It’s not often that a new car arrives on a wave of such hype and expectation as the new Range Rover Evoque. The anticipation and interest have been such that the bean counters at Jaguar Land Rover’s head offices in England must have already written themselves sizeable bonus cheques. But such hype can also be dangerous. Much of the near fanatical response has had to do with the vehicle’s dramatic show-car looks. But what if it turns out to be poorly build, poor value, and a dynamic turd? Is there really substance to the Range Rover Evoque? Let’s find out…
But first… those looksWhen the Range Rover Evoque was first shown as the Land Rover LRX concept car, it received a very enthusiastic response which prompted the company to put it into production nearly as-is. It's not often that a concept car from a motor show makes it to production without losing any of its sex appeal, but that is exactly what has happened with the Evoque. Drive down any road in one of these, and it attracts plenty of stares. Park it at the mall, and expect a lot of fingerprints on the windows when you return. From the 19-inch wheels to the sexy LED lamps and narrow glass area, the Range Rover Evoque is a very fresh and futuristic take on the compact SUV. Of course, with time and familiarity the Evoque’s attention-grabbing ability will wane, which makes it all the more important to find out whether there is an excellent car underneath the shine.
Some onlookers pointed to the slope of the roof and the relatively short body, suggesting that interior packaging would be compromised by the glitzy looks. In reality, however, the cabin is surprisingly spacious. Firstly, the car’s exterior design actually hides its true size. The wheelbase measures 2 660 mm and it stands broad-shouldered (1 965 mm) on those big wheels. The five-door Range Rover Evoque model also has a slightly different roof curvature, to ensure enough headroom for rear passengers. So, leg-room is actually pretty good all-round. The only compromise, really, is the boot – it’s not only small, it also lacks a full-size spare wheel.
In terms of aesthetic appeal the cabin is a pace-setter, too. The materials are first-class, with soft leather on many of the surfaces and convincing materials used throughout. Range Rover has been very good in recent years with combining traditional materials with high-tech equipment, and the Evoque is no different. What it adds, however, is greater simplicity. The striking centre console and transmission tunnel appears remarkably free of clutter – the gearlever is replaced by the rotary selector first seen on the Jaguar XF; there is an electric park brake; and the Terrain Response function is taken care of by a simple row of buttons.
Due to the emphasis on sportiness, as well as the narrow window area, there is the sensation of sitting quite low in the Evoque, which is a first for a Range Rover. Combine this with the low-slung roof, and some occupants may feel a bit “boxed-in”, but Range Rover has an elegant solution to this – a fixed panoramic roof lets a lot of light into the cabin, and even makes the cabin feel more spacious.
The panoramic roof is but one nice-to-have feature on a very long standard features list that includes climate control, auto lights, xenon lamps, auto wipers, radio/CD with Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless entry, a rear-view camera and even an electric tailgate. The safety package adds seven airbags, park assist, and an electronic stability system.
On-road biasLook, if you think the Range Rover Evoque was designed to see a lot of muddy action, you’re sorely mistaken. Still, the Terrain Response system is fitted, and there are hill-descent and hill-start functions too. We suspect, however, that most buyers will be quite tempted to tick the box that adds a sport mode to the system. Sport mode sharpens up the dynamics for superior road holding by using magnetic particles to stiffen the dampers. It does help the already impressive Evoque to corner with a lot of poise for a compact SUV. And if you’re worried that the on-road bias and big wheels have resulted in a bone-crushing ride quality, don’t be – the Evoque uses a modified version of the Freelander’s suspension, and it has retained a lot of that Land Rover’s trademark suppleness.
While most customers are likely to opt for a turbodiesel engine, the Evoque’s 2,0-litre turbocharged engine is a good – if thirsty – match for the underpinnings. It delivers a meaty 177 kW and 340 Nm of torque. The torque is already on tap below 2 000 rpm, and consequently the Evoque feels lively from low speeds. As usual, the Land Rover engineers have done a sterling job with this model’s throttle mapping – it responds very keenly to driver inputs, even when you’re not in Sport mode. Similarly, the six-speed automatic transmission is a good one. Left to its own devices it does its job efficiently and unobtrusively. Use Sport mode or even the paddles behind the steering wheel, and it really helps the driver to engage with this machine.
Range Rover Evoque - VerdictGiven the Evoque’s striking design and resultant desirability, being merely an average product would have been good enough to secure it a few years of excellent sales. But this Range Rover is far from an average product. Take away the glitz and glamour and you still have one of the best luxury crossovers around. The standard specification is class-leading, the build quality excellent, the interior reasonably spacious and the driving experience (on tar) is very good, too. Yes it is pricey, but those who take the plunge are unlikely to be disappointed.
- Stunning design
- Stylish, quality interior
- Ride/handling balance
- Standard features
- Small boot
Fast factsEngine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol Power: 177 kW @ 6 000 rpm Torque: 340 Nm @ 1 750 rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Wheels: 19-inch alloy Top speed: 217 km/h 0-100 km/h: 7,6 seconds Fuel economy: 8,7 L/100 km
- BMW X3 xDrive20i M Sport Steptronic: The new X3 is a significantly better offering than its predecessor, and more spacious than the Evoque. On the downside, it is neither as powerful, nor as well-equipped. A more direct rival (the xDrive25i) comes a bit later.
- Audi Q3 2,0 TFSI Quattro S-tronic: Audi’s very popular Q5 offers a cheaper alternative. While you do sacrifice a few features (and, of course, the looks of the Evoque), the Q5 nevertheless is good to drive with standard quattro all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission.
- Volvo XC60 T6 Excel Geartronic: Don’t underestimate this very good Volvo. Sure, the resale value will be atrocious, and the fuel consumption will bankrupt you first, but it’s such a comfortable, fast, practical and likeable machine to drive, you can just about forgive it anything.