Early on a Saturday morning, the Velar stirs. It pulls out of its warren, nose first, as though waking from hibernation. Velar means ‘sail’, ‘curtain’ or ‘veil’. It is also refers to the barely audible sound in speech, formed when the tongue touches the soft palate. Just as quietly, our vehicle rolls into view. Flanked by tower blocks, a barren track of tarmac stretches ahead. Beneath, an underpass flows like a river, carrying other vehicles along. Our journey will take us through urban sprawl and historic industrial buildings to visit a modern architectural masterpiece, The Hepworth Wakefield. As I put the car into gear and pull away, we seem to glide on the Velar’s air suspension, rather than drive.
The Range Rover Velar’s sweeping lines are uninterrupted, from its headlights to its gently sloping rear. “The highly sophisticated, reductive design of the Velar appears in its surfacing, body form, and overall volume and proportion,” explains Gerry McGovern, chief design officer at Land Rover. “Every line has a job to do, reducing as much visual noise as possible.” Within its comfortable confines, each element draws the eye in fluid succession. Soft light glows from the handles and foot wells, and the seats are patterned with a perforated Windsor leather. McGovern’s favourite component is the secret-until-lit display, which welcomes the driver by tilting up when starting the engine. “It’s a bit of theatre, as well as bit of fun,” he says. The tailored feel of the interior is informed by Land Rover’s focus on well-being, sustainability, and provenance of materials. Cosy-wool blends, natural open-pore veneer, and gloss black center console screens are intended to be reminiscent of the furniture and flat screens in one’s own home.
Sunrise was at 7:49 am; it is now 9:30, and the horizon is still dim. Dawn gradually raises its head, releasing a fine sprinkle of rain on the panoramic sunroof, which is born of McGovern’s love of blurring the division between inside and outside. The car coasts along the motorway and into Wakefield, navigating dilapidated buildings and the clutter of old warehouses and garages. The immense, luminous Hepworth Wakefield rises behind them, a sheer cliff of silvery concrete. The River Calder’s churning waters flow past; while seagulls swoop over its jagged rooftop and slip blithely into the water. As I park the Velar alongside the façade of the gallery, the two are consonant in their aesthetic alignment. Their smooth, grey exteriors almost mirror each other. “Modernism is the driving force for my visual aesthetic,” says McGovern. The languid, yet resolute lines of the Velar echo the striking angles of the gallery. Both forms translate the nuances of the British Landscape – steep cliffs, sloping hills, rushing streams – through a contemporary lens.