All hail the fourth member of the fourth generation Land Rover family.
•Sound: Meridian 825W with 17 speakers
•Five Star Euro NCAP rating
•Can detect driver tiredness - not tested. I wanted to be fully awake for this whole experience
•Sliding Panoramic Roof $2850
•Verdict: The most good-looking SUV.
Lavish. That is the word. Lavish inside and lavish out. Ta-da! Here comes the Velar. What's with the name? Velar comes from the Latin verb velare, which means to hide. It looks low-brow. Under-the-radar-ish. Not at all like its rugged predecessors, the boxy/beautiful Land Rover 4x4s. It's curvier and smoother. But climb inside and start the ignition and the entire thing freakishly rises up - ready for action.
I hit M1 (which sets my seat so that I never have to do this again, despite what other imposter has been here) and turn the beautifully simple dial that looks like a big radio tuner, to D - for Drive.
Nothing jars. There is no handbrake or foot pedal posing as a handbrake. I click into "comfort mode" - there are six driving modes - dynamic, ECO, comfort, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand. It's 6am. We want comfort. It's mid-size so it's not like you can fit a kayak and a trestle table in the boot. But three kids (two in the back, one in the front) and I feel like we are travelling on a high-end sofa, probably from BoConcept, floating slightly above everyone else. Which on SH1 north of Auckland, heading for Pataua South, is an ideal way to feel.
At 5.15am I wake the kids. Get up, I whisper. It's time. They emerge, like warm bread rolls from their muggy oven-beds and walk, half asleep with their pillows, to the most good-looking SUV parked in the driveway.
They ease into the comfortable white leather upholstery, stare wide-eyed at the all-glass flight deck with all the bells and whistles that you will absolutely want to play with.
Welcome to the digital world. Suddenly everyone is very awake. There are two 25cm touchscreen infotainment screens, so you can have it all going on, monitor navigation and control multimedia. And there are plenty of accessories (USB, HDMI sockets, etc, hidden inside a console in the front).
The sun has not risen, but the small front seat passenger opens the Sliding Panoramic Roof (will set you back an extra $2850). The Dolby stereo system is banging.
Not as in loud because it's early in the morning and I don't want to blast their eardrums - but as in a clean, fat, true, wall of sound.
It's bloody gorgeous to drive. It's possibly the most relaxed and luxurious I've ever felt ever, but particularly now, at 6am, in a mid-size SUV, on a mid-range journey (3.5 hours, including stops) out of Auckland on a long weekend.
Get one and head for the hills. This beauty is comfy for the city, but it's wasted in the supermarket carpark. It wants to explore. Run away. Get into mud and ruts mode.
Velar D300 R-Dynamic SE