Range Rover aims high with Velar

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Range Rover aims high with Velar

Posted on : Thursday 2nd of March 2017

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British automaker Jaguar Land Rover is giving Range Rover its first midsize SUV, the Velar. The new model will be positioned between the smaller Range Rover Evoque and the larger Range Rover Sport.

The automaker expects to price the Velar much higher than rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

The Velar will start at 44,830 pounds ($55,700) in its UK home market, slightly more than the 43,553 pounds entry-level Porsche Macan and up to 10,000 pounds more than the cheapest BMW X3/X4, Mercedes GLC or Audi Q5.

The Velar was unveiled on Wednesday here, ahead of its March 7 public debut at the Geneva auto show. It will go on sale globally in July, giving Range Rover its first midsize SUV.

While Land Rover is renowned for the off-road capabilities of its vehicles, the Velar will aim to appeal to a wide range of buyers. "This is the most road-oriented Range Rover we have ever designed," said Jaguar Land Rover's exterior design director Massimo Frascella.

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralph Speth said the Velar is a "more car-like Range Rover," but still with SUV capabilities.

The Velar is the first Land Rover to be based on Jaguar Land Rover’s Lightweight Aluminum Architecture. The platform is used on Jaguar's XE midsize sedan and F-Pace crossover.

The Velar's wheelbase length at 2874mm is the same as that of F-Pace, which is built the same plant in Solihull, central England. Despite sharing a body, the F-Pace is much cheaper with a starting price 10,000 pounds below the Velar.

The Velar's 81 percent aluminum body content makes the SUV light and stiff enough to achieve both agile handling and a comfortable ride, Land Rover said.

Technology inside the car includes the option of a two 10-inch touchscreens in the center console called Touch Pro Duo. The lower touchscreen replaces buttons to operate the heating system as well as the different off-road modes, while the upper one offers tablet-style swiping and pinch-and-zoom to control navigation, media and phones. With the engine off, the screens blend invisibly into the console surface.

The decluttering of the dashboard is part of a process to simplify the overall design of the Velar, Land Rover said. For example the door handles sit flush with the bodywork and extend when the doors are unlocked in the manner of the Tesla Model S.

Other technology includes automatic emergency braking with a pedestrian detection function and adaptive cruise control with the ability to creep the car automatically in traffic.

The Velar will come in two trim versions, the entry-level R-Dynamic and the more upscale HSE, each with clear styling differentiations. Both trims have permanent all-wheel-drive.

The Velar's closest competitors are the Porsche Macan and the BMW X4, said Finbar McFall, Jaguar Land Rover's product marketing director. The price positioning will be the same globally. "We see the Velar as a conquest model like the Evoque," he said.

Velar production could be running at almost 52,000 cars a year by 2019, according to analysts at IHS Markit, who estimate that Range Rover Sport output may fall below 70,000 units from 87,000 last year.

IHS’s projection for the Velar "would be a good number," though sales could be higher still, according to Jeremy Hicks, JLR's managing director for the U.K., who said about 70 percent of customers are expected to be new to the brand, with the rest scaling up from the Evoque or down from the Range Rover Sport.

Land Rover sold a record 434,583 vehicles globally in 2016, up 8 percent up on 2015. The brand's best-seller was the Discovery Sport, with 122,460 sales. Sales of Range Rover models were 200,245.

Off-road capability

Land Rover touted the Velar's on-road performance and ride quality but also said the SUV "sets new standards" for off-road capability. Velar models with air suspension have a "class-leading" ground clearance of 251mm while those with coil springs have a 213mm clearance, Land Rover said. The SUV is also available with active locking rear differential to help with off-road traction.

The Velar will offer a choice of six engines in its UK home market. A four-cylinder 2.0-liter diesel with 177 hp will be the most fuel efficient option with CO2 emissions of 142 grams per km. A 237-hp version of the engine also will be available. Other engines include a new 247-hp four-cylinder turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine with a 296 hp version due later this year. Top-of-the-range versions come with either a 296 hp V-6 diesel or a 375hp supercharged V-6 gasoline.

Speth said the Velar could also be offered with a hybrid version.

The SUV's fuel efficiency is helped by a low drag co-efficient of 0.32, making it the most aerodynamic Land Rover, according to the company.

The Velar's trunk space volume measures 673 liters, the largest in its class according to Land Rover.

The SUV is critical to reviving JLR's profitability following a rapid expansion since India's Tata Motors bought the British automaker from Ford Motor. Its earnings for the nine months through December dropped 15 percent, which the company blamed in part on a weaker product mix and higher marketing spending.

The Velar is part of Jaguar Land Rover's three-pronged market positioning for the Land Rover brand that targets the Range Rover line at luxury SUV buyers, the Discovery line for mid-range premium customers and the Defender as the entry line.

Defender decision

Speth said he remains committed to replacing the original Land Rover Defender, without specifying when an announcement might be made. Production of the iconic model ended in 2016 after 68 years, and while the successor will be "more capable than ever," according to Speth, environmental restrictions mean that it might not be targeted at the same global workhorse role.

While the new Defender will be designed in the UK, it isn't certain to be built in the country, Speth said. Both the Solihull and Halewood factories are operating close to capacity, and JLR JLR is building a lower-cost plant in Slovakia at a cost of 1 billion pounds, as well as outsourcing production of its Jaguar I-Pace electric car to Magna Steyr in Austria.

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