What is it?

Twelve miles was all we had to try and reach a settled verdict on the rule-breaking new Range Rover Evoque. Twelve miles of driving that occupied about 20 minutes: the time it takes to do three medium-swift laps of JLR's Gaydon proving ground. We were offered an exclusive drive in what is surely one of Europe's most important cars this year - and plainly Britain's closest thing for years to an automotive shooting star - and we were certainly not going to pass it up for a mere lack of mileage.

The Evoque is the smallest, lightest (under 1600kg in certain guises) and most aerodynamic (Cd 0.35) Range Rover in history. It is derived from the Freelander, but with some serious modifications. All of its major suspension parts (MacPherson struts front, multilink rear) have been redesigned for lightness and better geometry; it is the first SUV anywhere to use MagneRide adaptive dampers; and it sets new standards for traction and chassis stability electronics

See the test pics of the Range Rover Evoque

For our test, three Evoques were on hand: five-door manual and automatic versions of the 2.2 litre 187bhp turbodiesel four cylinder, and a three-door powered by the 236bhp 2.0 litre petrol turbo engine, which is only available as an automatic. There are to be three models Pure, Dynamic and Prestige in ascending cost order, but though close to production in some areas, our test cars were a mixture of models and not typical of the ones that will reach showrooms.

What’s it like?

One of the many triumphs of the Evoque's packaging is the way it manages to offer class-beating ground clearance, a 'sports command' driving position and impressive cabin head and knee room, while riding a cool 100mm lower than the drive-to-school Freelander.

Access is simple. You're just aware of lifting your first foot a little higher, and that the well-shaped bucket seat is a few inches further off the floor.

The cabin is plush. The emphasis is on leather, and plush-looking double stitching is prominent. The layout is most reminiscent of the Range Rover Sport, with a high console separating you from your passenger, creating a kind of driver's cocoon. There is a start button high on the dash beside the twin-dial instrument layout (with a small info screen between them) and a bigger screen for nav, phone, audio and all the rest sits above the console. There is absolutely no feeling that this vehicle's quality or comfort puts it lower in the pecking order than any other Range Rover: it is simply more compact.

The Evoque bristles with noise-excluding measures (every one of the many engine men on hand reminded me that the objective was to reach lineament levels "worthy of a Range Rover") so it glides off the mark with very little of a typical four-cylinder diesel rattle.

For all its docile and torquey power, it's the Evoque's ride that dominates. Those who know Range Rovers will expect a low-rate, nicely damped ride with near-limo comfort, and in this new car you get it. Almost. With the optional MagneRide dampers and the five-position Terrain Response control set to Normal (as opposed to Dynamic) the Evoque is quiet and comfortable, even over bad bumps. You also get a typically Range Rover feeling of robustness, as if this car simply doesn't care what it encounters.

However, there's also a strong overlay of sportiness, brought by the generous 19-inch wheels and Conti tyres, the surprisingly quick steering (EPAS, but variable rate) and the lack of body overhangs that make turning, especially fast transitions in S-bends, feel so easy.

The Evoque is almost certainly sportier than you were expecting, though no less refined and comfortable for that. The intuitive control and chassis make it feel instantly quick and capable, with body roll present but properly contained and a neutrality about its handling that allows it to be slung about with abandon.

I preferred the marginally lighter, more natural feel of the steering in Normal, and given that the dampers are intelligent enough to react to tough conditions on their own, would probably resist the Dynamic setting. But in either mode the car is quick reacting, sensitive and fun.

Should I buy one?

The 2.2 diesels, sure to be the predominant choice of British owners, feel muscular enough for any road use. The petrol car, a whisker smoother and with nominally more power, offers very little extra for the extra 20-30 per cent of fuel it consumes. The manual gearbox was a major surprise, though. We've all been brought up to associate Range Rovers with automatics, but this manual 'change, though fairly firm in the hand, has a short-throw precision that will please many drivers. I'm one.

Whichever transmission you choose, the Evoque has long legs. Its cocooned driving position, supportive seat, easy and torquey engine, elevated driving position, great steering and sense of robustness urge you to drive farther and longer. Of course, these are only first impressions. Much more testing is needed to reveal all about this fascinating machine. But the omens are positive indeed.

Steve Cropley

 

Range Rover Evoque

Price: range from £30,000 (est); 0-60mph: 7.1sec; Top speed: 135mph; Economy: 32.5mpg CO2: 199g/km; Engine: 4cyls, 1999cc, petrol, turbocharged; Power: 237bhp; Torque: 251lb ft; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic

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Comments
66

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

Sounds very promising, but then, so does Porsche's small SUV. I've a feeling the latter will be slicker and quicker. Practicality needs to be judged in situ.

Which to choose? Rich heritage or nouveau riche?

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

I don't know if the picture is distorted, but Mr Cropley looks positively wedged in between the dash and centre console. It certainly is snug!

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

It might handle and ride like the proverbial - and therefore be a 5 star vehicle for Autocar - but I discard it instantly on looks.


Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

I love the "some models even under 1,600kg" like that is some kind of achievement

Ultimately this will be a super high-margin hatchback tha Tat will try to sell for +£30k once optioned up. It will produce more CO2 and use more fuel than equivalent other vehicles and not really provide any of the off-road prowess one normally requires for such trade offs such as weight, fuel economy etc.

I'm trying not to be overly negative here but the jingoistic support for all British cars with no objectivity from Autocar can get tiring...

Look at Range Rover Sport vs Porsche Cayenne Turbo for an example - "it weights more, is massively slower, produces 100g+ more CO2 but we still prefer the old Rangie..." is pretty typical fayre.

Smaller car companies with limited resources like Tata will continue to produce cars miles away from class leadership (e.g. Jag XF safety which Autocar rarely mentions). They just don't have the money or resources to design & build class leading engines (e.g. compare BMW X3 with the Evoque for some comedy).

And when it comes to the replacement cycle...get ready for all JLR's products to go on way beyond a typical 7 year model cycle like Aston is doing with the DB9/DBS/Virage and whatever comes next on the same chassis and bodywork...

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

bomb wrote:
be a 5 star vehicle for Autocar

I think we can assume it was always going to be a 4 1/2 or 5 star car from Autocar!

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

catnip wrote:
but Mr Cropley looks positively wedged in
That was my over-riding impression of this brief drive once I had seen the pictures, it put everything else out of my mind. I don't know how tall Mr Cropley is, he looks considerably more than my 5' 10" in other pictures I've seen (and somewhat bulkier too, 'fraid to say), but if even a six-footer is going to be this seemingly cramped, then one can begin to see that L-R really are aiming this car at petite wives like Victoria Beckham !


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

catnip wrote:
Mr Cropley looks positively wedged in

LoL! Short legs?

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

I'm sure none of the potential packaging issues will worry most prospective buyers. This is going to be a fashion item, like the Mini or Fiat 500 for many people and get the pricing right, it is going to fly out of the show room.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

eekamouse wrote:

I love the "some models even under 1,600kg" like that is some kind of achievement

Ultimately this will be a super high-margin hatchback tha Tat will try to sell for +£30k once optioned up. It will produce more CO2 and use more fuel than equivalent other vehicles and not really provide any of the off-road prowess one normally requires for such trade offs such as weight, fuel economy etc.

I'm trying not to be overly negative here but the jingoistic support for all British cars with no objectivity from Autocar can get tiring...

Look at Range Rover Sport vs Porsche Cayenne Turbo for an example - "it weights more, is massively slower, produces 100g+ more CO2 but we still prefer the old Rangie..." is pretty typical fayre.

Smaller car companies with limited resources like Tata will continue to produce cars miles away from class leadership (e.g. Jag XF safety which Autocar rarely mentions). They just don't have the money or resources to design & build class leading engines (e.g. compare BMW X3 with the Evoque for some comedy).

And when it comes to the replacement cycle...get ready for all JLR's products to go on way beyond a typical 7 year model cycle like Aston is doing with the DB9/DBS/Virage and whatever comes next on the same chassis and bodywork...

One word to describe you ridiculous diatribe. CRAP

TUK

Re: Range Rover Evoque

3 years 24 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
... in what is surely one of Europe's most important cars this year ...

... errm ... whilst I agree it's a nice car / SUV .. I'd hardly call it one of the most important European cars this year, especially since it will be a niche car costing over £30K. In terms of personal mobility there are other more important cars ... the Leaf, Renault Fluence electric etc. It will be however one of the more interesting launches this year when I look around at what else is in the pipeline. I've seen it in the flesh and it looks great.

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Our Verdict

The Range Rover Evoque draws heavily on style as a selling point, but also possesses the substance to back it up

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