Land Rover adds extra ratios to its Evoque in an attempt to improve economy and drivability

What is it?

It’s the Range Rover Evoque with a new automatic gearbox – a nine, count ’em, speed variant that will replace the existing six-speed auto on 2014 model year Evoques. That means you can order it from around June and Evoques with the new ‘box will arrive from September.

It’s the first application of this new ZF ‘9HP’ gearbox. Land Rover has become a lead partner for the transmission, which has been specially developed for transverse engine installations, so gets it first to install in its Evoque. And instead of the ’box having two overdriven gears, as the six-speeder does, four gears are now overdriven towards the top end, and the upper ratios stretch much further than sixth did. At the bottom end, first is even lower than before, too.

The main benefits, then, are improved drivability at the bottom when towing or off-roading, and at the top it gives a lazier and therefore – you would think – quieter and more economical cruise.

Although the new CO2 rating hasn’t been officially sanctioned, Land Rover says it will improve by four per cent thanks to the gearbox alone, but will actually turn out 10 per cent better because the auto Evoque now includes stop-start for the first time.

That means a diesel’s economy should improve from 43.5 to around 48mpg, with the turbo petrol up from 32.5 to nearly 36mpg.

The new ‘box is a compact unit – only 6mm longer than before despite the three extra ratios – and some 7.5kg lighter. Some of that weight loss is because two dog clutches are used instead of conventional clutch packs.

There’s no word on cost as I write – other trim adjustments will likely be made for the 2014 model year, too - but I wouldn’t rule out a very modest increase.

What's it like?

It’s like a six-speed Evoque and, without a back-to-back test on precisely the same route, if you’re cruising around and letting the car do its own thing, you’d not know a great deal of difference, because the Evoque auto is fairly painless at low speeds anyway. It certainly, to me, feels no less smooth and slick while dawdling.

Ask a bit more of it, and make the decisions yourself – though time and space to do either were limited on our test drive, it’s fair to say – and you might notice a bit more of a difference betwixt current car and new, largely because there is less gap between the gear ratios.

Quite simply, that reduced rev-drop makes it easier to slush between ratios because it’s a quicker rev-match. ZF claims the changes are quick enough to be imperceptible - 150 milliseconds - which is mostly true, depending on what you’re doing: in Sport mode, on a heavy throttle and picking the changes yourself, it lets you feel the upshifts.

Likewise on a slow incline across speed bumps, in D, we found the occasional quick hunt before the car settled on a gear, although without doing the same exercise a few seconds later in a six-speeder it’s hard to know if it would do the same.

The gearbox software has been tweaked, too, and the ‘box’s design allows it to swap more than one ratio at a time, and remember what changes the driver has asked for. So, if you’re approaching a corner in seventh and you think you’ll want third, hit the paddle four times and, when the rev-range allows third, it’ll give it to you. Likewise, in auto modes, it’s more inclined to hold a gear mid-corner so you can accelerate away more easily. None of this makes any difference to the cabin controls, which remain unchanged.

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At cruising speeds the benefit is more marked. We only got into ninth once on our drive (and when we were making shifts), because it’s so tall that it’s reluctant to engage at anything less than 50mph (it’ll do 43mph/1000rpm in top).

That means that in any of the uppermost gears, the engine is spinning much slower than in the six-speeder. And if you’re a routine motorway driver, that ought to increase your economy by rather more than the four per cent that Land Rover claims.

Should I buy one?

Sure. We continue to like the Evoque as much as we did when it was launched – it was a four-star car then and feels one now.

Autocar is running a diesel Evoque on long-term test, and the biggest downside is undoubtedly the economy – we’re returning little more than 30mpg on average.

For all the talk of driveability, improving on that is the most significant task for this new gearbox and, if it succeeds under longer-distance, real-world testing, happy days.

Range Rover Evoque SD4 Pure automatic

Price £33,000 (est); 0-62mph 8.0sec (est); Top speed 121mph (est); Economy 47.8mpg (est); CO2 emissions 156g/km (est); Kerb weight 1680kg (est); Engine 4 cyls, 2179cc, turbodiesel; Power 190bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 309lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 9spd auto

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Audi_A5 7 March 2013

9 gears?

How many gears are they going to have before they just give up and fit a CVT?

(And when you fit a CVT it shows that you really HAVE given up)

If you can't make it drive well with 5 forward gears + overdrive then you aren't engineering it well enough.

dd9ag 7 March 2013

This gearbox has a torque

This gearbox has a torque convertor it's not a twin clutch.

johnsod 7 March 2013

Just to clarify, this is a ZF

Just to clarify, this is a ZF twin clutch gearbox, not a torque converter as in the ZF 8 speed.........?