Three years and 40,000 miles on: does the significant price premium to access the D300 V6 make sense compared to what a D240 Ingenium 4pot has on offer? That's the focus of this post, alongside an array of images of our adventure in NW Scotland as Storm Bella builds for Boxing Day. If you own a D180, D240 or D300 then I'd be interested in hearing about your observations and reaction to my own assessment. Hey, even those who weirdly chose a P prefix on their engine derivative badge might even chip in! If, like me, you're totally fed up with the endless media coverage of Covid-19 and Brexit, cheer yourself up with some petrolhead JLR Velar, light-hearted and almost meaningless chit-chat over the holiday break.
Photos, to break the monotony of the text, are today from Gairloch's Flowerdale Glen and beach. Enjoy...
[This is what Velars are born to do - the Great Outdoors with standard forestry commission crushed-rock driveways]
But first, what's happening down there in the Midlands at the JLR factory for Velars? In researching the price difference between a D240 and D300 on the website configurator, I discovered that the erstwhile huge range of engine choices that once was on offer has disappeared. There is no D240 anymore. Or am I missing something?
If diesel's your thing (and with this being a two-ton plus SUV then it normally would be - leaving city dwellers' fears of future restrictions aside), there's just a D200 and the new D300 MHEV straight six for you to choose. That's it. Is this a response to supply chain issues or a permanent rationalisation of the product range for simplicity and cost savings? This makes my analysis of the pros and cons of the 4pot versus the V6 somewhat more complex on the basis that neither the D240 nor the D300 V6 are available to order anymore. However, let's have a go at this and see where it takes us.
Broadly speaking, you'll save around £12k choosing the D200 over the new D300 - £48k against £60k. Of course, getting the Velar you truly want involves a foray into the options list and the price soon balloons. It could be worse, this is JLR and not Porsche. With Porsche you start with four wheels, engine, gearbox and some basic seats. After that, Porsche helpfully make many, many 'Porsche Recommendations' from the stuff you actually really need and thought might be included in the core package..... down to complete tat. At least a basic Velar is reasonably well equipped, for now.
£12k is no small amount, although it somehow looks worse when my eyes see it expressed as £48k compared to £60k. If money is tight (oxymoron alert, as anyone buying a Velar surely cannot argue that money's truly tight) then I have often toyed with the possibility of acquiring a D180 (now D200), adding some slightly larger 20" wheels, privacy glass and choosing an interior other than black - voila, a good looking Velar that borrows from the halo models with the no-cost option of de-badging. White is still free, although a slightly larger cheque would enable access to a wider colour palette. That's it. From thereon, the Law of Diminishing Returns looms large.
[Flowerdale Glen waterfalls - not quite Niagara, not even Krimml but we'll take what's on offer here in good old Blighty]
But a good looking car doesn't always make for a happy, long-term relationship. I've always argued that, after the first few months, what really makes for happiness is performance, handling and character - the latter being thinner on a stock car compared to a bespoke build. But would this hold true with these two Velars, especially with a saving of £12k sitting in the bank or being spent on some other joy-inducing experiences?
In 2017 I was certain of my answer - luxury SUVs like the Velar are born for six-cylinder engines and not the 4pot Ingenium. I therefore parted with just over £70k of hard earned cash and had no doubts lingering in my mind. And for the last three-years I have held fast to that opinion,,,,,,
...... until quite recently. Now I am of the opinion that this comparison is a whole lot closer than I previously thought. Let me explain.
[defensive parking clearly in evidence, despite an otherwise deserted car park - they'll come, and they'll choose to park right next to me for some inexplicable reason]
Our D300 V6 is effortless. She wafts along as a proper Range Rover should. It's the combination of the 700Nm of torque coupled with the air suspension and ZF autobox. In the beginning, the V6' performance was a novelty. But it's been a good while since I shifted our Velar into Dynamic mode for anything other than a quick jab of an overtaking move on a fast Scottish country road. For a looong time, she's spent her life mainly in Comfort mode.
Then Covid-19 arrived on these shores during early 2020. Trips out in our Velar have reduced to little more than a daily commute for Mrs A of 2.5 miles each way, across the River Tweed to check and care for her elderly Mum. I have rarely driven during 2020, except for the family break to Cumbria and this one to NW Scotland. So back in March I did something that I never thought likely. That's correct - I pressed the Eco option. Yes, I'll admit to it. I chose a driving mode that seemed unthinkable when I first bought our Velar back in 2017. And I didn't tell Mrs A.
Three things were noteworthy. First, the Eco mode stayed permanently enabled. I thought it would default back to Comfort after a predetermined period of inactivity. I am sure it did back in 2017. Perhaps this has been changed with the software updates since then? Whatever. Second, Mrs A never noticed and said nothing. TBH, no surprises there since Mrs A claims not to notice any difference when I occasionally throw the car into Dynamic mode anyway - how crazy is that? Third, fuel economy for these short runs with a cold engine seems to have improved. I went almost three months between March and June 2020 before refilling with diesel (those AVC contributions have been healthy during 2020). That planted a seed in my mind.
[Gairloch Beach - so many beautiful, red and sandy beaches. So freezing cold. No wonder they're unspoilt and solitary]
The seed germinated and has grown. Here's the thing - on the M90, a deserted Scottish two-lane motorway heading north from the Forth suspension bridge, what's the problem with Eco mode? In a convoy on a twisting country road with the Tesco lorry trundling south at 40mph, for our safety (and frustration), with a dozen cars in tow (including the mandatory Nissan Micra and Honda Jazz), why not Eco? In fact, unless one is overtaking, late for an important appointment or just wanting to have a blast for the sheer joy of it, why not Eco?
Answer, I hear some of you reply is... "you're getting old!" And you maybe right, but maybe not. The Velar can be driven hard and it does a great job. But turn into a bend and she reminds you that, despite the supermodel looks, she's no 'size zero'. That weight shifts on her centre of gravity. I feel it, I sense it. It's weird because this initial shift of mass should, in most other SUVs, be a warning of something horrible to come next - understeer. But in the Velar it isn't. The weight shifts and then..... nothing. She just takes the corner and you drive on. That sense of bulk isn't something one experiences in a Porsche Macan. nor in a Jaguar F-Pace S. I get how they achieve it with the Porsche since it really isn't a proper SUV but more of a jacked-up, oversized hatchback. But what Jaguar has accomplished with the much bigger F-Pace is a true miracle of physics, if not of ride comfort.
For our Velar, it's like she's speaking to us - "I can do this if you really insist but why, when I can get you to your destination in luxury, calmly and in serenity. Ease back, pop on my Meridian Surround Sound and chill. Drive me but don't feel the need to think
about driving me". Re-reading this almost sounds provocative. It's not intended - promise. That's just what a Velar does, she talks to you as you drive. Gerry McGovern, the hugely talented and award-winning designer of the Velar knew what he was doing for those of us with mentally demanding day jobs.
[Gairloch golf course car park, a nine-hole links course alongside the famous North Coast 500 - the Ultimate Road Trip] https://www.northcoast500.com/
And so this is what has happened: Over time my driving style has changed with Velar ownership. I have the potent performance available when I wish to deploy it, but spend most of my time enjoying every journey by wafting along. In most cases this might be read as joining the Nissan Micra club and spending my life travelling at 40mph to everyone else's frustration. But in a Velar, a sense of travelling at 40mph is actually 60mph when once checks the speedo.
Which brings me back to the original point of this post: D200 (D240) or D300? If I rarely use the full might of my V6 diesel, if the turn-in performance of the much lighter 4pot Ingenium engine over the front axle is so much better, and the price difference is so profound..... why not a 4pot instead of the six-cylinder?
Well, I do get air suspension with the D300. It's nice - the car looks better with her slammed, gangster appearance when parked up. But I rarely lift the suspension and go wading a ford (although we did actually do this in Cumbria just once), and the springs of the D200 / D240 are okay. I might have to opt for 20" wheels on standard springs, which is not so good for the aesthetics but helps with a more forgiving ride. But then my £48k D200 plus minimal options didn't include 21" rims anyway. It's nice having the power on tap, knowing it's there when wanted. But the D240 is no slouch either, albeit that it doesn't deliver at the business end quite so effortlessly or in a hushed manner.
Gairloch - the actual loch is just 6.5 miles long. Short for a Scottish sea loch but with stunning views out towards the Isle of Skye. Just not today.
I do wonder then if the D240 was the sweet-spot in the range (spoken in the past tense since it seems this engine variant is no longer available to order). It offered sufficient performance, was slightly more agile in her handling and promised a sizeable saving over the larger D300 version. Okay, not so sweet on the ears, especially when it's 'pedal to the metal' time. But still? If I find myself driving my D300 regularly in Eco mode then maybe the D240 is the engine of choice, at least for the accountant in me.
So what's the conclusion then? Well, for this average guy who's had several D240, solid white stormtrooper Velar S courtesy cars thrown his way by the local dealer during the last three years, I have concluded that........ this is a pretty close thing. If it's a purchase of the heart, as was our acquisition of Holly (she has a name), then it's the D300 with the toys and a bespoke build. Drive her as you feel in the moment, one has the choice. On the other hand, if the purchase is more rational then maybe the D240 makes better sense. Of course, some of that £12k saving can also be deployed to make one's Velar a very nice place to be!
Just one thing though. The D200 (or D180, as was)? I am less sure of this variant. The lack of outright verve and midrange acceleration leaves me in a quandary. It feels like a slightly odd combination for a Velar. But maybe for a city or for predominantly town driving, even straightforward cruising on a motorway?
Okay, OCD admission coming up: my two bucket wash system is visible in the boot. Great intentions but pointless really as I discovered on arrival up here in winter.
Of one thing I am sure though - I'm not spending my entire life behind the Tesco truck, the Nissan Micra and Honda Jazz. And the safest way to make that convoy history is to own a D300. Pop her into Dynamic mode, nudge the ZF gearbox into Sport setting and then thoughtfully choose several opportunities to skip up the line until one is clear of yet another HGV posse to enjoy the open road ahead. In the full knowledge that the occupants of the Micra and Jazz will be 'tut-tutting' to their other halves about such driving. On the other hand the HGV driver will simply be admiring the beautiful rear-end of our Velar as she disappears into the distance - I've always been of the opinion that lorry drivers admire beauty. Which is why they have photo-calendars of Velars hanging in their cabs. One day my friend, you too may be driving a Range Rover Velar because Tesco says..... every penny counts!
Once again then, pics today were of Flowerdale Glen, the beach in Gairloch and a Velar parked up nearby set to Eco mode!
Have a lovely break folks and batten down the hatches for Storm Bella.
Best wishes, Arianne.
D300 R-dynamic with lots of optional toys. Corris Grey, sunroof, activity bracelet, configurable lighting, 825w Meridian sound, heated everything, configurable dynamics, full leather pack, summer / winter tyres & the important cup holder cover!