Media Land Rover

The Velar SVAutobiography Is a Gorgeous SUV With an Incredible Engine

The world of high-performance crossovers has become so saturated, most entrants are anonymous. Boot the gas in sport mode and you might get a few looks, but the milquetoast shape of an X3 M or an AMG GLC 63 isn't bound to catch glances. So if you want to stand out, the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition is your best bet.

It's clear in the name, an eight-word, 60-character behemoth that dwarfs every automotive moniker on the market and serves as search-engine cyanide. You don't show up with a badge that long and nothing to prove. The Velar, with its volume-filling nomenclature and Range Rover branding, wants you to know it's the spendy, top-dog SUV in the segment.

That's no idle claim. Land Rover fulfills the first part by pricing the Velar far beyond the competition. A BMW X3 M starts at just under $70,000 and a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 kicks off at around $74,000. The SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition, meanwhile, starts the conversation at $90,790 before you check any boxes. Load it up, and you'll end up in six-figure territory before even glancing at the $9180 paint colors Land Rover offers.


The good news is that—even without a four-figure paint job—the most expensive SUV in its class does, in fact, look more expensive than its competitors. With taut bodywork wrapping around its broad-shouldered frame, the low-roofed Velar evokes a contoured speedboat skimming through traffic. Instantly recognizable as a Range Rover but more svelte in presentation, it achieves the same status as its bigger brothers while looking far more aggressive. That's especially true in SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition trim. It gives the Velar quad exhausts, a bigger diffuser, and a new front bumper with larger intakes.

Those intakes feed a massive 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that JLR fans will recognize from the Range Rover, the Jaguar F-Type R, and the Jaguar F-Pace SVR. Good here for 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque, the blown V-8 will get the all-wheel-drive Velar to 60 in 4.3 seconds. The less potent GLC 63 and X3 M sprint to 60 faster, but that couldn't feel any less relevant. This engine is phenomenal, its explosion of power and deafening soundtrack akin to fireworks in a woodchipper. It's eager, excitable, and ready to rush up to the 6700-rpm redline. It's also set to end production soon, reason in itself to spend for this ultimate Velar.

The chassis, though, doesn't quite match the character of the no-nonsense wrecking ball under the hood. Despite its dynamic aspirations, this Velar is more relaxed than the ultra-stiff competitors. There's more body roll in corners, the front end pushing as the weight swings around the outside. The brake-based torque-vectoring system tries to sort you out, but its automatic operation is indelicate. Between that and an all-wheel-drive system that can send 100 percent of the engine's torque to rearwards, the Velar’s systems are just as adjustable as the competition but without their tuning finesse. It's often less predictable and sure-footed on back roads, especially over mid-corner bumps in tight bends.

On the highway, however, the softer setup pays dividends. The Velar is a comfortable long-distance cruiser, more muscle car than back-road carver. The gargantuan wheels and a stiffer-than-average setup can lead to some sharp pothole impacts and around-town jolts, but the Velar settles down at speed. The massaging seats and optional Meridian audio system make it even better at eating up miles.

Infotainment is still a weak spot in the Velar. Having both a digital gauge cluster an two infotainment touch screens may look futuristic, but laggy animations and slow touch responses make the whole system feel archaic. Considering that almost everything—even climate control—in the Velar is managed through these screens, what would be a minor annoyance quickly becomes deeply grating.

These issues do little to dull the charm of a 550-hp SUV with an exhaust note that registers on the Richter scale. The issue is the price. If you're spending an extra $10,000 or more on the ultimate super-SUV, it should be measurably better than the rest. The Velar, doesn't quite rise to that. Its interior can't match the warmth or materials of the AMG, its chassis is nowhere near as sorted as the BMW X3 M's or Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio's, and its technology far from class-topping. On an emotional level, its gorgeous design, pedigree, and phenomenal engine make it deeply appealing. On the logical front, though, it's hard to say that the Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition is $10,000 better than the faster, more luxurious, tech-forward nameplates it's up against.