The highly anticipated Range Rover Velar, the vehicle that squeezes into a niche between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport, will be launched in South Africa in the middle of next month at a starting price of R947 700.

Before it reaches local showrooms the luxurious British SUV was sneak-previewed to media at this past weekend’s South African Motoring Experience at Kyalami, where we got to drive it around the circuit.

The mid-sized five-seater packages the brand’s well-known offroad ability into the most modern and high-tech Range Rover yet seen. All-wheel drive, a generous ground clearance and the availability of height-adjustable air suspension (varying the ride height between 213mm and 251mm) make this a true adventure vehicle, but one that looks almost too smart to get scratched and muddied.

But well-heeled moms doing school runs will find lots to appreciate. The Velar follows latest Range Rover convention with its lightweight aluminium body, while it’s styled with an almost Swedish-type minimalism that uses the most slender headlights yet to appear on a production Land Rover, and flush-deployable door handles that emphasise the minimalism and contribute to a low drag coefficient.

But the highlight is the smart new high-tech interior that makes many other SUVs, including other Range Rovers, seem rather dated by comparison. Step into the digital new-age cabin and you’re greeted by one of the neatest and most uncluttered dashboards yet seen in any vehicle. The Touch Pro Duo infotainment system is the centrepiece of the dash and there are just three physical knobs to twirl; everything else is controlled via two 25cm touchscreens. It all seems fairly easy and intuitive to use, and if you know your way around a tablet or smartphone you’ll feel right at home.

The steering wheel has supplementary buttons for the audio system and cruise control and even here there’s special Velar treatment, in that the audio volume is controlled by a touch-sensitive ring that you rub clockwise or anti clockwise with your thumb.

All this tech is set into a smart, well-groomed cabin that feels like a Versace suit. The uncluttered dash and plush materials all make for a serene environment.

When it goes on sale the Velar will be offered in standard, S, SE and HSE equipment levels, all of these versions available with an optional R-Dynamic cosmetic pack to add some visual flair. The flagship spec includes electronically adjustable air suspension (the others have regular steel springs), adaptive cruise control, navigation, a digital instrument panel, and an 825-watt Meridian Surround audio system among others.

There's also a Velar First Edition, available only for the 2018 model year, loaded with every available option.

The range will be powered by a selection of existing Land Rover engines starting with a 132kW 2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel, moving up to a 177kW 2-litre four cylinder twin turbo diesel, a 221kW 3-litre V6 turbo diesel, a 183kW 2-litre four cylinder petrol turbo, a 221kW 2-litre petrol turbo, and topped off by the 280kW 3-litre V6 supercharged petrol.

It’s the supercharged V6 HSE R-Dynamic flagship we drove around Kyalami. Along with its healthy power output this altitude-compensated V6 makes a gutsy 450Nm of torque and feeds it to its all-wheel drive system via an eight speed automatic transmission. Land Rover claims a very brisk 5.7 second 0-100km/h figure and a governed 250km/h top speed.

A racetrack’s not the ideal environment for a high-riding SUV as it ruthlessly exaggerates body roll in the corners, but the exercise did affirm the flagship Velar’s very quick and instant acceleration, and ability to effortlessly gulp distance. It also highlighted this SUV's impressive refinement, and the whole minimalist theme extends to the lack of significant wind or mechanical noises.

The gears self-shifted very smoothly and the brakes handled the racetrack punishment impressively, without fading.

The local order books are open and customers can build their own Range Rover Velar using the configurator on the www.landrover.co.za website.

PRICES - Velar

2.0 diesel 132kW (D180)R947 700
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) SR1 028 600
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) HSR1 077 900
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) HSER1 172 400
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240)R1 010 400
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) SR1 091 300
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) SE
R1 140 600
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) HSER1 235 100
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250)R947 700
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) SR1 028 600
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) SER1 077 900
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) HSER1 172 400
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300)R1 089 000
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) SR1 169 800
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) SER1 219 100
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) HSER1 313 700
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380)R1 099 400
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) SR1 180 300
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) SER1 229 600
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) HSER1 324 100

Velar R-Dynamic

2.0 diesel 132kW (D180)R980 500
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) SR1 061 300
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) HSR1 110 600
2.0 diesel 132kW (D180) HSER1 205 200
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240)R1 043 200
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) SR1 124 000
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) SE
R1 173 300
2.0 diesel 177kW (D240) HSER1 267 900
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250)R980 500
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) SR1 061 300
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) SER1 110 600
2.0 petrol 184kW (P250) HSER1 205 200
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300)R1 121 800
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) SR1 202 600
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) SER1 251 900
3.0 diesel 221kW (D300) HSER1 346 400
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380)R1 132 200
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) SR1 213 100
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) SER1 262 400
3.0 petrol 280kW (D380) HSER1 356 900

Velar First Edition

3.0 diesel 221kW (D300)R1 529 300
2.0 diesel 280kW (D380) R1 539 800