The newest Range Rover traversed fjords and mountains on a 370km road trip in Norway, home of the Vikings.
LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER VELAR 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1997cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 250bhp at 5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 365Nm at 1200-4500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 138.6bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 6.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 217km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.2km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 173g/km
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
The fourth model in the Range Rover stable has distinctive styling, with a choice of exterior design treatments.
BRITISH carmaker Land Rover picked Norway, famed for its Viking history, for journalists to test its newest car. The location could not be more apt.
While Vikings may be just a chapter of Nordic history, the new Range Rover Velar has everything a modern adventurer with a Viking spirit will want.
The famed hardiness of Viking longships has taken Viking raiders and traders across the treacherous North Atlantic Ocean as far west as Newfoundland and across the Mediterranean Sea to what is modern-day Turkey and Middle East.
For this road trip in Norway, our “Viking longship” was the Velar.
Viking longships have a distinctive design – long, graceful body with a dragon-shaped bow and a single main mast.
Likewise, the Velar has an unmistakable Range Rover look.
Range Rover is the luxury arm of Land Rover, renowned for making off-road cars that can conquer harsh terrains even before sports utility vehicles (SUVs) became the worldwide craze they are today.
The Velar is the fourth model in the Range Rover stable. It does not have a predecessor.
Land Rover calls it plainly as a “new type” of Range Rover.
THE RANGE ROVER VELAR HAS EVERYTHING A MODERN ADVENTURER WITH A VIKING SPIRIT WILL WANT.
The carmaker dug deep into its historical archive to come up with the unfamiliar name which is derived from the Latin word velaris, which means a veil or a curtain. Velar was the code word Land Rover used in 1969 when it was working on its first Range Rover prototype in secret.
The Velar sits in-between the Range Rover Sport and the Evoque. (Land Rover’s use of the word Sport can be confusing. The Range Rover Sport is not a sportier version of the flagship Range Rover. It is a different car, a smaller SUV, just as the Discovery Sport is a different and smaller vehicle compared to the Discovery.)
Velar is a sporty Rangie with confident handling and easy controllability, whether in Norway or over a roadway anywhere else.
Size-wise, the Velar is closer to the Range Rover Sport than the Evoque. The 4803mm car is merely 47mm shorter than the former, but 433mm longer than the latter. This places the car in the mid-sized SUV segment, pitting it against rivals like the Porsche Macan, BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
This Rangie road trip started in Molde, Norway where a row of grey, red, and silver Velars was waiting for the journalists who arrived from Frankfurt in a chartered Bombardier CRJ700 plane just before noon.
The first stop was lunch at a cabin called Utsyn at Meringdal, about 80km from the airport.
The route took us along a fjord that lines the Norwegian coastline. A fjord is a narrow inlet of sea with steep cliffs on both sides, formed when glaciers retreated. As the ice melted, a U-shaped valley is carved out and seawater pours in to fill the valley floor.
As I was awed by the meandering road flanked by steep cliffs on the left and the sea on the right, I searched online for the name of the fjord that we were driving along while my co-driver Julian Kho from SPH car portal Sgcarmart drove the Velar. I couldn’t find a name, even on Google maps. Fjords must be so common that the one we saw does not have a name.
I learnt later that evening, after more research online, that Norway has about 29,000km of coastline and some 1190 fjords.
Without the fjords, the length of the coastline would have been slashed to some 2500km. These fjords make up more than 90 percent of the Nowegian coastline.
Halfway to lunch, I switched seats with the co-driver and took the helm of the Velar.
The petrol-powered 3-litre supercharged V6 engine is a sweet powerplant. It revs freely to provide an abundant supply of torque.
Velar’s interior is spacious and luxurious, with an elegant simplicity, plus premium materials and interesting details.
Left in the automatic mode, the 8-speed gearbox shifts gears unobtrusively. It was so effortless piloting the car that I shifted my attention away from driving to take in the breathtaking scenery.
Lunch stop was a cabin by a lake at Meringdal that used to be a farm. The owner Frode Meringdal had opened up his family cabin to the daily stream of journalists who drove the Velar on daily rotation over more than two weeks. We did not get to meet him, but we learnt from Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) brochures that his family has lived in Meringdal for nearly 300 years and he restored the farm five years ago.
After a quick lunch of Norwegian salmon, local beef and salad, we set off for the Storfjord Hotel some 200km away, with a short detour to a short section of the famed Trollstigen Road, or “Troll Ladder”, renowned for its tight hairpin turns and steep inclines.
The Velar made the turns confidently, with the usual lean of SUVs of its size. The steering provided ample feel to navigate the corners.
After we have made the Trollstigen detour, it was late afternoon in Norway or late at night in Singapore time. Jet lag started to set in, which made it more difficult to take in the sights.
We reached the hotel around 6pm, in time for the media presentation of the car over dinner at 8pm. By 10pm, I turned in for the night to get ready for another day of driving.
When we set off from the hotel the next morning at 8.30am, the weather took a turn from sunshine the day before and started drizzling.
One first stop was the village of Stranda about 80km away, but there was a river in the way to cross the river, we drove the Velar into a car ferry. We learnt from JLR’s road book that car ferries are an integral part of the Norwegian road network, and Fjord1, Norway’s largest ferry company, ferried 10 million vehicles last year.
I have never driven a car on-board a ferry before and got a little nervous when I saw that at the narrowest part of the ramp, there was only about 20cm of clearance space on each of the two sides of the car. Thankfully, the Velar’s all- round sensors made clearing the tight space a breeze.
On the way to Stranda, the route took us to a detour through farmlands and we encountered cows.
Norway is about 500 times the size of Singapore (385,000 versus 700 sq m), yet it has a slightly smaller population (5.3 versus 5.6 million). While agriculture is not the main pillar of the economy, the country’s national statistical institute’s livestock census in January this year counted 304,800 cows; 1,129,400 sheep; 34,500 goats; 89,100 pigs and more than 4,355,400 laying hens. Livestock outnumber Norwegians in the country.
TYPE V6, 24-valves, supercharged
BORE X STROKE 84.5mm x 89mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.5:1
MAX POWER 380bhp at 6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 450Nm at 3500-5000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 201.7bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS All
0-100KM/H 5.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 9.4km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 214g/km
FRONT Double wishbones, coil springs, variable dampers, anti-roll bar
REAR Integral links, coil springs, variable dampers, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Continental ContiCrossContact LX Sport
SIZE 255/60 R18
TRACTION AIDS ABS, DSC
KERB WEIGHT 1884kg
TURNING CIRCLE 11.6m
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ CHIC AND CLEAN STYLING, EFFORTLESS TO DRIVE, CAPABLE IN OFF-ROAD CONDITIONS.
- VELAR’S DOOR HANDLES MIGHT BE DIFFICULT TO FIND, OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY IS IRRELEVANT IN SINGAPORE.
Two cows were blocking the single-lane gravel road. I thought about horning at them, which is what most Singaporean drivers do when they see obstacles. But I was in Norway, so I decided to inch forward, hoping the cows will move aside. They did. To them, we could just be some other impatient animal.
When we reached Stranda, we had driven some 360km in the Velar and there was less than 10 more kilometres of driving to go. As it turned out, the last leg of the road trip was the most difficult.
It was a 4km drive on gravel road up to a restaurant that sits at the peak of a 1042m mountain in Strandafjellet, which is 10 times the height of Mount Faber.
The climb was scary, with the car angled at about a 40-degree incline at some sections. It was a cloudy day and the car was literally driving “into” the clouds as it climbed.
Thankfully, the Velar’s commanding driving position and Range Rover’s famed off-road capabilities kept the car going safely.
At the peak, the clouds were below us and snow-capped mountains lined the horizon. It was a surreal sight.
After a quick lunch of local cuisine, including reindeer stew, we drove down the same way we drove up.
SIZE-WISE, THE VELAR IS CLOSER TO THE RANGE ROVER SPORT THAN THE EVOQUE.
We returned the Velar at the bottom of the mountain. The Velars were to be cleaned, refuelled and prepared for the next group of journalists.
Overall, the Velar is more of a luxury car with off-road features, rather than an off-road car with luxury features.
The top-end versions of the Velar have amenities such as a panoramic sunroof, head-up display and air suspension.
All the Velars will have a classy dual-screen infotainment system, which has only three buttons – one to adjust hi-fi volume and two others that can be customised to control the temperature and fan speed. The other “buttons” are built into two 10-inch touchscreens.
Design-wise, the Velar has an appealingly modern, chic look with clean lines, yet it is unmistakably a Range Rover with its clamshell bonnet and rakish roofline.
One of the Velar’s most unique features is the design of the door handles. They are flush with the door panels and they only slide out – like a compact disc tray – when the driver or passenger taps on a small button on the handles or uses the key fob to open the car doors.
While I drove both the 3-litre turbo-diesel V6 which churns out a stomping 700Nm of torque and the mellower 3-litre supercharged petrol V6 in Norway, only the petrol version is expected to arrive in Singapore in the fourth quarter of this year. The good news for local buyers is that a more affordable 2-litre variant with 250bhp and 365Nm will be available at just below $290,000.
This version, which does not have frills such as air suspension, sunroof or head-up display, will likely make the bulk of Velar sales in Singapore.
Given that our local roads are not like those in Norway and off-road features are redundant here, the 2-litre Range Rover Velar would be a perfect blend of style and ruggedness that is likely to appeal to buyers here, especially those who harbour a secret Viking yearning for adventure.
4: NUMBER OF COWS HE ENCOUNTERED
TOH YONG CHUAN
The Range Rover’s testdrive route included gravel roads and dirt tracks that cut across farmlands. The cows that stood in his Velar’s path sauntered away as he inched slowly towards them.