Traveling in northern climes the weather changes quickly, so there’s something for everyone as we charge up the serpentine roadway linking Norway’s foreboding Kongen, Bispen and Trollstige, or King, Bishop and Queen mountains. The sun shines, rain pelts down like needles, and a double rainbow arcs over the valley below. And plenty of snow skirts the side of the roadway as we race by in our new, 2018 Range Rover Velar.
The newest entrant among the fast-growing Land Rover family, Velar slots neatly into the brand’s upper tier, between the compact Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. If your idea of a Rover is a sturdy box on wheels you’d be half-right. The entire Land Rover family still puts function first, as we discovered during a couple of days of rock-crawling and fjord crossings. But in recent years Land Rover has proven that form and function can go hand in hand.
Cats-eye headlamps frame the bold grille of one of the handsomest SUVs on the road. Its modified fastback silhouette is topped by a steeply raked roofline. An abundance of glass includes a panoramic top through which to watch the world roll by. Inside, it may not be quite as plush as the flagship Range Rover (and yep, we know the names get confusing). But Velar’s cabin is the most modern among the members of this British SUV family, with plenty of high-line features, including heated and cooled leather seats and one of the best infotainment systems on the road. It also features a terrain response system that, with a touch of a button, sets up a dozen vehicle functions to best handle whatever challenge you’re about to face, from deep mud and ruts to seemingly impassable boulders.
Velar is no “soft roader.” Equipped with a flexible all-wheel-drive system and a height-adjustable suspension, it’s as capable as nearly any model in the Land Rover family. We prove that point by climbing almost straight up a rubble-strewn hillside. After a brief lunch break and a spectacular view of some fjords, we head back down the same way, this time splashing through a swollen creek before finally merging back onto what passes here for a roadway. And that’s when we come to realize that the Velar neatly delivers the best of all worlds. It’s as nimble as a mountain goat off-road, yet it offers the sort of comfort and handling you’d expect of a luxury sedan on paved roads.
It’s also as quick as most comparably sized and priced “three-box” models, its 380-horsepower supercharged V-6 launching the Velar from 0 to 60 in a mere 5.3 seconds. For those who want to conserve a bit more fuel, Range Rover also offers a 180-hp diesel and a 247-hp, gas-powered inline-four.
Spend a little time behind the wheel of the Range Rover Velar and you’ll quickly discover why the collective Land Rover family has become one of the auto industry’s fastest-growing brands. Pricing for the 2018 Velar starts at $50,895.