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They said, the Velar just isn’t great to look at, but tough enough to weather the storm, too. Reason enough to get our dirty boots out, then

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It’s lunchtime on a lazy Sunday and we’re on a scarcely populated beachfront not very far from Mumbai. It’s surprisingly clean and the waters have been calm all throughout the weekend. With most of the fishermen folk out in the middle of the sea, roughing it out with the crabs, the shore is left pretty much deserted, making it for a perfect driving beach. Or so I thought. After the initial few hours of mucking around and sporting a grin all morning, things take a U-turn as I find myself flustered like a cat that’s accidentally fallen into a bathtub filled with cold water while having some fun with the curtains.   

I’m ruffled as I’m at the wheel of the all-new Range Rover Velar that’s lost 90 per cent of its engine power and stuck at the shore. With the tide rising rapidly, I’m losing time faster than you would while waiting for an elevator in a three-storey apartment. There’s practically not a single soul on the beach that I can cry for help. Our photographer Rajeev, who was till then capturing the glorious moments, realises I’ve somehow botched up big time and rushes towards the coastline in search of assistance.

Almost magically, he emerges a couple of minutes later from a distance with four villagers in tow. In my 33 years of existence, never have I ever felt so reassured seeing four strange men running towards me.

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These men gave me hope that I wouldn’t feature in the local newspapers the next morning for drowning a Range Rover in the Arabian sea. A collective push should get the Velar out of troubled waters, I think to myself, but since a third of its tyres are already submerged, muscle power alone isn’t enough to get this 1.9-tonne Rangie going.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even have the horsepower to work in tandem with muscle power. Why’s that, you ask? Because the desire to get you the best action photographs saw me repeatedly push my luck with the waves and it seems the Velar’s onboard computer didn’t take a special liking towards my act of bravery. Or stupidity, perhaps.   

Seawater played havoc with one of the sensors and that sent the Velar in “limp home” mode. Usually, it’s a safety net that leaves you with just enough power to gently crawl back to a safe spot, not letting you go beyond 1000rpm. I desperately give the motor another yank; this time it wakes up and revs to 2500rpm. Despite all the coughing and panting, the engine manages to get back enough power to pull the Velar out of the water momentarily; not enough to get over the incline and on to the drylands, though.

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I quickly apprehend what the Rangie needs. Ten more minutes of complete electrical shutdown and basking under the sun get us a thousand more revs. Twenty minutes later, the petrol motor breathes to 4500rpm, and a further 10min-breather gets the engine back to its senses. It immediately clears up its throat, regains its composure and helps the Velar scamper through the soft sand like a stallion who’s just sneaked its way out of the barn. For the rest of our 200-odd kilometer drive back to base, the Range Rover suffered from a short-term- memory-loss with no sign of its hour-long struggle at the shore.  

Away from the coastline, the Velar is now happily redlining in every gear, offering max performance from its all-new 247bhp Ingenium motor with the dashboard not throwing up even a hint of an error whatsoever. Wondering if the theatrics back at the beach leave a bad taste in my mouth? Well, the Velar isn’t the one to be blamed here. I must admit, the electronics did warn me a couple of times before it decided to teach me a lesson the hard way – it was after the eighth monstrous splash that the Velar shut its systems down, but prior to that, the Rangie fared pretty well in every other challenge we threw at it.

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Folks who end up spending close to a crore on a luxury SUV of this nature, hardcore off-roading may not even cross their minds. Yet, for the interest of our readers, we would like to inform there was more to our expedition than just driving on the beach. We didn’t scale mountains, but we certainly made the Velar crawl over rocks for some photo ops, and that turned out to be fairly easy.

Or for that matter, check out the cloud of smoke the Velar threw up when we decided to have some fun, ploughing an entire saltpan, performing donuts with all its electronics shut. We also accidentally destroyed a local cricket pitch in doing so, but such was the spectacle that even the kids didn’t mind sacrificing their playground to watch a Range Rover that looked so spectacular on the road, get down and dirty in their own backyard.

  It’s not just them who were floored by the Rangie’s stellar looks. On our three day escapade, its fan base knew no barriers – regardless of age, sex and creed, everyone wanted to have a good second look at this tightly skinned SUV. The cleaner front-end, the sweptback rear, that gorgeous profile, and even the flush door handles; it’s easily the best-looking SUV we’ve seen this year so far. It’s got a stunning cabin too, something that can make the newest of Germans’ look a generation old already. High on tech, luxury and comfort, the Velar’s cockpit is elegant and future-ready, and should you get yourself one, be rest assured its novelty won’t wear off that easily.

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With all the fun elements covered, it’s time to get on with the more fundamental stuff – engine options and how they drive, does it handle like a Porsche Macan or how much comfort do you get for a crore. Yeah, sounds mundane, right? The model you see is the mid-spec P250 SE – which makes it one of the most sober looking Velars of the lot.

You can go crazy with the customisation options Land Rover has to offer; we’ve seen a few parked in the showroom done up really well, and believe me, this grey specimen stands no chance in front of them. You also get to choose from two brand new 2.0-litre, four-cyl Ingenium motors (177bhp diesel and 247bhp petrol), an older 296bhp petrol, and a 700Nm V6 diesel. All teamed to an 8-speed gearbox, the P250 that we have here is capable of clocking 0-100 in a claimed 6.7 seconds. Talking of P250, the petrol motor in here requires a special mention for its refinement if not for its exhaust note – it doesn’t match up to the performance on tap. It’s a 4cyl, 2.0-litre motor, alright, but it’s quite punchy and outright acceleration is impressive.

Driving in urban traffic is a breeze and pulling out fast overtaking moves won’t require you to plan your day in advance. A fast-thinking 8- speeder ’box complements the motor really well – when combined, they won’t pin you back into your seat every time you floor the right pedal, but can surely give you butterflies in your stomach.

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Considering it’s a big SUV – it fills up the gap between the Evoque and the Sport – road mannerisms are nicely balanced. There’s a positive feel from behind the wheel and it’s quite happy to change directions, in fact, it’s surprisingly pointy for an SUV this size. Okay, not Porsche Macan-pointy, but for a luxury family SUV, the Velar does a good on-road job. Unlike in the V6, there’s no air suspension here, just steel springs taking care of the business.

So yes, there’s lateral movement at high speeds and it does feel a bit willowy in ‘Comfort’. But switch to ‘Dynamic’ and things do tighten up, giving you better control. It does feel a bit firm at times, especially at low speeds, even letting a few rough patches through. Best thing is to stick to ‘Comfort’ for urban and ‘Dynamic’ for high- speed endeavours, and the Velar won’t have much to complain about. In fact, the Velar has a lot going for it, starting with those stunning looks. It’s like the John Abraham of SUVs, macho and handsome, the only difference being there’s a lot more to the Velar than just good looks. It’s got a character and is immensely talented. Take it out on a 1000km weekend drive and you’d be sad when it comes to an end. Show it an off-road trail and the Velar will be happy to follow it.

Ask your friends or family to hop in for one of your expeditions and the Velar will make sure it not just creates a great first impression but also ferries them in utmost comfort. Yes, it’s pricier than even a Porsche Macan, which isn’t a great deal in the first place, but the extra money Range Rover is asking for also gets you a lot more value in the bargain. It’s modern, it’s loaded with tech and has a robust suite of mechanicals – it’s a delectable salver that deserves all your attention, if not the money.

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