Range Rover Evoque Review

The little Landy that’s the talk of the town
By Shahzad Sheikh

We went to Jordan to drive the Evoque around town, along the motorway, and up the mountain.

Smallest Land Rover ever

The Evoque is 425mm shorter than a Range Rover Sport and is actually about the size of a Toyota RAV4. Whip out the measuring tape and you’ll find it’s only about 15cm longer and taller than a Volkswagen Golf and about 30cm wider. So it’s small, the smallest Range Rover ever in fact.

And the reason for its diminutive stature is obvious: ‘downsizing’ – the buzzword for modern motoring in the Western world. Sheer embarrassment at driving colossal symbols of conspicuous consumption, is being dressed up as burgeoning social awareness and an awakening consciousness of impending environmental calamity. Or rather owners are just fed up of green activists putting accusatory stickers on their cars.
Style statement

But in order to win over the haters it’s got to be a likeable car, and this is where Land Rover design director, Gerry McGovern, has achieved literally something of a small miracle. It may not be as big as its siblings but this Range Rover, viewed in person, has a meaty, butch stance. Seen head-on it has strong high cheekbones with an intense expression from its almost squinting eyes. From the rear too, the tall bodywork, the chunky fenders, tightly embedded taillights and low roofline ensure this remains a fittingly tough and serious looking piece of kit.

What it isn’t though, and this is crucial, is aggressive or in-yer-face. It’s immensely likeable, dashing, handsome, and astonishingly futuristic in its overall lines with great details. And yet it manages to keep several distinctive Range Rover styling cues such as the clamshell bonnet, floating roof and the Range Rover script across the front of the bonnet. It also harks back to the classic Rangie which was originally offered only as a three-door. The Evoque is available in both three-door ‘coupe’ guises and a five-door version, though dimensions and weight are virtually identical on both cars.

Interior delights

Jump on board and you’re greeted by a visibly upmarket interior wrapped in finely stitched leather in a cabin majoring on executive-class luxury. The central console appears as if a beam jutting out of the dashboard and its construction again gives the impression of solidity. The only thing missing is a solid lever that you can yank into drive.

Despite the narrow glass area, it’s not that claustrophobic in here, not even in the back which boasts decent headroom despite the sloping roof. Having said there’s visibly less rear room in the coupe, despite the near-identical dimensions (there’s 50mm more shoulder room in the five-door). Plus of course it’s harder to get into the back. No such problems up front though, where each car is comfortable and provides a good seating position with a decent view over the bonnet – although it doesn’t quite have the lofty arm-chair appeal of traditional Land Rovers (you can barely get your elbow up onto the window sill never mind rest it there.

Pure, Prestige and Dynamic

As well as the two body styles, there are several trim specs. Pure offers neutral colours with soft-touch trim on major surfaces and real-metal brushed aluminium trim. Prestige includes 19-inch alloy wheels and a leather upholstered interior with two-tone colours schemes, double-stitching and real wood and metal finishers.

The Dynamic spec is, to my eyes, the most desirable with 20-inch wheels that look a little cartoony but cool considering the cars compact overall footprint, unique bumpers, sills, grille and tailpipes with contrasting roof and spoiler colour. Inside the interior is darker with contrasting colours and perforated leather seats (about 10 square metres of leather, that’s more than three hides, is used in here).

Frankly though dealers in the region aren’t likely to be stocking the Pure spec cars, in fact they are not available in the UAE.

Over 200kph but it’s not a V6

There’s only one engine available for the Middle East (other markets get a 2.2-litre diesel), and that’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit producing 240bhp and 251lb ft of torque which gives the Evoque a 0-100kph acceleration time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 217kph. Those are very decent figures and the pay-off for having perhaps two less cylinders than you were expecting is an efficient engine that sips fuel at 8.7L/100km and only puts out 199 CO2g/km emissions.

The cars come with a six-speed auto with sequential shifts through paddles plus a Sports mode. Although some markets get front-wheel drive, we’ll only get the full-time four-wheel drive version with Haldex rear axle differential.

Driving the five-door in Pure spec

Having established that the Evoque was remarkably adept at city driving, even in the crowded chaos of Amman, proving straight away that its dimensions are the right choice for a city-slicking SUV, the night before on the way to dinner at the spectacular Citadel, the next morning we headed out of town. Our ride? A five-door with the 18-inch wheels.

The driving position works well, you have a good view forward and whilst the sloping rear roof does encroach upon the rear view particularly in the coupe, the larger than normal side mirrors compensate. The instruments are clear and easy to understand, and the controls generally intuitive, although the steering wheel is a little over-cluttered with remote buttons. And whilst the rising rotary knob gear-changer suits the Jaguars it first appeared in, I just feel a solid lever would be more appropriate in a Land Rover product.

Straight away you dismiss any notion of the Evoque lacking cylinders or being underpowered, the engine is not only up to the task, but the throttle response is good and the delivery linear and strong – it even sounds satisfyingly thrummy thanks to a Mahle sound generator that boasts aural pleasure under acceleration.

It’s never sluggish and can punch through traffic with aplomb, particularly if you stick it in Sport where it holds on to gears longer and changes down earlier. Out of town it cruises well, settling down to a decent turn of speed, but turning off the main road and heading up-hill on a series of sharp bends, hairpins and switchbacks necessitated using the paddles to hold onto second and even occasionally click down into first.

Throwing it through the twisties

The mountains roads were a little slippery and this accentuated the inherent understeer displayed by our five-door, but that was only if you dove hard into a corner before turning in. What was good though was the throttle adjustability – for an SUV this car is remarkably eager to respond to throttle inputs. The turn-in is good, but the steering light. Push on through the corner though and the understeer is scrubbed off and you can accelerate out of the corner, using the paddles to access the torque.

Dynamic three-door on 20s with magneride

Once you understand the responses of the car, it’s easy to get in a rhythm and really start to enjoy it, and I was grinning by the time I got to the top of this road. But whilst I was already comparing it to a hot hatch, there was an even better surprise in store when I later jumped into a top spec three-door.

This car had a ‘Dynamic’ on-road mode available as part of the clever Land Rover Terrain Response system, plus the low-profile 20-inch wheels. Immediately it felt tighter, sharper with significantly meatier steering. It features magneride suspension – used by Ferrari and Corvette for the Z06 – which works by charging particles in the suspension fluid that instantly firms or softens the ride. In fact the Adaptive Dynamics monitors the vehicle’s movement 1000 times a second for optimum damping – on or off-road.

The difference is palpable – it’s like we’ve gone from a decent hot hatch to something like a Volkswagen Golf R. It makes better use of the performance and understeer is dramatically reduced. It’s more planted, more direct and yes, more fun.

Taking it into the rough

You may think the 20-inch wheels would compromise the car’s off-road abilities, and you’d be right, but nonetheless, point it down a gravel and dirt track, select the appropriate Terrain Response setting and prepare to sprout a silly grin as you get to play rally driver.

If things get really serious, swap the wheels over to the 18s and you’re good to go. Approach angles are better than rivals and it has the full arsenal of off-road gadgets: as well as the clever Terrain Response system, it has hill-descent the speed of which can actually be set like cruise control, plus hill start assist so it won’t roll back, and Gradient Release Control that varies the ABS braking automatically according to how steep the slope is. We didn’t try it on sand, but it had no problems on gravel, rock and hills.

So is it still a Range Rover?

It’s a baby Range Rover, that’s for sure. But now with added on-road ability. Think of it as a family hot-hatch that can also go off-road (most places) and you’re there. Except that this is also way more luxurious than any hot hatch and is absolutely dripping with tech and nice features.

Both cars come with a full-sized fixed glass panoramic roof and whilst there’s a standard 380W 11-speaker sound system, you could also opt for Meridian 825W 17-speaker system (which sounds tremendous and hooks up easily to your Bluetooth device, we found) with built in hard-drive that also has a virtual 10 CD multiplayer.

There’s also automated parallel parking (it does the steering, you do the throttle and brakes), plus surround camera system with five cameras to see all around the car, dual zone aircon, and the large central touch screen with split view – the driver and passenger can view different things on the same screen. You can also specify a rear-entertainment system with satellite and digital TV or DVD player.

Is it too small for the Middle East?

Now here’s the thing. The three well-specced variants, Dynamic, Prestige and Dynamic Plus, all featuring 20-inch wheels and adaptive dynamics with the clever Magneride – which is frankly what you want – are priced at AED 235,000 ($64k), AED 245,000 ($67k) and AED 255,000 ($69k) respectively for either body style.

Those are premium prices and the question is will customers pay that for a car as good and clever as this little Evoque is, but equipped with a four-cylinder engine? It’s potentially a psychological block. However according to Land Rover allocated stock for the region is already sold out well into the beginning of next year.

The Evoque thrives as a highly competent style statement above anything else, it’s very much a car designed and built to be ‘cool’ and it succeeds in almost every way. If it was cheaper it would be a no-brainer. As it stands, it’s an incredibly well-conceived and brilliantly engineered car that deserves to do extremely well in the markets it was originally developed for. It would be nice to see it succeed here too, and it’s definitely worthy of your attention.

Specs
Price: from $63,900 for Dynamic with 20-inch wheels and Magneride
Engine: 2000cc, four-cylinder, 240bhp, 250lb ft
Performance: 7.1secs 0-100kph, 217kph
Weight: 1670kg

Shahzad’s rating
9/10 – Perfect but pricey

Let us have your view of the Range Rover Evoque – hit or miss?

UAE Roadtests:

2012 Range Rover Evoque 3dr

2012 Range Rover Evoque 5dr

One response to “Range Rover Evoque Review”

  1. Kwihk says:

    put in a V8…
    price at that level..on that body..
    im talking performance of sub 6seconds..

    but anyway.. still beautiful!

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