Bertone, Karmann, Pininfarina and now, Beckham. For all of their years of designing and building serious, rugged 4x4s, the new Evoque will forever be tagged as the car that Victoria built and obviously that’s just the way that Land Rover want it. I’m going to put this possible error of judgement to one side however and attempt to deliver an honest, unbiased review on what is repeatedly labelled as the greatest new model to have been launched in recent memory, by anyone.
On the particular day that I tested the latest Range Rover, I was lucky enough to have not one, not two but three of them to go at, both a coupe and 5dr 4wd and the latest addition to the group, the 2wd- eD4.
Range Rover Evoque
The 4wd coupe I was testing sported the SD4 2.2 litre diesel engine, capable of 0-60mph in 8.os, 169g/km CO2 and 43.5mpg combined. But the real fun was to be found in the 5dr as it had the Si4 2.o litre petrol under the bonnet, pushing the 0-60mph time down to a very respectable 7.0s but consequently the economy suffered at 32.5mpg combined and 199g/km, I’m predicting that the petrol will be a rare sight on Britain’s roads. Apart from the engines and the obvious lack of rear entrances and exits on the coupe, the 3dr and 5dr 4wds that I was testing were virtually identical and so I’ll group these two together. Both were the range topping Dynamic models, prices start at £39,995 for the 5dr and £40,995 for the coupe and both were fitted with the optional Lux pack, weighing in at a not-insignificant £4,325. These cars were unashamedly meant to impress.
Putting practicality swiftly to one side, in my humble opinion the Evoque looks at it’s best in 3dr guise and from every angle the coupe I tested does look a million dollars, which makes the £44,325 price tag seem a bargain. Now, there’s two ways of looking at the list price of an Evoque; yes, its expensive when compared with some other similar size 4x4s on the market but those other 4x4s aren’t Range Rovers. So maybe the best way to consider the price is from the angle of how much money you’d be saving over a similarly specced Range Rover Sport or even a fully grown Range Rover, both of which could easily cost double the amount of the Evoque with options.
Can the Evoque cut it off-road…………
Anyway, back to my test cars. The quality of the grown up Range Rovers has been successfully transplanted in terms of materials and interior finish into this baby one, without creating a 70% size photocopy- that would have been far too easy. Obviously, you just don’t get the acres of space that’s found in its big brothers – that would be impossible but the Evoque isn’t all about compromise either. The driving position for starters is unique to this model; it offers that essential high up feeling in order to gain superiority over lesser mortals but it very cleverly avoids an industry standard, bolt-upright posture in favour of a far more cosseting, sporty position that results in an entirely more engaging sensation. Another feature that’s unique to the Evoque are the jewelled rings that adorn the instrument dials. On first impression, these could simply be considered a tacky bit of bling, inspired by Mrs B. On closer inspection however, this ring detailing is echoed in the front and rear light clusters and somehow seems appropriate for the model, especially when they change colour, reflecting how spirited the selected driving mode is.
Having only previously seen the Evoque in the flesh from the outside, I was somewhat surprised to glance rearwards from the driver’s seat and find proper, adult size leg room for your lucky rear passengers. I was so astonished in fact that I leapt out of the car, determined to open the boot and therefore expose this bounder’s shortcomings. I’m fairly sure that a genuine double-take then occurred when I discovered a decent size boot, 550 litres in the coupe and 575 litres in the 5dr, to be exact. Just to put this into context, the Audi A4 Avant’s boot weighs in at 490 litres, that’s over 10% smaller than even the coupe, all of a sudden this baby Rangey doesn’t seem quite so compact. And I’m right, it’s neither small nor a tardis – the Evoque actually measures 4355-65mm, under 10cm less than aforementioned A4 so it could hardly be considered a super-mini. When placed on its own and not being compared to its palatial siblings, the Evoque is a car that’s realistically capable of transporting a family of four and all their luggage around in comfort.
Out on the road, the 4wd Evoque’s driving experience confirms what the seating position had previously hinted at; this car is no wallowy barge that has to be coaxed around corners with its wing mirrors scraping the floor. With the Terrain Response system set to dynamic (menacing red instrument dials) this genuinely rides like a capable hot-hatch, even the diesel engine in the 5dr was keen with little engine noise disturbing the tranquility of the cabin. My only complaint would be that the 6 speed automatic ‘box found in both the Dynamic models had an unnerving tendency to change gear whilst tackling bends. This made the whole car’s geometry go out of shape, not a pleasant feeling whilst negotiating a sweeping left hander. This situation could maybe be avoided by opting to change gear yourself but there’s no guarantee that the ‘box won’t disagree with your chosen gear and select a different one anyway.
………….yes it can!
One aspect of the Evoque that I was eager to assess was it’s off-road ability as this is where it’s attracted many doubters. Could this very fashionable vehicle prove itself to be as comfortable plugging mud as it is looking good? To put it through its paces I was going to take the Evoque around the rigorous off-road Land Rover Experience at Gaydon, a track I’d previously tackled in a Discovery although I think on that occasion the car was guiding me round, not vice versa. Now, I’m not naive to think that the good folk at Range Rover would risk the embarrassment of their new baby coming unstuck and certainly not on their home turf but my experience of proper off-road driving is limited at best and I wanted to see how assured a ham fisted novice such as myself would feel when tackling the rough stuff. One limitation that became immediately apparent was the comparative lack of ground clearance, some strengthened belly plates had been fitted to the test car to protect its vulnerable underside. I must stress however that this course is no walk in the park and on the few occasions that there was an audible scrape, it was on the most extreme of obstacles, not a kerb in Tesco’s car park. Otherwise, the Evoque successfully defeated any problems thrown at it, all without the aid of a low ratio gearbox and a locking differential, these are replaced with electrical wizardry controlling the drivetrain, dependant on the selected terrain mode.
Having assessed that the 4wd Dynamic Evoques are luxurious, capable off road and have excellent road manners, I went for a spin in the latest addition to the group – the ‘base model’ 2wd eD4 in Pure trim with a six speed manual gearbox. Just to clarify things a little, the entry-level Range Rover is a little different to how I remember other model’s entry levels; heated leather comes as standard, as do climate control and combined sat nav/entertainment screen; a far cry from the lack of a near-side wing mirror on some base models I’ve owned. It is an odd sensation getting into the driver’s seat of a Range Rover and finding a third pedal and a gear-stick but the gearchange is assuredly positive with a purposeful short shift between gears. On the road, the manual has the obvious advantage of feeling more engaging than the auto and avoids that unwanted mid-corner shift I encountered in the auto. I’m not entirely sure however whether there’s great demand in today’s 4×4 wielding society for a Range Rover that relies on the driver to change gear themselves;even taking into account the depleted fuel economy and £1,600 price hike, the auto just feels more at home than the manual. Some switch gear is lost in the transition from 4wd to 2wd Evoque as it loses its Terrain Response system but I’m sure this would only be noticeable if you transferred straight from one model to the other as I did. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chaps at Range Rover were unwilling to let me take the 2wd model around their off road test track but I’m led to believe that even with only two driven wheels, the Evoque is better than you’d imagine when the going gets tough. Quite why anyone would opt for the 2wd Evoque over the 4wd Evoque (or any other 4×4) if they were planning on doing any off-roading is another matter.
To conclude, the Evoque is a comfortable, luxurious and surprisingly spacious car and in 4wd guise it can wear the Range Rover badge without fear of diluting the brand. The 2wd eD4 Evoque offers most of the benefits of the 4wd with possibly better road manners and some attractive financial savings- when compared with similarly specced cars, however, it may be difficult to justify its price tag whilst losing its off road capabilities.
By Ben Harrington
eD4 Pure Coupe;£29,695, 2.2l Diesel, 2WD, 150bhp, 0-60 mph = 10.6s, 112mph max, 56.5 mpg combined, 133g/km CO2
SD4 Dynamic Coupe; £40,995, 2.2l Diesel, 4WD, 190bhp, 0-60 mph = 8s, 121mph max, 43.5 mpg combined, 174g/km CO2
Si4 Dynamic 5dr; £39,995, 2.0l petrol, 4WD, 240bhp, 0-60 mph = 7.1s, 135mph max, 32.5 mpg combined, 199g/km CO2