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New Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic 2020 review

The new flagship Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic has arrived in the UK with 542bhp, but what's it like on the road?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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It may be expensive, but the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography is a deeply impressive performance SUV. The fact that it prioritises comfort over handling sets it apart from most rivals, making its cabin a wonderful place to while away the miles. And then there’s the ballistic engine, which for many will be worth the asking price on its own.

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Four-and-a-half seconds. That’s both the official 0-62mph time of this Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition, and roughly how long it takes to read its full name out loud.

Prices for the Velar SVAutobiography start from £86,685. Certainly not cheap, but it’s a figure that slots it neatly between the £71k Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Porsche’s £101,000 Cayenne Turbo, both of which offer comparable straight-line speed.

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We were big fans of the way this halo model for Range Rover’s most road-biased SUV felt when we tried it on the sunny, smooth roads of Catalonia, but how does it feel on a damp winter’s day in the UK?

It certainly looks just as menacing under grey, murky skies. Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division has kitted out the Velar with larger front air dams, revised side sills, and unique badging to set it apart from the regular models. There’s also four rhomboid-shaped faux exhaust tips mounted within the rear bumper. But why do they not connect to the real four round pipes hiding behind each one? According to an SVO engineer, it’s so that buyers won’t burn their legs when getting stuff out of the 558-litre boot.

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Inside, the Velar has always felt special, and SVA upgrades like the quilted leather upholstery, knurled dials and unique digital graphics for the driver’s display only serve to lift things further. Few other SUVs feel like such an event to sit inside.

On the smooth roads of Spain, the Velar proved to be an incredibly relaxing companion. On the whole, the case remains true here. The one slight caveat comes from the optional 22-inch wheels on our car. Not only do they cause the ride quality to suffer a little around town, but those huge tyres generate appreciable road noise at higher speeds. Both niggles will likely be mitigated somewhat by the standard 21-inch wheels, and they’re still more than big enough from the poseur’s point of view.

Despite this, the SVAutobiography is still more forgiving than any other SUV that can match its staggering speed. Even in the most focussed Dynamic drive mode setting, there’s plenty of body movement during hard cornering, but the air suspension does a remarkable job of keeping that mass under control. The four-wheel drive system shuffles power between the axles on the fly, and it means that traction is pretty much impossible to break. The steering doesn’t have a huge amount of feel, but it's responsive and precise.

But the way the car rides and handles takes a back seat to what sits under the bonnet. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 has been used by all sorts of bonkers Jaguars and Land Rovers, and without fail it’s one tickle of the throttle pedal away from making you giggle like a mischievous child. Here, the noise is spectacular - made more raucous in any driving mode, thanks to a separate sports exhaust key on the lower of the two infotainment screens. The straight line speed is phenomenal for something which weighs 2,160kg.

It’s almost as startling as the lowly mid-teens fuel economy it returns when you’re really pressing on. Drive a little more sensibly though, and the official 23.9mpg figure seems achievable in the real world.

If there’s one downside to that drivetrain, it’s the automatic gearbox. While it’s perfectly good when driven flat out, it’s a little slow to respond when shuffling along in traffic – especially compared with the best units from Mercedes or BMW. You can get around this in manual mode, which gives you an excuse to use a lovely pair of steering column-mounted shift paddles. 

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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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