In 1969, the Who fully embraced their highfalutin’ arty side with Tommy, a rock opera about a boy disconnected from his senses, who nevertheless has a preternatural aptitude for pinball. Everything from 1970s arena rock to Beyonce’s Lemonade owes at least a tip of the hat to the English foursome’s groundbreaking album. That same year, British Leyland engineers were plying the roads and sheep paths of Blighty in something badged as a Velar—a new type of Land Rover meant for the fox-hunting upper crust.
The Velar badge was a simple ruse constructed from parts-bin L A N D R O V E R letters, and in 1970, while the Who released the raw, Brobdingnagian, Live at Leeds, Land Rover’s erstwhile Velar arrived in European showrooms as the Range Rover. That single, oddball model has since expanded to a full line of SUVs, offering everything from the citified dartabout Evoque to a brand-eponymous long-wheelbase Clydesdale appointed as opulently as anything this side of BMW’s Rolls-Royce operation at Goodwood.
The Punk Meets the Godfather
While the original Range Rover defined a segment that, at the time, nobody in America was quite sure needed defining, with the new Velar the brand now is playing catch-up, patching a hole in its lineup that customers may have filled with a Lexus RX, a BMW X3, or a Mercedes-Benz GLE-class. Previously, those bent on buying British in this class were relegated to the Land Rover LR3/LR4, a trucky, body-on-frame contraption that has taken on the appearance of a shrunken Ford Explorer with its redesign for the 2017 model year, accompanied by a name change to Discovery. Like the Discovery, the Velar can be had with a third row of seats, at a $3050 premium over its $50,895 base price. That starting figure is $90 shy of the Discovery’s, but while the Disco comes with a 340-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 at its $50,985 starting price (2017 model year pricing), the low-end Velar makes do with a 247-horse turbocharged inline-four. If you can’t live without the blown six, expect to spend at least $65,195 to get a 380-hp variant in the Velar S. A 178-hp turbo-diesel four-cylinder with 317 lb-ft of torque also is available, for those who prefer their combustion a bit more unrefined.
Designed as it was to split the difference between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, the Velar appropriately resembles an electronic morph between the two vehicles captured at its exact midway point. The new machine features the smaller ute’s chop-top…