As with the Freelander, the Evoque sits on MacPherson struts at the front, with a multi-link variant (a strut with lateral and longitudinal control links) at the rear. There was a very tough compromise to be made here. Any Range Rover is, after all, a Land Rover vehicle and so it must be capable of reaching places that are unusually difficult to drive to. Yet it is also the smallest, most efficient and road-focused Range Rover yet and will be bought mostly by people whose idea of a green lane is a leafy side street. In the end, this car is for them, and Land Rover admits that the Evoque will not go quite as far off road as others in the line-up, although it will still go further than any rival.
A sell-out? Not at all. A car must be fit for its purpose and the Evoque retains an extremely broad set of parameters; it’s just that the width has shifted at both ends. Nonetheless, compromises are still evident. Our car came on the standard 19-inch wheels for this trim and 255/55 R19 tyres. That’s quite a deep sidewall, but still not quite enough to shrug off the worst of town lumps and bumps. The Evoque is far from an uncomfortable urban car, but if you expect the kind of ride isolation you’ll find in one of its bigger brethren, you’ll be searching a long while.
The Evoque is coil sprung, with magnetorheological dampers (an option) that, in their Normal mode, are set up to retain good body control in what is still a relatively tall car. That they can adapt, to stiffen and reduce the body’s movement compared with the wheel travel, is what helps keep the body tied down on poorer surfaces or at higher speeds, and this is where the Evoque shows its better side. It outrides a BMW X model, yet finds equivalence in body control and should go further in the rough.
Tie the body down further by selecting the dampers’ Dynamic mode and the Evoque is even better on a spirited hack, at the inevitable expense of more nobbliness over poor road finishes. Most owners will probably leave it alone except on smooth, winding roads.
And what of the 2WD model? Is it a proper mud-plugging Range Rover? From our experience in comparing it with the four-wheel drive cars, it does of course possess lower limits off-road. However, the gap in ability between the two isn't as wide as perhaps expected, and the 2WD Evoque is certainly more capable off-road than its more road-focused rivals at this price.
The Evoque’s steering is – only occasionally – slightly less convincing. For the most part, the new electrically assisted system has all the smoothness, linearity and consistency that we’ve come to expect from a Jaguar or Land Rover. At 2.4 turns lock to lock, it’s quicker than that of other Range Rovers, and pleasingly so. But there’s an occasional stiction around the straight-ahead and a slight inconsistency in weight at manoeuvring speeds. It’s still one of the stand-out systems in the class, but a touch less polished than some of its JLR siblings.