No sooner have I pulled up outside the California showroom in one than a lady is standing next to it beckoning me out. “You’ve got my car,” she claims forthrightly.
“You are driving my car.”
A million thoughts start racing through my head. Have I inadvertently driven on to the set of a Candid Camera-style prank show? Have I got time to jump back into the car and flee this Los Angeles Land Rover showroom? Has this woman completely lost her mind?
Thankfully, before she has called the police or I can start to splutter out my lack of qualifications as a car thief, she explains herself.
The future for Land Rover is looking as bright as ever
She has just signed a deal to buy a new Velar in exactly the same Byron Blue colour and trim as the car I’m driving.
It turns out she has never seen the rare silvery-blue finish of our test car in real life so couldn’t believe her luck when I pulled up outside.
Of more interest to me, though, is the car she is part-exchanging for her new Velar: an old-shape, third-generation, full-fat Range Rover that went out of production in 2012.
She explains that while she loved her Range Rover she needed a new car and fell in love with the Velar from the moment it arrived in US showrooms in August.
Range Rover Velar Price range: £44,830-£85,450
She isn’t alone either. Since the summer the Velar has been one of Land Rover’s biggest sellers on this side of the Atlantic – a crucial fact when you consider that just under a third of all Range Rover sales worldwide are in the US.
The impact of this new Velar is already making itself felt on Land Rover sales globally too. More than 15,000 of them have already been sold (4,000 of those in the UK) but there is no doubting the Velar is also beginning to make its mark on this US market.
There were record Land Rover sales in the US in 2016 and as 2017 draws to a close it is looking like the past 12 months have been even better.
Our new-found friend is in no doubt about the Velar’s appeal and why she has switched allegiance from the more traditional Range Rover.
Styling is a big part for starters. “I was definitely attracted by its looks first of all,” she explains.
“I love the traditional styling of my old car but the Velar just seems so much more up-to-date and modern by comparison. Just look at the pop-out door handles and the touch-screens inside. I love my old Range Rover but this one feels so much more high-tech.”
As she continues to rave about her, sorry, my car, it would be easy to dismiss it as typical Californian over-enthusiasm but it’s also easy to see what she means. All of the traditional Range Rover styling cues are still there but they are softer and more up-to-date.
Range Rover Velar Power: 0 to 60mph in 5.7 seconds
It’s also not difficult to see that the Velar would have an appeal to buyers much younger than those who traditionally walk through the doors of a Land Rover showroom.
The rear especially looks sleek, sharp and clean while at the same time sporty and immediately recognisable.
In a sector of the market that isn’t exactly un-endowed with talent, the Velar stands out – something for which Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern should be applauded.
There’s plenty more on the Velar to be glad about too, something that becomes clear as we leave the showroom and head to some of Los Angeles’ quieter roads.
No one would ever pretend this Velar is a sports car like Jaguar’s F-Type but it doesn’t disgrace itself when twistier roads loom large in the windscreen either.
Minimal body roll through bends and decent feedback through the steering wheel and driver’s seat mean this is a 4×4 that will put a smile on your face when faced with a sequence of challenging corners up ahead.
OK it’s no Porsche Macan and the Velar is far from being a small car but the handling is still respectable enough for you to place it on the road with confidence and precision. And, when you aren’t in the mood, it can also prove refined with a good ride quality that can soak up much of the worst of Californian back roads – as long as you don’t go for style over substance and choose the larger optional wheels.
Range Rover Velar Average fuel economy: 52.3mpg
As our experience later in the week in another car proves, some Californian roads, especially the freeways with heavily grooved surfaces, are far from forgiving and even the best cars complain.
Not that we have much to gripe about in our Velar.
Despite being on sale for the past four months it is clearly new enough to turn appreciative heads when you drive past and the perfect car to bring Land Rover into the 21st century with an eye on the future.
LA drivers have an affection for Land Rover like few other brands. How many UK customers would have confronted another driver outside a showroom as my new friend did?
Not many we’d wager. Then there is the matter of the Defender. Imports of the classic Land Rover are now allowed to enter the country albeit only if they are over 25 years old and completely original.
The restricted numbers and high demand mean Defender prices in California are stratospheric – we found one on a used car forecourt for £85,000.
Whether our Velar can achieve that level of cult status in 25 years is another matter but we do know that with this new Velar and the promise of a new plug-in hybrid Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in 2018 – in this city full of stars – the future for Land Rover is looking as bright as ever.
Range Rover Velar CO2 emissions range: 142-214g/km
Model: Range Rover Velar
Price range: £44,830-£85,450
Engine range: Turbo-petrol – 2.0, 3.0, 3.0-litre supercharged; Turbo-diesel – 2.0, 2.0 240bhp, 3.0-litre
Power: 0 to 60mph in 5.7 seconds, 155mph top speed (3.0 petrol)
Average fuel economy: 52.3mpg (2.0TD)
CO2 emissions range: 142-214g/km
Rivals: Audi Q5, Porsche, Macan, Volvo XC60