Land Rover’s recent high-profile addition to the company’s model range, the Defender, may be sucking up most of the headlines, but it’s not actually the newest Land Rover product you can buy at the moment. No, that goes to the (deep breath) 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition, a 542-horsepower road-focused version of the company’s elegant middleweight SUV. Its mission brief — be fast, be sleek, be elegant — seems diametrically opposed to the idea of Range Rover, which long stood for upright, traditional looks and off-road capability. So is it indeed worthy of carrying the iconic name?
In a word: yes. Over the years, Range Rover has evolved from a single boxy model to a wide array of vehicles; the icon still endures (though it now boasts its own potent SVAutobiography versions), but now the name can also be found on the itty-bitty urban-minded Evoque, the edgy Range Rover Sport and the fashion-forward Velar. The SVAutobiography Dynamic version of the latter adds power and performance, but not at the expense of much in the way of off-road capability; the Velar isn’t the Rangie you’d choose if you’re planning on crossing the savannah, but it’s still able to go places no car could go, even in its sportiest configuration. It may not be a slow box, but this is still very much a Range Rover.
It’s effectively Land Rover’s take on a grand tourer.
A grand tourer — or as the Italians like to call it, a gran turismo — is a car designed to cross long distances in speed, style and comfort. Traditionally, it’s a role filled by a large coupe — but considering the fluidity of automotive categories these days, it’s not hard to see the Velar SVADE as playing that part for Land Rover.
It rides much like a big, comfortable GT, with a suspension that keeps it flat and stable in the turns without the sharp reactions (or harsh ride) of a sports car. And the supercharged V8’s power is evident from the first poke of the throttle, but it never feels excessive or aggressive like the brash Range Rover Sport SVR. Indeed, it drives much like a big Bentley — albeit with a bit of disconcerting awkwardness stemming from its higher center of gravity.
Every part of that name is there for a reason.
You can parse out the car’s name like so: “Land Rover” is the name of the company. “Range Rover” is the name of the company’s more luxurious lineup, one of three phyla in the LR kingdom. (The other two being “Discovery” and “Defender.”) “Velar” is the name of the model, of course. “SV” refers to “Special Vehicle Operations,” Jaguar Land Rover’s in-house Skunk Works that tunes up vehicles to bring out their inner character; “Autobiography” means it’s one of SVO’s more luxurious builds, as opposed to the more performance-oriented SVR models; “Dynamic Edition” means it has a little more sportiness than the regular Autobiography models. In other words: it’s the Land Rover Fancy Stylish Bespoke Luxury Sports.
It’s almost kind of a bargain.
Five minutes into our test drive, my co-driver from another automotive publication and I both took a stab at the price of our test Velar. We each guessed somewhere around $130,000 — only to be shocked to see the as-tested price of our well-equipped Velar ran to just $98K. Given both the car’s breadth of capability and eye-catching appearance, that five-figure pricetag seems somewhat reasonable. (Especially since the regular Range Rover SVAutobiography can run past $240,000.)
The BMW X3 M / X4 M and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 might be better picks for drivers bitter about having to buy an SUV over a sports sedan, but for anyone who places a little more value on style and space over sheer speed in their sports crossover, the Velar SVADE might well be the better pick.