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Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic review: great luxury and towering performance – but what else do you get for £87,000?

2020 Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic

There was one parked at the junction at the Frankfurt motor show in October. The setting was like one of those bloodless architect’s models: tiny trees, no people, litter, or dogs and all glossy glass-fronted buildings – and the Velar looked absolutely sensational. Whatever heinous crimes Land Rover’s design boss, Gerry McGovern, has visited on Land Rover’s Discovery, the Range Rover Velar design is clinically clean, muscular and indubitably modern.

And while it was a slow starter, after two years the Velar, which became the fourth Range Rover model, has started to settle itself in the market and shift appreciable numbers – 66,000 since launch. And now, as with all premium cars, the time has come to spice up the mix with special editions such as this £86,685 SVAutobiography Dynamic.

While it might seem largely academic if you are being terrorised by one of these gargantuan SUVs while you’re riding your bicycle, Land Rover has two distinct varieties of souped-up SUV: the SVA, which is all about performance, and the SVAutobiography, which is about luxury and power.

So under the bonnet goes the Ford-built, supercharged 5.0-litre V8 developing 542bhp and 502lb ft of torque, coupled to a ZF eight-speed transmission and permanent four-wheel drive.

The systems are controlled with a raft of electronics to give hill descent, traction control and pre-set braking, along with engine and suspension settings suitable for a variety of surfaces and terrains. 

Changes to the exterior include restyled bumpers,  sculpted side panels, more air intakes and revised exhaust outlets. 

Most of the Velar’s work, though, will be on Tarmac, even if it is wet or snowy. To that end the suspension bushes are uprated and the air suspension units are smaller (and therefore harder) for faster on-road use. To get the whole caboodle stopped there are larger diameter front-brake rotors and four-piston calipers, while the wheels are 21 or 22in in diameter.

Changes to the exterior are pretty minimal, with new bumpers, air intakes, sculpted side panels and go-faster exhaust outlets. 

Inside there are a few trim changes including a new steering wheel, and electronically-adjustable seats with a slightly over-the-top diamond quilted trim in cream leather. There’s also sparkly knurling for some of the controls and a touch of carbon-fibre here and there. I think I prefer the standard Velar, to be honest.  

The interior has more new stuff, such as the steering wheel and electronically-adjustable seats with diamond-patterned quilted leather

While the interior packaging (particularly rear seat room) isn’t in the same class as rivals such as Porsche’s £101,155 Cayenne Turbo or Alfa Romeo’s £70,900 2.9 turbo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, it’s large enough for a couple of tall adults to sit in decent comfort without hitting bits of trim with their extremities

On start-up the exhaust booms in that I-have-no-neighbours-to-upset way of such things. To be fair it does calm down when warm. The top speed is quoted at 170mph, with 0-62mph in 4.5sec, WLTP measured fuel consumption of 23mpg (I achieved 19.2mpg) and NEDC-measured CO2 emissions of 270g/km, which means your first year VED will be £2,070. If you need to ask, you probably can’t afford it...

Despite those figures, however, this Velar weighs almost two tonnes and you feel every kilogram as you start off. The suspension is sluggish to respond to bumps and the vehicle feels heavy, huge and out of sorts. 

As with all current Land Rovers, the Velar SVAutobiography has a raft of electronics to help provide off-road ability worthy of the badge 

The gearbox software doesn’t seem to do brisk, merely very fast or slow, so if you lose patience and floor the throttle the gearbox changes down a couple of gears and the revs soar noisily  towards the 6,500rpm red line. 

At 4.8 metres long it feels huge, the seating position is lower than a full-fat Range Rover so you don’t get that van driver’s perspective with which to thread the car through the wicked city, and it also feels stodgy. First acquaintances, then, are not promising...

But I had a week with this car and the second day was a little better as I learned to judge the correct amount of throttle to gently accelerate rather than heading for the stars, and also where the car’s corners were, trusting the parking sensors, the 360-degree parking aids and rear camera. There’s also a reasonable balance between warning beeps and the car letting you get on with it.

This model will be mostly used on the road, so the air suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres have been uprated

The third day involved a long drive in some quite biblical weather and while you might tartly observe that I could have achieved the same sort of solidity (if not comfort) in a £16,665 Fiat Panda 4x4 Cross while exceeding 60mpg, the Velar was quite superb even if the fuel bill was somewhat higher. 

This is a car built for distance rather than speed, with a fine and supple ride quality, a steering weight that is firm at pace and light when parking. The driving position isn’t so low that you can’t get a decent perspective on the road ahead, but low enough to feel reasonably sporting through a series of bends. There’s also a fine amount of isolation from the road and wind, though the engine note is intrusive after a while.

It’s a lovely way to cover a lot of miles and quite a classy piece of kit, but if you wanted to save about £10,000 you can buy the same drivetrain in the Jaguar’s F-Pace SVR, although that’s a much more sporting proposition. 

The SVAutobiography version of the Velar is built for distance rather than speed - although it's not exactly slow

This engine is built at Ford’s Bridgend plant, by the way, which is due to shut soon, so if you are tempted remember that supplies of this car will be strictly limited.

As I write, however, there’s a man on the radio telling me what I should eat for breakfast to achieve environmental utopia. While he did make me wonder if we haven’t reached peak finger-wagging opprobrium on climate change, I did have the smallest thought. 

What about enjoying pretty much all the benefits of a luxury Velar with the 2.0-litre petrol engine instead of a supercharged 5.0-litre V8? It costs half the price of the SVAutobiography and achieves almost twice the economy...

As I said, it’s just a thought.

What do you think of this upmarket Range Rover Velar? Is it a logical progression as the SUV sector continues to move upmarket, or is Land Rover in danger of traducing its heritage? Let us know in the comments.

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