Elegance and SUV go together about as well as audiophile music playback and heavy metal. All manner of contrasts come together in the sleek Range Rover Velar. And there’s an audiophile-tuned Meridian system to boot. So let’s go to the mountains with it.
There are no coincidences in life. On Wednesdays, even after visiting my favorite coffee shop in the south of Stuttgart, I stop together with a designer friend in front of an exceptionally elegant and sleek luxury SUV. There’s a lot to marvel at, above all the recessed door handles, which are the topic of conversation. The unanimous opinion: Range Rover has built a really beautiful car. I wonder how it drives. Just one day later, I receive exactly every order from the editorial department. And as quickly, or rather as soon as possible. I owe this to the fact that Range Rover, like its sister brand Jaguar, swears by British sound systems from Meridian.
Hard to believe, just a week later I’m sitting in the Velar. It seems Rover’s 2017-introduced range can do everything but be boring. That even goes for the familiarization, which drags on. What would be rather tedious with most cars, because ultimately also superfluous, is really welcome with the Velar. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the interior of the 4.8-meter SUV is as pleasing as it is idiosyncratically designed. On the other hand, the test drive was not only quick. It also ended quickly.
Off to the mountains
There is only one afternoon to experience the car and the plant. Besides, the roads around Kronberg im Taunus, where I pick up the car, are narrow and winding. These are not good prerequisites for familiarising oneself with the operating logic of the 2.15 metre wide off-road vehicle with its three screens while on the move. In addition to the instrument display, which also shows directional information for route guidance, there is a large central screen with touch function and another touch display below it.
This division is especially great for the infotainment system. When the navigation map is displayed on the top screen, you can still listen to the cover to the music playing and control the sound system at the bottom. The two rotary knobs perform different functions depending on the menu, as do the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. This is highly innovative, but not very intuitive. But you quickly get used to it. The lower display is also very useful for selecting the driving programs. Among them, there are plenty of choices. That is the case also in terms of adapting to the type of terrain and setting the level of ground clearance.
What stands out
Two things are immediately apparent on the first few meters in the Range Rover Velar: There’s no doubt that it’s a diesel under the hood, and the chassis relies on air suspension. After a cold start, the 3-liter six-cylinder nails it quite heartily. But the chassis already fits like a glove in the comfort setting. The Velar doesn’t feel spongy, but it offers good ride comfort despite the firm basic tuning. And the comfortable seats in combination with premium Velorurs and Kvadrat fabric also play their part. After a few kilometers, the Rudolf Diesel memory sound gives way to a confident growl. Those who like the chassis to be a bit grittier can do so via the Dynamic setting, “high”, “individual”.
Merdian sound system as the perfect complement to the Velar
The Range Rover Velar’s sound system can also be individually adjusted with tone controls and faders. However, the audio experts from the company based in Huntington near London have already tuned it very well and have done a great job especially with the stage imaging. However, I like the staging even better if you use the fader to move the whole imaging a bit further forward. If you like beats, you can also easily emphasize the subwoofer, which is tuned quite reservedly, with the corresponding control. The effect of this third control is much more subtle than that of the bass control, which is also present and should better be left in the middle position.
Most car audio systems have tone controls and faders. However, the developers have added various sound modes. Besides stereo, there is a surround setting called Meridian as well as other multi-channel processes with big names behind them. Anyway, Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS Neo:6 are rather something for movie than hi-fi freaks.
The rest of the equipment is also impressive. Among the 22 speakers is a dual voice coil subwoofer. The total power is an awe-inspiring 1,600 watts. In addition, there are things that one would rather know from AV receivers or at least assume in them: Audyssey-MultEQ XT audio equalization and Trifield 3D sound processing technology. The latter is a Merdian specialty that provides a three-dimensional reproduction that envelops the listener. It does this really well, but as a purist, stereo was still my favorite setting.
Range Rover focuses on entertainment in all seats
The Range Rover Velar also offers good entertainment in the rear. Rear-seat passengers can expect a fully integrated multimedia system with two 8-inch HD touchscreens in 16:9 widescreen format, remote control and two wireless “WhiteFire” headphones.
The two displays act independently. So it’s possible to play different movies on both sides. Two USB 3.0 jacks and HDMI or HDMI/MHL ports allow rear passengers to transfer their audio and video data from smartphone or tablet to the displays. Reassuringly for worried parents: They can be select, monitor and also switch off he content played in the rear individually from the front seats.
No need for adventure movies up front. With the Range Rover Velar, you can experience even great adventures. For difficult off-road passages, there’s the two-stage off-road mode and the option to increase the ground clearance by just under 5 cm to around 25 cm at speeds under 50 km/h. Then there’s something off the road, even if that’s more likely to be of theoretical significance in this country.
Rides very light on its feet
But who would want to dirty the sheet metal dress with its black-brown metallic paint, which was tailored by chief designer Gerry McGovern? After all, the four-wheel drive vehicle weighing a good 2 tons cuts an astonishingly good figure on the road. With its powerful twin-turbo diesel engine and sturdy brakes, it quickly makes you forget its high mass, even on a brisk mountain tour through the lonely roads of the Taunus mountains at this time of year. You can brake late on curves without a sinking feeling and hurry through them extremely quickly. You can even manage an uphill overtaking maneuver quite casually with the cool Brit.
The 8-speed automatic transmission from ZF in Friedrichshafen quickly and accurately finds the right gear to convert the 700 Newton meters of torque of the 275 hp turbo diesel into propulsion. If you want, you can also use the paddles on the leather valance to sort the driving gears yourself, which gives you more control over the handling on winding roads. The all-wheel drive with its high traction brings British power to the road via huge 22-inch wheels without slippage.
The steering offers impeccable feedback, especially in the dynamic setting for this class of vehicle. You really can be remarkably sporty on the road with the Range Rover. However, you don’t feel the pressure like in an SUV from BMW or Porsche. This fine English way of driving creates the ideal starting point for sound enjoyment with Meridian.
Apple CarPlay on board
In my case, the music mostly came from the iPhone via USB and I almost always used Apple CarPlay because of the more familiar operation, which then also brings Apple Maps navigation into play, while I actually liked the integrated navi of the Range Rover equipped with head-up display more.
As far as the sound of the speakers hidden behind tastefully designed plastic grilles is concerned, similarities with the likewise freshly tuned DSP speakers of the British can be identified. The use of 3-way systems in the doors helps to achieve a homogeneous tuning with seamless integration of the subwoofer. Not only vocals or guitars came from the front, bass drums are also stable in front of me. The power delivery seems similarly effortless as with the elastic V6 engine, the dynamics are convincing. You can listen very quietly with the Meridian. But you can also really turn it up without it seeming strained.
However, voices could sound a bit silkier. It seems that the midrange position, which is low and especially far forward under the wedge-shaped dashboard, takes a certain toll here. Finally, the dome tweeter positioned quite a bit further up in the mirror triangle can send its fresh highs directly to the ear without detours.
The bottom line is that the Range Rover Velar, which is available from around 60,000 euros. But you can easily expand the price toward 100,000 euros with all options. Especially this 3-liter turbo diesel offers solid value and a lot of driving fun for the money with its Meridian sound system.
The test drive, accompanied by songs like Breathe (Feat. Jam Cooke) by CamelPhat & Christoph or “Wish You Were Here” by David Gilmour Live At Pompeii, flew by – also in terms of comfort.
Conclusion Range Rover Velar with Meridian Sound System
When I deliver the Range Rover Velar back to Jaguar Rover in Kronberg, the fuel consumption display shows a value that one would rather associate with smaller cars and weaker engines. Staying below 9 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers in the Range Rover Velar doesn’t place any increased demands on self-control.
- Price Range Rover Velar: from around 60,000 euros
- Price Meridian Signature Reference Sound System: around 5,000 euros
- To the configurator: www.landrover.com
Stereo Guide Rating
+ idiosyncratic, but smart operating concept
+ elaborate surround sound system with 22 speakers at a fair price
+ beautiful integration of the speakers in the stylish interior
Price/Performance sound system9.0