The Range Rover Evoque has been a brilliant addition to the Range Rover lineup that originally just consisted of the big off-roader and a Sport derivative. The Evoque now gains a nine-speed automatic gearbox to its arsenal that aims to save you way more fuel. Are its suave looks and endless gear shifts enough to keep it relevant with competition closing in?
How Stuff worksTo start, it’s probably best to explain why Range Rover has gone the nine-speed route. Having so many shifts in a gearbox allows the engine to maintain lower revs before shifting to the next gear, with the gearing being tighter it doesn’t jump out of the torque band and continues to pull smoothly. The main benefit for this is vastly reduced fuel consumption. Range Rover claims that you’ll get 16% better efficiency from the niner in relation to the original six-speed auto.
Nine Gears Enough?In reality you don’t even notice the nine speeds, the Evoque shifts seamlessly between the gears in normal driving. You can happily slot it into D via the centre circular gear selector and forget about it. Every day driving becomes a cinch as engine noise is kept down by the low revs, there’s good torque low down and before you know it you’re doing 100kph in ninth gear, saving fuel and reducing your carbon footprint.
The only issue with the niner is when you want to get a move on. I often found when rolling into a right-hand turn intersection or traffic circle that it would have scrolled too far up the gears to make a fast getaway. At which point it has to shuffle two to four gears down, simultaneously I had begun to mash the throttle to the floor in a slight panic, to then be launched across the intersection at top speed. This can easily be rectified by turning the gear selector to S for sport where the gears are held longer and throttle response sharpens, but you lose some of the fuel economy gains.
The PowerplantThe engine backing this nine speed Evoque is an excellent 2.2-litre turbo diesel. It’s got strong power and torque credentials, packing 140 kW and 420 Nm respectively. That’s more than enough to get by and puts it in the mix with a few of the hot hatch thugs power wise and matches them for fuel economy. It’s a relatively quiet diesel even when the revs start to get close to the redline and it doesn’t easily run out of puff once you entice it into some overtaking manoeuvres.
Ride and DriveOur base-model Evoque here doesn’t come with the fancy magnetic dampers and suspension trickery that morphs the Evoque into a mind-blowingly good handler. It doesn’t actually need it, I was comfortable and confident with the chassis and suspension underneath me when testing it through some of the Cape’s best tarmac roads. The Evoque corners well and relatively flat for an SUV too, the tyres provide excellent grip and the steering is weighted well and gives you enough information from the front wheels to keep you confident in the turns.
Dirty TalkMuch has been said about the Evoque’s off-road skills and thanks to Range Rover’s terrain response buttons it has the ability to adapt to different surfaces. I had a go down a few dirt roads that thanks to the Cape winter were slushed with mud and water. Slot the terrain system into mud and don’t think about it again, the system takes care of the traction needs and you can get on with enjoying how adaptable and comfortable the Evoque is, both on road and now off it too.
Final WordThe Evoque has taken the market by storm with its looks but there’s more to it than just a pretty face. It’s got both on and off road talent and the new nine-speed gearbox improves fuel economy considerably. It has been slated as expensive and it is with prices starting at R 615 800 to which, you can add a few expensive extras.
The Evoque is about to face its sternest challenge yet though, as BMW gets ready to release the X4 soon and that could be an excellent showdown if you ask us. The Evoque will be hard to beat, but BMW have had a few years to figure out the Evoque’s weaknesses and the X4 will no doubt exploit them.
Second opinionThe positives of having so many ratios outweighs the negative and the Evoque is a solid performer. Hands-on drivers will be mildly annoyed when having to manually flick down through so many gears, so the car is best left in fully automatic mode. Despite its fashionable urban looks the Evoque like most Land Rover products, is a very capable offroad machine as photos will attest.
Range Rover Evoque SD4 Pure quick specs
|Engine||2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel|
|0-100km/h||8.5 seconds (claimed)|
|Fuel economy||6.3 l/100 km (claimed)|
We dislike: . Pricey . Waiting in intersections for downshifts