By Barry Spyker

Tribune News Service

2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE

Base price: $60,100

As tested: $74,895 includes 20-way heated/cooled seats ($3,050), extended leather ($1,840), Drive Pro Package ($1,495)

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine standard; two V-6s available, one a diesel; all mated to 8-speed automatic with paddles

Mileage: 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, 23 mpg combined

The new-for-2018 Range Rover Velar may not be anyone’s first choice to deliver dozens of packages for a holiday party.

Where’s the minivan when you need it?

Surprisingly, the midsize luxury crossover is holiday-ready.

It has a generous 34 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear with all seats up, and a very generous 70 cubes with the three-way split rear seats folded down. That’s plenty of room to shovel in gift boxes.

Turns out there are surprises everywhere in the Velar, from snazzy pop-out door handles that also improve aerodynamics to an optional air suspension system that lowers the vehicle 1.6 inches for easier access.

The Velar is built to handle any surface: rocks, sand, mud, asphalt and, oh, about 23.6 inches of water.

It’s equipped with a wade sensor to make sure you don’t get in too deep.

Inside, there’s a first-of-its-kind seat fabric, a polyester blend made from sustainable materials like recycled plastic bottles and wool.

Another wow.

Slotting in between Range Rover’s Evoque and Sport, the Velar has a simple but rugged exterior with a sloping roofline that looks sharp and does hamper visibility.

The R-Dynamic version adds panache with a mesh grille, hood and tailgate lettering, hood vents, black roof and other accents.

It gets 20-inch darkened split-spoke wheels.

Velar’s ride is lively enough but few will call the 4,500-pound SUV athletic. Standard power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that gets 247 hp and 269 pound-feet of torque.

It’ll get to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Two V-6s, plus a supercharged version and a turbo-diesel, also are available.

All three are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that glides through the gears smoothly and without issue.

Ride quality is superb as the coil or air suspension works with a torque vectoring system to control body lean on corners and absorb anything the road dishes out.

A standard all-wheel-drive system maintains a 50-50 front-to-rear torque ratio unless wheel slippage is detected. The turbo four-banger can also tow a surprising 5,291 pounds.

Also standard is Range Rover’s Terrain Response system, which adjusts suspension and height, throttle response and steering to handle varied surfaces.

Modes include Eco, Comfort, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Dynamic — the latter for more spirited driving.

While the Velar isn’t geared for hardcore off-roading, there’s not much it can’t handle.

Air suspension can allow up to 9.9 inches of ground clearance, and “low-traction launch” adjusts the throttle on slippery rocks.

In addition, Velar has an optional all-terrain “progress control,” which is like a low-speed cruise control, and an active rear locking differential.

Back at the mall, Velar offers active park assist to help guide itself into a parallel or perpendicular spot without a scratch.

Despite all these features and a hefty curb weight, fuel economy is respectable. EPA estimates give it 21 mpg city, 27 highway, for 23 combined.

Contributing to those numbers is a start-stop feature that, unfortunately, is slightly jolting and intrusive.

Velar’s 5-seat interior is simply designed but sophisticated in its look, featuring high quality materials like perforated Windsor leather and satin chrome trim.

Finding comfort is guaranteed with the optional 20-way seat adjustment but, oddly, none for lumbar support.

Seats can be cooled, heated and have a massage feature for the driver. A nice touch is an electric-powered headrest.

The brains of the beast are in Velar’s so-called Touch Pro Duo, an infotainment system found on two 10-inch screens on the center stack.

It’s not the easiest system in town. It essentially works like a tablet; all controls are integrated into the screens.

Together they control everything from AC and navigation (upper screen) to the vehicle data and drive modes (lower screen). A separate 12.4-inch digital gauge cluster can be customized to highlight the numbers most important to you.

Add a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting with a gazillion choices, and an 825-watt Meridian sound system with 17 speakers and suddenly that road trip to the mother-in-law doesn’t seem so bad.

New for 2019 are more standard safety features, including rear camera and parking sensors, emergency braking, lane-keep assist and driver drowsiness monitor.

A Drive Pro package ($1,495) adds adaptive cruise control with steering assist, blind spot monitor and traffic sign recognition.

Whether folks want sophisticated style, off-road ability or high-tech instrumentation, Velar delivers.

You might expect some surprises.

22014697