Review: Range Rover Velar, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne group test

Review: Range Rover Velar, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne group test
Review: Range Rover Velar, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne group test

Can Range Rover’s new Velar justify its high price against two strong competitors?

Range Rover’s upmarket new Velar has entered the luxury SUV ring against some strong rivals – which means it has a lot to prove. Here we pitch it against two of the best: the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne S Diesel. Each is a strong contender in its own right, plus they have an established fan-base behind them. And both are cheaper – by quite some margin in the Audi’s case.

When it comes to power the Porsche take the win here, and it’s also renowned for its exceptional handling for a big SUV. Meanwhile, the Q7 matches the Range Rover’s performance yet returns better economy, while its roomy, highly refined cabin has the advantage of seven seats. How does the £70,530 Velar R-Dynamic HSE D300 match up?

At first glance it may seem odd that this Velar variant costs more than the comparable model in the ‘posher’ Range Rover Sport line-up, but once you study the kit list you can see where the pounds have piled on. As standard you get leather trim on the seats and doors, 21-inch alloys, matrix LED headlamps, smart digital dials and keyless operation among other features. All cost extra on the Audi. To spec the Q7 or the Cayenne to the same level would make them both more expensive, which means the Velar’s price isn’t as shocking as we’d first perceived.

Another justification for the tag is the high cabin quality. The interior is more comfortable than the Audi’s larger space, thanks in part to the latter’s flat, narrow seats. And the Porsche lacks head and elbowroom, while its bucket-style rear seats only really accommodate a pair of passengers rather than three. When it comes to quality, the Audi’s cabin is spectacular but can’t match the Range Rover’s richness. Meanwhile, the Cayenne feels dated; a replacement is due in early 2018.

There’s nothing old-fashioned about the Cayenne’s monster diesel V8, though. It puts the other cars’ V6 powerplants in the shade with its deep, menacing note and muscular character. It may be noisier and heavier to drive, and lack its newer rivals’ breeding, but it feels fantastic, and teamed with the Porsche’s handling it helps create a well balanced sports SUV even the keenest drivers will relish.

The Velar can’t beat that dynamic engagement at full B-road chat, but it is similarly satisfying in other aspects. This is a strong luxury SUV, with a muscular and flexible V6 that is rather smoother and more peaceful than its rival’s motor. Nicely weighted steering, plusher air-suspension and a ride that glides all live up to posh SUV expectations. Its grip and poise impress, and the responses are reasonably adjustable for those keen drivers who want to play around with settings.

The Audi can’t compete in this department. Its cabin is peaceful and a haven of solitude, but the Q7 is not as engaging to drive as its rivals here. Our test car’s standard – and rather unsettled – suspension rather than optional air set-up didn’t help.

So, what is the victor? The Brit wins here as, in V6 diesel form, it really impresses. The Velar may not prove to be as good in lesser four-cylinder guise, but in this iteration it proves just as posh and privileged as you’d hope, and even justifies its high price. The engaging yet superannuated Porsche comes in second, and the Audi brings up the rear, as it simply isn’t classy enough to measure up to the Range Rover.

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