The significance of the Range Rover Evoque is greater than just the launch of a new model. In effect it marks the launch of a new sub brand.
Of course there has been a Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in the Land Rover
stable for many years. But, with the Evoque, we not only see the first small Range Rover extending Range Rover into a proper range of models, but it also is the first model that can be seen to compete against a Land Rover offering.
Go to a recent Land Rover dealership and you will see a scene reminiscent of Volkswagen
showrooms in the 1990s. On the main floor you would find Volkswagens, or Toyotas. But, in a special, classier area of the showroom, you would find prestige Audi
, or Lexus
The same is happening in Land Rover showrooms. The Land Rovers – Freelander, Discovery and Defender – are on the main showroom floor, while the Range Rovers are in a separate area. On the showroom frontage of the newest dealers there are now two badges – Land Rover and Range Rover.
Whether Land Rover will take this to the same extent as Audi and Lexus and appoint separate dealers, remains to be seen. But, for the moment, you have a choice between the more practical image of Land Rover or the more ‘aspirational’ luxury of the emerging Range Rover brand.
Right from the first walk-round it is clear that Land Rover has successfully shrunk Range Rover values into the smaller Evoque package. It may look a little like an elephant sat on its roof, but that squashed coupé roof gives the Evoque a more sporty appearance that is so modern it looks like the LRX concept car just escaped from the styling studio.
It also means that the view out of the rear window is quite shallow – a little like looking out the back of a cabriolet. Fortunately the ‘C’ pillars have glass so the over-shoulder view is quite good and the reversing camera helps with visibility when reversing.
That sloping roof also raised concerns about rear headroom. My test car – a Range Rover Evoque SD4 5 door – was fitted with the full size glass roof. That might give a little more headroom, but – while I could not say there was a huge amount of air between my head and the glass, there was ample. Tall rear seat passengers please check at your local showroom!
The cockpit is a very pleasant place to be. Modern, airy and with a real up-market look. There are big comfy seats with electric adjustment and memory on the driver’s side. The seat and steering wheel automatically motor to ease access, but (as the seat does not motor towards the steering wheel until the engine starts) that does mean you may struggle to press the clutch to start the engine on manual models, like the test car.
So it scores highly in the showroom. Fortunately no illusions are shattered on the open road. The Evoque exudes an impression of being well built, with a good solid feel to everything and a notable lack of rattles and squeaks.
Car drivers will feel very much at home behind the wheel. The controls feel a tad more meaty than some of the cars I have driven recently – but I am no fan of over-light steering and brakes. What is particularly impressive is how well planted the Evoque feels, even on our twisty B-roads. It corners remarkably flat with very little of the high-centre of gravity lean that afflicts some off roaders.
Add precise steering, a reasonably slick gearbox and a willing 190 bhp 2.2-litre diesel into this mix and you have a stylish SUV that is enjoyable transport for city, country or motorway driving, with the bonus of remarkable mud plugging ability to boot.
Acceleration 0-62 mph takes 11.2 seconds. There is maybe a slight hesitation at low revs that may have restrained that figure. But once the revs rise the performance feels more lively that the 0-62 yardstick might suggest.
The quoted combined fuel economy is 56.5 mpg, but my real world figure ,around town, with some dual carriageways and B-roads, was just over 25 mpg. Carbon Dioxide emissions are 133 g/km which is good for an SUV and puts the Evoque into Band E for UK tax.
With the Land Rover name, you would expect a real off-road ability and you will not be disappointed. The Evoque SD4 comes with the Terrain Control that we have become accustomed to on Land Rover’s more up-market models. You dial in the type of conditions you are driving on – from tarmac road through to boulder crawl – and the Evoque will select the appropriate settings.
There is also hill descent control to avoid that ‘run-away’ feeling on steep, slippery slopes. Without it the temptation to press the brake can be overwhelming, but the results can be disastrous.
There are also two front-wheel-drive versions of the Evoque if you fancy the rugged looks but without the four-wheel-drive ability.
The price of the Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige is £38,295 (almost £10,000 ahead of the two-wheel drive entry model and £9,000 more than the equivalent, smaller Land Rover Freelander). But, you will need discipline to stay at that price. Land Rover have learnt the game of many prestige car manufacturers by offering some really tasty options. The result is that, using the Evoque configurator, I reckon my particular Evoque cost on the wrong side of £43,000.
The bottom line? If I had the money, I might well join the queue. The Evoque is a very desirable, and practical, package – particularly for a country dweller who doesn’t want to sacrifice driving enjoyment and style for all-road ability.