AS I cross an emerald-green fjord, the twinkling lights of Oslo bleeding into the mountain mist in my rearview, I think to myself: “What a view.”
But my eyes aren’t on the yawning vista ahead. They are drinking in the interior cabin of the new Range Rover Velar.
It takes a good-looking console to distract from the film-set beauty of Scandinavia — and the Velar is heartbreakingly pretty.
Two 10in HD landscape touch- screens take centre stage and display graphics that Activision can only dream of.
Cumbersome buttons and dials are kept to a minimum and all is generously trimmed with tasteful leather, which blooms when it reaches the doors and A-pillar.
Range Rover describes this as its “trademark architecture” but you won’t find a better-looking Range Rover interior.
The company has raised its own bar.
As the heavens opened on the drive from Oslo, Norway, to Gothenburg in Sweden, the Jaguar Land Rover PRs apologised for the driving conditions.
‘To start with, you won’t be grinning. You’ll be looking as though a lion has just come into your kitchen.’
DRIVE AND PREJUDICE
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A couple of new four-cylinder F-Types flanked us on the way.
But as I thundered past the dinky sports cars, sending tidal waves of spray over them from my 22in alloys, I realised this is the perfect motor for the UK.
The Velar sits above the hairdresser-mobile Evoque in size and below the footballers’ penis-extension Range Rover Sport.
The Velar is the Range for grown-ups.
Small enough to negotiate our pipe-cleaner roads but big enough to swallow a large family and everything they need for two weeks at Eurocamp.
It is actually useful and will not rely on badge status to hit those dealership targets.
This is Range Rover’s best car yet. Let’s face it, if the skies were clear and sunny it wouldn’t be such a useful test for the UK market.
It was strangely comforting to see that no one had told the Swedish weather it is August either.
But even in sheeting rain, the Velar is solid and stable, eating up the road as if it was bone-dry, ploughing surface water out of the way. No aquaplaning here.
Engines begin with the 2-litre diesel, knocking out 180bhp and costing just £45,000 (the Sport starts at £60,000).
The same engine can be optioned with a punchier 240bhp.
The bulletproof JLR 3-litre diesel will cost you £58,000 before you move into the petrol lumps.
The line-up is crowned by the 3-litre petrol supercharged V6, a monster that will sprint from 0 to 62mph in 5.3 seconds.
The profile styling is a pleasing blend of the Sport and Evoque — both gorgeous machines — but the front shares the same smoothed-off ruggedness of the recently launched Discovery.
At the risk of talking too much about the interior, the Velar is breaking new ground by offering an eco-friendly, soft-touch leather alternative trim.
If you are kept awake at night by the plight of the black-footed ferret (mega-endangered, look it up), you can option your Velar in a material made from recycled drink bottles.
Seriously. It is as soft as suede and wipes clean, allegedly.
Promise me this, though. If you spec it with the 3-litre V6, which pumps out 214g/km of CO2 and returns just 30mpg, acknowledge the irony when you are down the pub with your mates.
The Velar is one of a new breed of car too technically capable to fully explore here.
It has moved Range Rover into a new era.
As the UK slowly starts to turn into a giant paddling pool, it might soon be one of the only cars you will be able to trust to do the weekly shopping without drowning.
RANGE ROVER VELAR
Engine: 2-litre diesel
0-62mph: 8.4 secs
Top speed: 130mph
Length: 4.8 metres
MERC E63 BRINGS PUNCH TO AMG PARTY
THIS has to be a first for me – a review of an estate conducted on a racetrack.
But this is no workaday family motor. It is the Mercedes AMG E63 S, a wagon good for 612bhp that can do 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds.
Drink that in for a moment. That is quicker than an Aston Martin DB11.
Yet it is huge, with more than enough room for five people to sit in total luxury, as well as a 640-litre boot big enough to swallow a fridge-freezer.
Daimler-Benz is celebrating 50 years of AMG – its performance-tuning arm – and hosted a full AMG range day at Silverstone last week.
The E63 looked incongruous sitting alongside missile-shaped athletes like the GT-S and GT-R – lardy and bulky, a tragic mis-match for these track weapons.
But I needn’t have worried. Take-off speed is simply phenomenal, the 4-litre turbo V8 delivering a hammer punch that could sprawl Anthony Joshua across the canvas.
Then into the first corner . . . surely this mamma is too heavy not to skittle into the kitty litter. No chance.
With permanent AWD, biased to the rear wheels when pointing forwards but spreading grip evenly when the computer detects loss of traction, it dances with ballerina grace, like a car half its weight.
This S version offers a little more than the equally fast standard version, including an electronically controlled differential.
Plus, crazily, it comes with a Drift function.
Slip into Race mode and traction control disengages, so all 612bhp can be pumped to the back wheels.
Keeping it in a straight line becomes a lesson in car control, with the back end doing everything you would expect it to on a wet Silverstone morning.
With a price point of £90,000, only serious Mercedes fans need apply.
But if you want to give the Audi RS6 Avant a worthy battle, this is the thing to do it in.
MERCEDES AMG E63 S
Engine: 4.0 litre turbo V8
0-62mph: 3.5 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Win a family ticket to MOTOGP with KTM
THE British round of the MotoGP championship at Silverstone is just around the corner and we have teamed up with Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM to offer one lucky reader a family ticket to the event.
MotoGP is the motorcycle equivalent of F1, with the fastest motorcycles on the planet battling around the Northamptonshire circuit.
There are plenty of British riders for our winner to get behind, including Bradley Smith on the Red Bull KTM RC 16.
And KTM has offered a family pass of four tickets to cheer on the action from its Bradley Smith Grandstand on the Abbey section of the circuit on Sunday, August 27, complete with goodie bags.
Riders opt for a train
IF you fancy yourself as a bit of a track day aficionado but flounder against better riders, it is time to think about whether your skills match your enthusiasm.
We went to Silverstone to get a refresher of the Level 1 course of the renowned California Superbike School (CSS).
Designed for riders of all abilities, the course breaks down riding and all aspects of cornering with five key sessions.
Even if you have been before, bad habits have a knack of finding their way back to you.
The focus of the day is learning to stabilise the bike, looking at how the throttle affects your exit, where you should steer and choosing the place you want to go, getting a good line as a result.
At Bike World, we really get on with the CSS system compared to other track schools.
It is easy to forget a lot of riding principles and if you are learning it for the first time, by the end of the day you will have pulled all your new skills together and be a far more competent rider.
Seeing others around you progress with their confidence and speed is inspiring too.
And instructors teach without pestering – so it is much easier to improve without feeling pressured.
If you expect to ride fast and hard, you are not in the right place. The range of speed between the slowest and fastest is huge but you don’t get to flat-out pace.
The idea is to put everything you learn here into practice until you really go for it on your next track day.
Leave your riding ego at the door and just do what these guys say, take away everything you can and we promise you will feel more confident.
The Level 1 starts at £425. To find out more, see bikeworld.co.uk or search “bike world” on YouTube.
Lotus bounces back
LOTUS cars is bouncing again.
The Norfolk-based sports car maker was in deep trouble just a few years ago, with losses of more than £16 million.
But it’s finished the 2016/17 financial year £2 million in profit.
The turn around must have prompted Chinese firm Zhejiang Geely to buy a controlling 51 per cent share of Lotus parent company Proton.
But let’s hope rumours that Lotus production could be relocated to China aren’t true.
Reader’s car of the week
A HUGE thank you to Phil and Rob Heeley from Sedgley, West Mids, for sending in this rare beauty.
They say: “This is our 1935 Morris Eight. Built for the 1934 Olympia Car Show, it’s a great car, an investment and hobby for both of us.
“It’s being shown at local shows for others to enjoy.”
To see your pride and joy here, send me a pic and a brief description to features@ the-sun.co.uk.