The new Range Rover Evoque is now on sale in SA. The baby Rangie has been a top-selling model in its segment, but now there are many more rivals than when the boutique premium compact SUV arrived. Is the slight exterior remodel enough to entice new buyers and what else has changed for this generation? We attended the local launch in Gauteng to find out.
Admittedly the exterior is only slightly different from the outgoing model, especially from the front. The LEDs are the easiest giveaway as they now feature a rounded rectangle design, similar to the new Velar and Range Rover Sport. The bonnet loses the plastic "nostrils" of the old model and the door handles now sink flush into the metalwork when the vehicle's locked.
The rear is tightened up with a new LED light design and the black blade that runs through the tailgate area is adorned with a Range Rover badge.
The new LEDs up front and flush door handles are the easiest way to distinguish the new model.
In terms of its architecture, there is a brand new platform underneath the Evoque that extends its wheelbase by 21 mm. Overall, its weight is almost identical to that of its predecessor, although more equipment has been installed in the new model.
The dual touchscreen system, first seen on the Velar and then Range Rover Sport, has now trickled down to the Evoque (on higher-spec versions), giving the newcomer more premium appeal. More on that stuff later though...
Does it have enough go?
There are currently 2 engines available: a turbodiesel and a turbopetrol. Both are 2.0 litres in capacity and are mated with an 8-speed transmission.
One petrol and one diesel are available at launch and a plug-in hybrid could arrive in 2020.
The turbopetrol was the first unit we drove out of Sandton and through the Cradle of Humankind and beyond. There’s plenty of shove on tap with 183 kW and 365 Nm of torque. It’s a responsive powertrain, moving the 1.7-tonne Evoque quickly from a standstill. It’s certainly the more reactive engine of the 2 and feels more than adequate on the freeway and overtaking at speed.
With the extra performance comes, well, less than impressive fuel consumption... Our 110 km trip in mixed conditions returned an indicated return of 12 L/100 km, which was more than we expected. Long-term ownership will no doubt bring that down, but not if you plan on doing mostly city driving.
The turbodiesel engine is the more considered choice. With 132 kW and 430 Nm on tap, it offers more than adequate performance for an SUV of this calibre. In terms of throttle response, it's not as punchy as the petrol motor, but on the return trip, it used just 7.7 L/100 km. The diesel version’s tank has also been increased to 65 litres, so you should be able to achieve around 700 km on a full tank at this rate.
Does it feel expensive inside?
Dual touchscreens have trickled down from other Range Rover models into the Evoque.
We drove high-spec (R-Dynamic HSE) units equipped with the dual touchscreen infotainment system that really makes the cabin feel upmarket. The screens are intuitive to operate, but only Apple Carplay-compatible. Android Auto is apparently coming soon, as well as a wireless charging bay.
The dashboard area and door panels are covered in quilted leather, which you can spec in a wine stain maroon colour if you wish – it works really well with the black surfacing and aluminium inlays throughout the cabin. It feels very luxurious and while we can’t yet speak about the interior build quality (in terms of its durability, at least) it exudes a premium ambience that certain German models appear to lack.
It has a few neat tricks too. The rear-view mirror can be turned into a digital display with the flick of a lever. A camera on the shark-fin antenna can project what’s behind the vehicle onto the rear-view mirror giving a larger view of what’s behind. It takes a few moments to adjust to the display, but the image is high resolution and even works in the dark. Flick the switch again and it turns back into a normal mirror. Nifty!
I never go off-road, but I might want to...
Ground clearance on the new Evoque sits at 212 mm.
All Range Rovers are built with off-road talent in their genes and the Evoque is no different. It’s the model least likely to be seen in the bush, but it's fully capable of dealing with mild off-road conditions (should you find yourself in a difficult situation).
It has Terrain Response 2, which you select via the button on the bottom screen and then leave in Auto to adapt to whatever is underneath it. It tackled Land Rover’s in-house off-road course with ease, with the only notable problem being a few underbody scrapes due to the reduced ground clearance (212 mm) of the Evoque.
In the meantime, the Evoque's on-road manners are commendable. The new chassis reacts quickly to road undulations to provide an agile and responsive driving experience, which is matched by a quick steering setup. To deal with rapid changes of direction, the suspension setup is on the firmer side, but not crashy or clunky over potholes or speed bumps. It’s not a soft "soccer mom SUV" – it has a sportier feel to its road manners.
Is there lots of space for things?
Premium materials add to the air of luxury inside the new Evoque.
The Evoque is the smallest car in the Land Rover family and courtesy of the extra 21-mm of length to its wheelbase, it now offers more rear legroom than its predecessor. Having said that, it’s a bit tight in the back for adults, but on par for the segment.
The load bay's capacity has also grown slightly (to a claimed 591 litres) with a space saver spare wheel underneath.
There are plenty of Land Rover specific accessories that can be added to your shopping cart, such as roof rails, bike racks and an electric tow hitch.
Is the Evoque still the most eye-catching vehicle in the segment?
The new Evoque hasn’t changed much from the outside; Range Rover is steadfast in the belief that its premium compact SUV's original design was a winner. Whether it stands out and has as much visual clout as it did when the initial model was introduced, we’ll have to wait and see.
Under the skin, it has had a thorough makeover. The touch points inside are of a high standard and the quilted leather exudes luxury where its competitors are installing pretty plastics instead. Passenger space is better than before, but still not a strong point.
The Evoque has unmatched off-road credentials in its segment, but doesn’t offer them at the cost of on-road manners. It’s sporty to drive and responsive when you want to get a move on.
Indeed, it may all come down to cost. The starting price is over R700k and you don’t get an interior that does it justice at that price. No doubt you’ll be well into the R800k range before you’re happy with what you have and that’s a lot of money for a compact-sized SUV.