25 Jul 2013

Range Rover Evoque review

The RangeRover Evoque is of similar size to the Freelander, and uses the same engines. But it costs a little more.  Its design is far more stylised than the rugged Freelander.  The Evoque is also named as a Range Rover, rather than Land Rover.  So what is it, and why does it exist?
Range Rover Evoque
The Evoque is intended as much a style statement than a capable off-roader.  It is more an SUV than the term we used to use for these kind of vehicles - a 4x4.  I've just spent a week with a £41,000 Evoque Prestige SD4 and driven it in all kinds of conditions.

The Evoque costs half as much as a Range Rover but retains that car's style and quality of components. It weighs in the order of 1,670kg, which means it is something of a flyweight, by using a unibody construction with aluminium body panels and a plastic tailgate.

The 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine in the car I tested had 190bhp and could propel the Evoque from 0-60mph in 8 seconds.  Apparently it returns 44mpg, but the best I could do was 30.2mpg - and when I was driving normally it usually returned 26mpg.

The body drops Land Rover's traditional function over form and is heavily styled.  Its high waistline, dead straight swage lines, low roof and large, bulging, semi-circular wheel arches are meant to give it the appearance of a car that can go off road rather than a traditional SUV.  The 19 inch wheels and high-profile tyres fitted to the test car tend to dominate the flanks to the detriment of its overall look.  18 inch wheels would flatter it more.
Range Rover Evoque
The interior looks and feels high quality, as a Range Rover should.  The steering wheel, seats, dash-top and doors are trimmed in decent grade leather and the aluminium trim is well proportioned and positioned.  The various levers, buttons and dials are, again, of a high quality and feel as if they would last forever - very unusual for Land Rover.  Incidentally the gear change paddles are exactly the same as in the Jaguar XKR.

The rear seats are spacious and comfortable but are a pain to enter if you buy the 2 door coupe.  The 4 door takes nothing away from the Evoque's appearance so should be the only choice you consider.  Rear passengers don't have much window to look out of but the panoramic glass roof is a treat on all but very hot days - in which case you push a button and a blind glides across to shield you from the sun's glare.

The driver sits comfortably with a seat that adjusts to any body shape.  The steering wheel sits in front of you (In many SUV's the wheel comes out of the dash at a low angle) and, thank goodness, the pedals are perfectly positioned so you don't have to fold your legs in half to use them.  All in all it's just like sitting in and driving a normal car.
Range Rover Evoque interior
Keep the key in your pocket and fire up the engine.  Aggh, it's a diesel sure enough - although it sounds less like a tractor than Mercedes' diesels.  The engine has 190bhp and 309 lb ft of torque, which is plenty enough to propel the Evoque at a decent speed.  The slower 150bhp eD4 should be avoided if you don't like living life in the slow lane.

The only weak point in the drivetrain is the 6-speed automatic gearbox.  It's a little too lethargic in normal mode and refuses to change up until the redline in Sport mode.  I tended to use the paddle shift 90% of the time, which is fine.  

It also pulls away from a standing start a little too slowly.  The gearbox wants to start in 2nd gear, unless you pull the left hand lever to change down to 1st.  But even so you get a brief moment of turbo lag before the car gets going.  To make a fast getaway you have to hold the car at 2,000 rpm with your left foot on the brake then release it when it is time to get going.  Not ideal, and not healthy for the car.

The ride is smooth and comfortable but it rolls a little in corners.  To counteract this you select Dynamic mode which turns the Evoque into a hot hatch with hardcore suspension and really very good cornering abilities.  But beware - this makes it very bumpy in a straight line.

It can be fun to drive, although this isn't the Evoque's forté.  You can hustle it and weave between the hedges very well.  The steering is fast (with a very small dead spot in the centre) and the handling excellent for an SUV.  The brakes have good stopping power and a progressive feel.  I couldn't really fault it.
Range Rover Evoque
But drive it like a Range Rover and it is a serenely capable car that seats four in comfort with a good ride.  If you want to barrel down the road then it'll do that too but cruising is where it feels most comfortable.

As a practical proposition it makes sense in almost every area.  The auto tailgate on the test car was wonderfully easy to use, although it scared the life out of my dogs when they first saw it.  The boot is pretty vast and has a flat floor (with storage space underneath, in lieu of a spare wheel).  The boot floor is a little high for aged dogs but otherwise the Evoque has a boot fit to bear the Land Rover name.

I tried a little light off-roading and it accomplished everything I threw at it, which included unmade farm tracks, steep slopes and rutted roads.  It relies on electronics, rather than a ladder chassis and low-ratio gearbox, but I could see it going pretty much anywhere a Range Rover can.

The stereo is pretty good, although some of the controls can be infuriating.  The hardware is fine but the engineer who put the code together needs firing.  It will connect to a smart phone to make calls via Bluetooth but if you want to play music from the same phone you need to connect it via a cable.  Duh?

Similarly the trip computer and various other functions are complicated.  The onboard satnav can also be hard work.  I've never seen a manufacturer satnav do a better job than a £100 TomTom and in this regard the Evoque's system is inferior to a TomTom.  This whole area needs a rethink.  It has DAB radio though, which is great.

The Range Rover Evoque is aimed at a particular market.  That of people who want to make a statement and own something bearing the Range Rover badge, but for half the price of a Range Rover - and much smaller and therefore easier to drive and manoeuvre.

What it was designed to do it does supremely well.  That it also does a lot more besides is a testament to Land Rover's confidence in its ability and engineering.  The Evoque is a great car that I would happily own and run on a daily basis.


Power - 190bhp
Torque - 309 lb-ft
0-60mph - 8 seconds
Top speed - 121 mph
Economy - 44.1mpg
CO2 - 169 g/km
Price - £41,000
Range Rover Evoque off-roading

Range Rover Evoque instruments

Range Rover Evoque rear seats

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque