The time has come to ask the big question, is new-new better, or does new-old school rule the day? In this case, is it the Land Rover Velar that gets the public salivating? Or, would the E.C.D. RRC cause buyers to yank out their wallets? One thing’s for sure, it’s a dog eat dog world and let the best SUV survive!
To be fair and with full disclosure, this brief quasi-comparison is with the Velar going off-road, navigating the brush shrouded Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, while the E.C.D. RRC takes on the affluent air of the Brentwood city streets just a few months prior.
E.C.D. (formerly East Coast Defender) extensively transforms a 1995 long-wheelbase Range Rover. I’d say restored, but really it’s far more. E.C.D. can modify their products to match the desire of their clients. In this case, it’s virtually all the bells and whistles the company has at their disposal. Their team replaced the powertrain and suspension. Most of the other pieces are revamped to a high degree. From the paint to the leather interior, this is a damn nice 25-year old product. Hence, the initials RRC, aka Range Rover Classic.
The company will have three model levels – Retro, Pursuit and Pinnacle Editions. “We know that luxury buyers are among the most discerning consumers and with the new custom RRC models, we are delivering exactly what they’re after — vehicles that truly make a statement while offering an empowered driving experience,” states Scott Wallace, E.C.D. Co-Owner. All of this magic takes place at Rover Dome, the company’s HQ in Kissimmee, Florida. The company does have its roots on the East Coast, but has a new home in Malibu on PCH, catering to California’s fondness for tough, go anywhere SUVs, even if they never see an unpaved road.
This gives new life to one of the iconic SUVs from England. This really isn’t old enough to have the appeal of a 60s muscle car, but it does have a following. In our travels around town, it is obvious that new Range Rovers are as plentiful as Kardashians in Rodeo Drive boutiques. So, the RRC has cache that off the shelf, modern cars don’t have.
No doubt, the new Corvette LS3 powertrain feels superior to the original, as today’s technology is far superior. But, replacing the ageing airbag suspension with springs has a bit too much float and roll, and lacks some of the control for precision handling on the pavement. Given the girth of the RRC, control is a useful tool.
This is the first of its kind, dubbed Project Alpha. Not all of the bugaboos have been ironed out, including the HVAC fan. At least the ageing electrical has been replaced, and the company stands behind the modifications and works with customers to ensure satisfaction.
The smaller Velar is impressive, well, at least the First Edition at our disposal. This has all the options and features a human could ask for. Adjustable downhill descent on the steering wheel? Check. Seat massagers? Check. Carbon Fiber interior door panel inlays? Check again. And, those door handles that emerge from the body are just too cool ignore.
As a matter of taste, the interior design and materials are hard to surpass by all but six-figure luxury rides. Coincidentally, with all of the goodies in this model, it pushes the $50K vehicle near six-figure territory ($89,300). The dash and center console are the epitome of good, clean design and modern tech. The flawless exterior dares us to besmirch it with dirt, and we take the Brit up on the challenge.
The hills of Calamigos Ranch, near Kanan Dume Road and Mulholland in Malibu, are eroding from the bursts of rain months ago, and endless California heat and sun baking the earth below. The winding, narrow roads strewn with rocks do require caution, and the brush and boulders ache to inflict damage. Even with less than heavily aggressive tires, this feels surefooted, even down loose, steep terrain.
The 3.0-liter motor can produce 296 hp and 332 lb-ft. of torque. The 8-speed transmission in this First Edition run is able to haul this from nill to 60 in 5.6 seconds. Keeping in mind this is a stout SUV with a curb weight of 4,407 lbs.; this supercharged V6 gets the job done. This does look a bit like a snack for the hulking E.C.D. RRC, coming in at just 189” long, and 65.5” tall, however the 80” width (84.4” with mirrors) is roomy enough for even the most portly. The result is impressive. The Land Rover Velar is handsome inside and out, capable, and can be had for not much more than what some Kia or Ford models are priced at.
This is sort of like comparing apples and zebras. Both products fulfil their mission in life. The timeless question persists; classic, unique looks, or spiffy, modern style and capability? Don’t expect an answer anytime soon.
by John Grafman
photos by John Grafman, Myles Regan, and E.C.D.