Luxury four-wheel drives are everywhere today, but the concept was unheard of when the first Range Rover landed 47 years ago. Now, the badge is being applied to a new type of off-roader for the first time: a mid-sized Range Rover. The Velar is not only achingly pretty, but promises to walk the line between on-road luxury and off-road competency like a true Range Rover.

As a Range Rover, the Velar needs to walk one of the toughest tightropes in motoring. Not only does it need to work as a posh luxury commuter, owners also demand their cars be able to deal with almost any terrain. Add in stiff competition from the Porsche Macan, and it's clear the latest high-riding member of the Jaguar Land Rover family needs to be seriously good.

It certainly looks good, blending the bluff shape of a full-size Range Rover with the edgier detailing of an Evoque to great effect. All the brand's design cues, from clamshell bonnet to floating roof, are present and correct, but it also looks unique. That's not an easy thing to achieve. There is plenty of potential for customization if you're not a fan of the basic look, too, with a huge color palette and eight wheel designs ranging from 18- to 22-inches making the options list.

On the inside, it's all about tech. Cars from the Jaguar Land Rover umbrella have traditionally lagged behind their rivals in the tech stakes, with poorly designed infotainment systems and last-generation graphics an all too common occurrence.

That appears to be a thing of the past in the Velar, which debuts a new dual-screen center console design. Made up of two 10-inch touchscreens, the Touch Pro Duo system frees up space on top of the transmission tunnel for all the cup holders and storage cubbies demanded by the modern buyer. It also looks cool, although we'll reserve final judgement until we've had a proper play with the new system.

All the materials look to be of a high quality, while eco-warriors will be pleased to know the optional Premium Textile seat trim is made from recycled plastic bottles, which is apparently soft to the touch and meets the same stringent quality/durability standards as leather. We'd suggest pairing it with the open-pore wood. Sure, that might undermine the whole eco-focus of the seats, but it's also the prettiest dashboard trim on offer.

With a whopping 632-liters (22.3-cu ft) of boot space with the seats upright, the sloping roofline doesn't appear to have impacted on practicality too much, although it can't match the larger Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery for outright load-hauling capability. All the door pockets have space for a large water bottle, and there are plenty of USB ports to keep the kids fully charged on long road trips – although the optional dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system can take care of that as well.

Power will come from a huge range of engines, but the real showstoppers are the turbocharged V6 diesel and supercharged petrol V6. The diesel makes 298 hp (222 kW) of power and a monstrous 700 Nm of torque, good for a 60 mph (98 km/h) sprint of just 6.1 seconds. Look out Golf GTI drivers, this diesel four-wheel drive has you covered. In spite of its impressive performance, the diesel returns 44.1 mpg (6.4 l/100km) on the combined cycle.

Meanwhile, the supercharged petrol engine pumps out 377 hp (281 kW) and 450 Nm of torque, good for a zero to 60 mph time of 5.2 seconds. Although it's quicker in a straight line, we'd be avoiding the petrol in favour of that torquey diesel. Not only will it be quicker in-gear, the supercharged V6 can only manage 30.1 mpg (9.4 l/100km) on the combined cycle. The full range of engines is matched up with the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Land Rover has put a great deal of work into ensuring the Velar doesn't topple over at the first sight of a corner, with a clever integral link rear suspension setup working with double wishbones at the front to deliver a sharp, sporty experience. This car is aimed squarely at the Porsche Macan, and it'll need to be a sharp steer to compete. Although we can't pass judgement yet, an abundance of aluminum in the chassis bodes well, as does a (supposedly) stiff bodyshell.

Pricing for the Velar will start at £44,830 (US$55,000) but the more powerful six-cylinder models stretch the sticker to a whopping £72,630 (US$89,200) before options. That's not cheap, but given how good the car looks, we have no doubt plenty will find a home. The car will be on display at the Geneva Motor Show, where New Atlas will be on the ground covering the action.

Source: Land Rover

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