable, and luxurious vehicle with more than enough differentiation to set it apart from its cat cousin.