The phone that is sat on my desk buzzes and flashes up a number that I don’t immediately recognise. It has been a while since I last conversed with anyone from Jaguar Land Rover but this time, the caller comes bearing good news.
“Do you want to help us get our new Velar back from Norway to Germany?” explained a voice at the other end of the line. “You won’t have to do the entire stretch but it would be great if you could drive it from Copenhagen to Hamburg for us”.
Now, those reading this might be slightly perplexed by the fact that someone has phoned out of the blue and basically offered a free holiday, so let me explain.
Manufacturers often invite “journalists” to drive their products back from a European launch, as it offers ample opportunity for said scribes to get acquainted with the products and therefore review it with top quality impressions garnered from a lengthy trip.
Yes, yes. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it. Plus, it saves the manufacturer the rigmarole and costs of transporting lots of shiny new SUVs back to their respective homes.
In this case, the spanking new Range Rover Velar I was tasked with driving was destined to live a long and prosperous life on a German press fleet.
Model: Land Rover Range Rover Velar 3.0L P380 First Edition
Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6
Power: 380hp @ 6,500 rpm
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 30.1mpg (combined)
CO2: 214g/km (combined)
On sale: Now
Hence Jaguar Land Rover requiring a set of “safe” hands to deliver it back to a warm and comfortable garage somewhere in Hamburg or Dusseldorf, the specifics don’t really matter.
Why they chose me is the real question you should be asking yourself.
Collection in Copenhagen
As a result of the call, photographer Jonny Fleetwood and I hopped on a plane to Copenhagen in order to meet up with our Range Rover Velar, which in turn had been safely delivered from Norway by a previous group of hired hands (otherwise known as motoring journalists).
The plan for this two-day-long slog was fast and loose, with preparation consisting of some vague mumblings about a place called Rømø on the west coast of Denmark, simply because it looked good on Google.
From here, we would blitz eastwards, towards the picturesque island of Rømø, and then down to our overnight digs in Flensburg, with some 200-odd miles of dreary Danish motorway in between.
Upon entering the typically grey airport car park, I was immediately struck by how diminutive and compact the fourth true Range Rover model looked. Definitely larger than the baby Evoque but it appeared absolutely swamped by the latest Land Rover Discovery that was parked next to it.
“Find me someone that isn’t impressed by the Velar’s interior and I’ll eat one of the SUV’s leather seats”
The placement of said vehicle wasn’t just a lucky coincidence either, as it would be our companion for the following 48-hours, with an experienced off-road specialist on-board should we suddenly demand a spot of impromptu mountain climbing (not likely) or get lost (more likely).
Despite the hulking Disco’s presence, the new Velar cut a fine figure, with the gorgeous Silicon Silver paint job neatly highlighting its rakish lines and muscular proportions.
If the Evoque was bit too fussy for some tastes, styling of the Velar seems to feel more cohesive and looks all the better for it.
“The plan for this two-day-long slog was fast and loose”
We quickly exchange travel plans with our support crew (I don’t know why we needed one either), load the bags into the cavernous rear quarters and set about navigating the flashy new InControl TouchPro Duo infotainment system that makes its debut on this model.
Comprising of two high-definition touch screen displays, the neat system sits snugly into the centre of the dash, complete with its own ‘flying buttress’ style grab handles at the lower end of the multi-screenset-up – a neat touch borrowed from the off-roading fraternity.
The upper touch screen is split into three tile sections, which can be individually set up to display various information depending on preference, meaning a third of the screen is dedicated to navigation, another third dedicated to audio and so on.
A lower screen takes care of vehicle functionality and features two rather cool ‘floating’ rotary dials.
The way these dials seemingly hover above the piano black surface of the display is akin to black magic. But these ultra-cool rotating rings also serve a purpose.
They quickly and easily adjust climate control, for example, or tweak traction settings when the Terrain Response menu is called up.
“This particular model is also kitted out with Jaguar Land Rover’s potent 3.0-litre, 380hp V6”
Our model also features the full 12.3-inch TFT display that replaces traditional instrument binnacles, meaning the entire dash is awash with screens, displays and futuristic dials.
Find me someone that isn’t impressed by the Velar’s interior and I’ll eat one of the SUV’s leather seats
With Rømø punched into the fancy new pinch-to-zoom, super swipey sat-nav system, we make our way westwards across the inexplicably flat landscape of Denmark and away from the undeniably cool Copenhagen.
Previous journalists had enjoyed the epic mountain vistas, glacial streams and midnight glow of Norway but we had to make do with grey clouds and almost arrow-straight roads through uninspiring scenery for the first hundred or so miles of the journey.
However, it did give me plenty of time to get settled into the plush leather seating of the top-spec R-Dynamic model that I was lucky enough to be driving.
This particular model is also kitted out with Jaguar Land Rover’s potent 3.0-litre, 380hp V6, which develops enough grunt to propel Velar from 0-60mph in just 5.3 seconds.
With the V6 purring away in the background, it seemed a good opportunity to pump the ventilated seats up to the max and engage one of the many massage functions of the opulent thrones.
At over £70,000, this extravagant Velar needs to turn on the Range Rover charm in order to justify the lofty price tag but with spines and shoulders undergoing a thorough rubdown, it starts to make a strong case for itself, transporting the mind away from long stretches of motorway.
Admittedly, you’ll find some of the lower plastics adorning the interior can feel a little cheap and scratchy but the upper dash is wrapped in glorious hand stitched leather and laid out in a beautifully uncluttered manner.
Where to stay
A number of the buildings that make up this unique yet thoroughly modern hotel date back to 1852, where it acted as digs for sailors visiting “Rum City”.
Beautifully and carefully restored, the architecture fuses listed brick buildings with swathes of glass, encouraging visitors to seamlessly waft between old and new as they navigate the grounds.
A neat Captain’s Club bar and lounge area winds its way up into the old rafters and offers a great spot to relax while taking in the adjacent harbour scenery.
The Columbus restaurant serves food fashioned from fresh, local ingredients, so expect plenty of fish and hearty meat dishes, while a well-stocked bar sees some unique cocktails appear on the menu.
With some 69 rooms, there’s something to suit every taste, from huge Billet apartments, cosy Brig double rooms and the stunning Kaysers Suite, which looks out across Flensburg’s rooftops.
Prices range from €95 per night to €175 a night for the most extravagant dwellings.
The hotel also offers a free bicycle rental scheme for residents, which is arguably one of the best ways to see the historic city of Flensberg.
Visit the website for more.
The Velar’s closest rival in an interiors capacity would be the brilliant and quintessentially Scandinavian Volvo XC90, but InControl TouchPro Duo pips Sensus Connect in terms of tech prowess, while the overall level of opulence feels greater in the top spec Velar.
To break up the monotony of the Danish motorway network, we decide to peel off into a service station to sample some of the local delicacies.
It turns out Denmark does a good sandwich (chicken salad with a potent mustard sauce, in case you were wondering), but it also sells white chocolate Snickers bars that are almost illegally delicious.
“We seize upon the opportunity to test the Velar’s ability to do skids and I can confirm that it happily pumps power to the rear wheels”
Let me repeat that: white chocolate Snickers bars. If the landscape continued to disappoint, I would make it my mission for the rest of the trip to purchase as many as possible and introduce them to the taste buds of the UK.
All Roads Lead to Rømø
After numerous hours on the road, most of it spent sampling the impressive 1,600W Meridian Signature Sound System and eating junk food, we finally reach our intended destination.
Rømø is a tiny island located in the Wadden Sea and plays host to some 650 inhabitants, most of which seem to enjoy fishing and riding bicycles if the front lawns of the pretty houses are anything to go by.
Numbers swell in the summer when its famous and expansive beaches fill up with tourists and holiday makers intent on kite-boarding, windsurfing and indulging in other such breeze-based folly.
But more importantly, it is perfectly legal and actively encouraged to drive on the beaches, which just so happens to serve as an excellent test bed for the Velar’s off-roading abilities.
Alas, the densely packed sand and mild dunes we traverse on the picturesque sandy spit will never be enough to trouble the accomplished Terrain Response technology, which cleverly adapts traction and channels power to the correct wheels depending on the ground beneath, so instead, we seize upon the opportunity to test the Velar’s ability to do skids.
I can confirm that it happily pumps power to the rear wheels with all ESP switched off and will throw a bit of sand up in the air for dramatic effect if you really push it.
The rorty V6 engine also sounds good when climbing up the rev range but the cacophony and mildly hooligan behaviour soon catches the attention of some family beachgoers and it only seemed right to beat a hasty retreat. The reputation of the British is at stake, after all.
Jumping the Border
After thoroughly irritating the locals, and bagging some neat shots in one of Rømø’s beautiful fishing ports, we set off to reach our overnight destination of Flensburg and the wonderful Hotel Hafen.
The tarmac towards the Danish/German border is narrow and enforced by a particularly strict speed limit but clear roads provide the best opportunity to test the dynamic abilities of Velar.
“A solid day of travelling tends to create a vacuous silence in the cabin and Mr Fleetwood and I had run out of conversation somewhere back near Rømø”
Despite the First Edition boasting Configurable Dynamics as standard, Velar doesn’t feel as eager to turn in or as comfortable in corners as the Porsche Macan – or even the marque’s own F-Pace for that matter – but then it is hardly pitched at a petrolhead market.
Regardless, flicking Velar into a Dynamic mode firms up the steering, lowers the suspension settings and offers sharper throttle response, which seems to suit this sportier V6 petrol model, even if the drive isn’t overtly enthralling.
But it feels more natural to switch the big SUV back into Comfort and welcome the return of a more relaxed demeanour, with the optional air suspension system doing a great job of keeping things smooth and comfortable.
A solid day of travelling tends to create a vacuous silence in the cabin and Mr Fleetwood and I had run out of conversation somewhere back near Rømø, but our taciturnity served to highlight the energy Jaguar Land Rover engineers had invested to eliminate tyre and wind noise.
A quiet, comfortable cabin with early evening sunlight streaming in through the panoramic sunroof is a great way of soaking up the scenery, even if it is a little lacklustre.
Our hotel for the night is located in the German town of Flensberg and we pass very little of note on our journey south, including a border that seemingly elapsed without anyone really noticing.
One of the most exciting things we stumble upon after entering Germany is an intriguing discount sex shop, the branding of which doesn’t make clear exactly why the goods inside benefit from heavily slashed prices.
We agree that they are probably dealing in second-hand paraphernalia and make the decision to keep on trucking rather than explore further, instead opting to stock up on white chocolate Snickers bars to take home – a more sanitary and sensible choice.
The cavernous boot in the Velar could happily swallow 632-litres of cutting-edge confectionary, but the town of Flensberg has apparently been hit by some sort of delicacy drought, meaning real food and bed would be the best idea.
A restful night’s sleep in our hotel made way for a grey and dismal day, so we were in no particular rush to hit the road and motor towards our flight out of Dusseldorf.
Instead, we took a look around Flensberg and found a few more picturesque locations to shoot the Velar, only hurrying when I reminded everyone that I was yet to procure a cargo of chocolate.
The drive towards Dusseldorf was long, slow and choked with traffic, allowing me to slip the Velar into its Adaptive Cruise Control and show off its new Queue Assist and Intelligent Emergency Braking functions.
These clever systems reduce driver workload when cruising on the motorway or driving in traffic by automatically keeping a set distance to the car ahead, braking when traffic slows and picking up speed when it begins to flow again.
Luckily, the traffic does eventually clear and it gives us a good chance to test the Velar on some unrestricted autobahn. It’s safe to say the big V6 does a good job of propelling the thing up to speed, while the chunky SUV feels stable and planted when tickling 140mph, especially with Dynamic mode enabled.
But like all good things, the ridiculous top speeds soon come to an end when traffic begins to build once more and we start to feel restless from two solid days of driving.
There is just time for one more pit stop before heading to the airport and as I stride into the petrol station to request the toilet key, I notice something shiny and enticing glinting beneath the cashier’s desk.
It is the unmistakable wrapper of a white chocolate Snickers. Germany rides to the rescue once again.
The cashier looks at me with disdain when I buy ten bars and then utterly perplexed when I request a receipt.
The kind folk at JLR will need it for tax purposes – the sweet treats acting as payment for driving their remarkable car across some truly unremarkable landscape.