The electronic door handles on the Range Rover Velar say a lot about Jaguar Land Rover's determination to keep ahead of the rapidly intensifying competition in the luxury crossover segment.
The handles are more expensive and complex than regular mechanical door handles and are an essential part of the vehicle's design.
"The whole shape of the side of the car would be disrupted with a set of conventional door handles," said Mark Burniston, chief engineer of the Velar. "These handles clean up the side execution of the car, and by not having the handles out in the breeze, you get a number of customer benefits."
Those benefits include slight reductions in aerodynamic drag and wind noise.
Tesla uses flush-fitting door handles, too. But unlike Tesla's pivoting door handles, the Velar's handles extend outward from the door and retract.
"We had to put a lot of effort into making this handle work the way it does," Burniston said during a media test drive of the Velar here. "It will burst through 4 millimeters of ice. We don't want our customers being locked out of their car."
The Velar on sale globally in July, giving Land Rover's Range Rover subbrand its first midsize SUV. The new model is positioned between the smaller Range Rover Evoque and the larger Range Rover Sport.