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Land Rover's smallest car gets a mid-life update that reduces its status from class-leader to mid-pack contender

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Introduced right at the end of 2018, the second-generation Range Rover Evoque has had a busy life so far.

It received new RDE2-compliant diesel engines in the spring of 2019 and then, in summer 2020, the P300e plug-in hybrid version was announced. Shortly after that came a 2021-model-year update for Land Rover's Evoque range as a whole, which added JLR’s Pivi Pro infotainment system, as well as a range of active safety technologies.

Wheel sizes on the P300e start at 18in (on Evoque S models) and rise to 20in on higher-spec cars.

And that’s before we get to what an important car the Evoque is for Land Rover. It functions not just as a big seller in its own right: it’s also the entry point to the Range Rover line-up, ideally placed to funnel customers into the more expensive VelarSport and the full-size Range Rover.

The L551-generation Evoque has been an Autocar class favourite since it launched. In diesel form, it beat up its premium-brand compact SUV rivals pretty conclusively not long after it was introduced, and when we originally road tested the P300e plug-in hybrid, we awarded it 4.5 stars.

For the 2024 model year (on sale from late 2023), the Evoque has received another update, which sounds like a good thing - although it gives owners of the existing car a few too many reasons not to trade in.

The Evoque line-up at a glance

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Over the past five years, the Evoque line-up had become rather complicated, so for the 2024 model year, JLR has rationalised it a tad. The trim line-up starts with the S, which comes decently well equipped, with electric leather seats with a memory function. Next up is Dynamic SE, which adds sportier styling, as well as a Meridian sound system, blindspot monitoring, keyless entry and a powered tailgate. Dynamic HSE and Autobiography ramp up the equipment further.

The range of powertrains remains extensive, and because the names refer to the power output in PS (give or take), relatively logical. There used to be a mild-hybrid P300 four-cylinder petrol and a D250 diesel, but those have been deleted.

Versionpower
D165 FWD manual161bhp
D165 AWD MHEV161bhp
P200 AWD MHEV197bhp
D200 AWD MHEV201bhp
P250 AWD MHEV246bhp
D250 AWD†237bhp
P300 AWD MHEV†296bhp
P300e AWD PHEV*304bhp

†Discontinued *Version tested

Transmissions: 9-spd automatic, 6-spd manual (D165 FWD only) 8-spd automatic (P300e only)

DESIGN & STYLING

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02 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 front cornering

There is rather less big-shouldered, jutting-featured attitude about this follow-up act than there was its forebear; a set of more refined-looking lines, features and eye-catching details, too, perhaps, even if the underlying volumes, angles and proportions are still very familiar and – to our test jury’s eyes, at least – still mark it out as a car of real star quality as regards desirability.

Over the past five years, JLR hasn’t messed with the design much. Model-year updates have brought subtly redesigned headlights, and the odd new paint colour and wheel design.

Darkened pillars and a ‘floating roof’ have been Range Rover visual trademarks since the 1970s original. Evoque wears the look rather like a wrap-around helmet visor

The new Evoque is less than 5mm larger in every major dimension than the one it replaces. It uses the company’s Premium Transverse Architecture as the mechanical basis for its chassis, which is made predominantly of steel and was derived from the D8 platform of the last Evoque, but re-engineered to accommodate the 48V mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric powertrains that may one day fill out the entirety of the Evoque line-up.

Within that chassis, the car carries its in-line engines transversely up front and, in the vast majority of cases, offers clutch-based Active Driveline four-wheel drive in tandem with a torque-converter automatic transmission. (The very bottom-rung 161bhp D165 is the only front-drive, manual-equipped Evoque on sale.)

The car now comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. All have 48V mild-hybrid, efficiency-boosting electrical systems.

Added to that line-up is the P300e, which has a new 197bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder Ingenium turbo petrol engine, an Aisin eight-speed automatic gearbox and a belt-driven starter-generator motor up front; and a 107bhp AC synchronous electric motor cradled between the rear wheels, which drives the rear axle only. Total system peak power is 304bhp and torque 398lb ft.

The car’s lithium ion drive battery has 15kWh of gross capacity (bigger than in some of its direct PHEV rivals) and is packaged next to the 57-litre fuel tank under the back seats, leaving boot space unaffected – neat packaging in a car of this size.

Land Rover’s adaptive damping system is available on most Evoques as an option. The P300e is the exception. It comes with passive suspension however you order it because, simply put, adaptive dampers use electrical energy and passive ones don’t, and Land Rover wanted to give the car the greatest electric range and operating efficiency possible.

INTERIOR

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11 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 dashboard

If you’re no taller than 6ft 2in, you’ll be able to travel in the back seats of the Range Rover Evoque comfortably enough. Slightly flat seat cushions and a highish cabin floor will leave your thighs dangling somewhat unsupported if you’re an adult in the back row, while the car’s body design makes visibility back there decidedly poorer than it is up front. But both leg room and head room will be passable for most passengers, and access is likewise easy if you’re securing child seats.

The Evoque’s driving position remains higher than that of your typical compact SUV, with more than a hint of the classic Range Rover ‘commanding’ vantage point about it. It’s also cleverly cocooning and sporty-feeling, though, thanks to your outstretched legs and the car’s high belt line. It feels special and distinguishing, just as it should in any Range Rover.

Once we move to the front of the cabin, we have to make a distinction between the Evoque up to November 2023 and the Evoque post-November 2023; because the latest update really has adversely affected the car’s reductionist, but mostly well-considered and luxurious, ambience.

Before, it would wear its £50,000 price tag surprisingly comfortably. Our HSE road test car in 2021 had leather panelling on its dashboard and door cards that drew the eye very effectively, but substituted its standard-fit Windsor leather seats for those upholstered in Land Rover’s Kvadrat cloth. The material is made partly from recycled wool and suedecloth, and it's both tactile and appealing to look at.

When you flicked the car’s starter button, so many of its ‘hidden until lit’ controls – from the steering wheel spokes to the heater controls, and its double-decker touchscreen centre stack design and digital instrument pack – would suddenly come to life. It spoke of a mastery of technology that Land Rover just didn’t possess a decade or so previously. High technology is just what the modern luxury buyer expects, and the Evoque delivered plenty of it, with lots of style to boot.

The 2024-model-year update, however, has brought a ruthless redesign that has really taken the shine off the Evoque’s interior. It has ratcheted up the minimalim in quite a heavy-handed way. Land Rover says that the “reductive new centre console design ensures a serene cabin, crafted from the finest materials, with more usable interior space”. But what has actually happened is that the rotary knobs and separate touchscreen for the climate control, Terrain Response, plug-in hybrid drivetrain modes, and phone and media shortcuts have been replaced by a slab of cheap-looking and -feeling plastic, and a lid for the storage bin behind.

The gear selector sits on a big expanse of satin silver plastic that could have hosted some more storage trays, but doesn’t, and the plastic of the cupholders feels slightly flimsy.

JLR’s infotainment system is generally a very agreeable one, but less so now that it has a tonne more work to do. The way the new functions have been integrated seems like an afterthought. The new menu screens are ugly and clunky, the buttons are too small (because the interface wasn’t meant to host that many), and the screen’s responses seem more sluggish than before.

There’s more apparent cheapening to be spotted around the cabin. Our test car had a trim rattle; the sunroof is finished with a big slab of nasty, flimsy plastic; and the leather-free Kvadrat option has been noticeably downgraded for tactile appeal. It was a lovely cloth, but now it’s part-cloth-part-synthetic-leather, and not of the convincing sort. It’s the eerily soft stuff you find in a BYD, and it has the same chemical smell.

Range Rover Evoque infotainment and sat-nav

Early second-generation Evoques used the old InControl Touch Duo system for the tiltable upper section. It wasn’t the worst thing that 2018 had to offer, but could be quite slow to respond. From 2021, that was replaced with the Pivi Pro system. It used the same smallish screen, but it’s an interface we generally like, because it responds quickly, has classy, clear graphics, enough virtual shortcut buttons and it integrates well with smartphone mirroring.

For the latest redesign, the Evoque gets the same, larger screen as you would find in most recent JLR products such as the facelifted Jaguar F-Type and the full-size Range Rover. It’s still pretty good, but because it now needs to do both its old job and the job of its former colleague, the interface is more cluttered and the responses slower.

Lower-spec Evoques used to come with a mostly analogue instrument cluster with a smaller screen, but from November 2023 they’re all fully digital. The driver display is clear and has a good amount of configurability.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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21 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 P300e engine

Plug-in hybrid SUVs are heavy cars by their nature, and given that Land Rover makes heavy SUVs in any case, it was always likely to make a heavier electrified compact SUV – which the firm certainly has done here. Thanks to the size of its drive battery and the respectable electric range it affords, however, you could at least call the Range Rover Evoque P300e usefully, justifiably heavy; and even though it weighs the better part of 2.2 tonnes, the car doesn’t generally drive like it.

Not, at least, below 84mph – the point at which the gearing of that directly driven rear motor runs out, and the car’s three-cylinder engine is left to propel it all on its own. Below that speed, the car has impressive strength, strikingly eerie smoothness of delivery and excellent pedal response. Cracking 30-50mph in just 2.4sec is the stuff of a middle-order hot hatchback. The new eight-speed gearbox delivers shifts so smooth you barely notice them, and while the same can’t quite be said for the gentle eddies and shimmies of the three-cylinder engine when it’s working hard, that unit is much more refined when it’s not under so much load.

Most plug-in hybrids display a disparity between their behaviour with a full battery and with an empty one, but the Evoque's is starker than most.

When accelerating above 84mph – particularly in its upper gear ratios – the Evoque P300e is a different car; as little as that may matter to UK drivers. It feels meek and slow, and the in-gear acceleration data we recorded backs that up very clearly. In fifth gear, the car needs only 6.3sec to get from 60-80mph (exactly the same time as the latest Volkswagen Polo GTI); but to get on from 80-100mph, it needs 17.4sec (which is almost twice as long as a mid-range, Mk8 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI). Suffice to say, if you do ever stray beyond 84mph in one of these, you’ll notice the difference, and that will probably take the shine off your appreciation of the car’s otherwise rounded powertrain just a little bit.

While you may never exceed 84mph in the UK, you’ll get a similar experience with a flat battery. Because when the electric motor no longer has the juice to contribute a lot of power, the three-pot has to deal with 2.2 tonnes of car by itself. Suddenly it’s quite sluggish, the gearchanges become noticeable and the little engine starts complaining vocally. Start the car from dead cold on a chilly day with an empty battery and it’ll sound very tortured indeed.

The primary drive modes are simple enough: EV, Hybrid and Save are pretty much as described. One slight annoyance is that Save offers no way to specify how much charge you want to keep in the battery. It will simply start charging (and use a fair bit of fuel to do so).

This is apparently the first Evoque to use a by-wire braking system, so chosen to manage regenerative and friction braking so cleverly that you get consistent pedal response no matter what’s slowing the car down – and it works well. There’s no apparent deadness or non-linearity as you progress through the pedal’s travel, and low-speed drivability is good.

RIDE & HANDLING

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22 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 front cornering

When we road tested the Evoque in 2021, we noted that the Range Rover Evoque P300e rode and handled like a polished, refined and really agreeable downsized luxury operator, even without adaptive dampers, even on 20in alloy wheels, and even carrying the extra mass that can corrupt the dynamic compromise of so many other PHEVs.

The most recent update must have brought a change of dampers, because that plushness of ride seemed absent the last time we drove a P300e, the car feeling needlessly firmly damped and a little clunky in the way it passes over ridges and potholes. And that’s despite the newer test car arriving on 19in wheels.

It still has one of my favourite features in a modern car: hold the adaptive cruise control’s ‘reduce distance’ button and it switches to normal cruise control, then hold its ‘increase distance’ button and it switches back.

The manoeuvrability and urban agility that Land Rover claims for it remain there to be appreciated, though. This is a Range Rover that you can easily swing around within the confines of a typical B-road T-junction without resorting to a three-point turn, and it’s well capable of dashing neatly around a traffic island, or being threaded through a gap, when occasion calls for that. Out of town, there’s a level of dynamic verve and handling precision that’s half a cut above what most compact SUVs offer.

The car steers with plenty of dependable and consistent weight. There is a sensible rate of gain in the incisiveness of the rack as you add lock off-centre that lends a pleasing sense of bite to the handling around tighter bends but never takes you by surprise. It rolls a little as lateral load builds, but the car’s rate of roll only ever betrays the car’s weight through tighter S-bends.

Due to the fairly supple way the original car was set-up, it needed slightly longer to settle onto its loaded side than some rivals, but had decent outright lateral grip levels even on slippery, chilly Tarmac thanks to the Pirelli Scorpion Zero tyres. The later car had more immediate responses, but its steering also felt very slightly nervous.

The chassis balance can even feel quite playful as you accelerate out of slower bends; there’s 200lb ft of torque instantly available to the rear wheels, and if you deploy it smoothly without triggering the electronic aids, it can add the faintest, fleeting suggestion of rear-driven poise.

Comfort and isolation

The last Range Rover Evoque (2011-2018) didn’t uphold the highest luxury-car standards for cabin isolation, which was one of the ways in which it felt less like a mini Range Rover and more like a Freelander in evening wear. The new one rights that shortcoming pretty clearly, though. We registered 64dB at 50mph in first-generation, diesel-engined Evoque when we tested it on a warm, still day in 2011, but the new PHEV recorded 62dB at the same speed and in windier conditions.

It’s a difference you would notice, and not just because of the quieter powertrain; better wind sealing and road noise suppression is clear.

The car’s seats may be found by bigger drivers to be slightly narrow in the upper backrest, and a bit meanly padded in places, but its ride is supple and generally quiet, with its 20in rims only thunking slightly over sharper-edged bumps. The car’s weight does show itself if you hurry it along cross-country roads with bigger undulations, but only in the odd bigger-amplitude heave or squat.

Pitch is laudably well controlled thanks to the car’s fairly even weight distribution and effective but progressive damping.

Off-road notes

In a segment where so many ‘soft-roader’ SUVs offer less than 200mm of ground clearance, the Evoque’s 212mm is probably its greatest asset on capability here. This isn’t the sort of car that people will use for steep climbs or rocky descents, but it may encounter the odd rutted track or muddy field, where a bit more fresh air under its skirts could be an advantage in some instances.

The car is said to offer as much as 600mm of wading depth. Our test car had only a claimed 530mm, but that’s still more than the old Evoque had. The car’s clearance angles, meanwhile, are slightly greater if you avoid the R-Dynamic bodykit.

Land Rover offers the usual multimodal Terrain Response system, but you can leave it in ‘auto’ and just let the electronics adapt to available grip as you go, if you prefer. Thanks not least to standard-fit M+S tyres, wet mud is no problem for the car at all, and so much instantly deployable torque makes for very good low-speed control.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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01 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 Lead front

When the P300e plug-in hybrid was added to the Evoque range, its 37.9 miles of electric range on the WLTP cycle were class leading, and there were next to no rivals that could make it past the 40 miles to get into the more favourable company car tax band. Since then, however, the Toyota RAV4 PHEV and Peugeot 3008 Hybrid have managed it, as have the plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW X1 and Alfa Romeo Tonale. The Evoque isn’t far off, so we’re surprised JLR hasn’t figured out a way to squeeze another three miles out of the battery pack.

As for real-world performance, during our testing, the car averaged only 24 miles on a full charge and at a mix of A-road and urban speeds, but that was in sub-5deg C temperatures that would have inhibited its drive battery. Wider test experience has suggested that a 30-mile real-world electric range could be expected in more typical average UK temperatures, which is about what we’d expect.

Unlike most PHEVs, the Evoque P300e is compatible with DC rapid charging, and can take on an 80% charge from a CCS-style charger in 30 minutes. Given the cost of rapid charging, that might not be worth the hassle, however. If you don’t charge it, expect on-the-run motorway fuel economy from the petrol engine of around 33mpg, as our touring test result shows, but slightly better than that around town.

Prices start at £40,080 for a D165 manual in S trim. It’s pretty well equipped as standard, though you might want to add the £780 Driver Assist Pack (blindspot assist and rear cross-traffic monitor), and the £865 Convenience Pack (automatic high beams, keyless entry). On petrol or diesel model, we’d also spec the £1050 Dynamic Handling Pack, which adds adaptive dampers.

The P300e will cost at least £49,000 in SE trim. That makes it slightly more expensive than a similarly specced BMW X1 xDrive25e, Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV, and quite a lot more expensive than an Audi Q3 45 TFSIe.

Reliability

Recalls have been issued to fix the emergency call system, which contacts the emergency services in the event of an airbag deployment or when the SOS button is pushed. The rubberised fuel return hose assembly may have been incorrectly manufactured. The second-row seatbelt assemblies may contain a physical seatbelt retractor part that is of a different specification from that intended.

An electrical overload event in the 48V electrical system may cause a failure of the metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor. Check with a dealer to make sure all these works have been carried out.

Reliability can be an issue too. The reliability survey of our sibling title What Car? puts this second-gen Evoque in 36th place out of 39 cars in the family SUV class.

VERDICT

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24 Range Rover Evoque RT 2024 rear static

From the moment this second-generation ‘L551’ Range Rover Evoque came out, it became our go-to recommendation for anyone after a premium compact SUV, particularly if they wanted a plug-in hybrid.

It looks great, handles with far more verve than most of its peers – even in heavier P300e spec – and the plug-in hybrid powertrain feels slick, responsive and ‘together’ when driven both around town and out of it, and this effectively separated it from so many plug-in rivals with more complicated-feeling, easily flustered powertrains.

In addition, the practical and rich-feeling cabin with plenty of luxury-car sophistication, as well as impressive isolation and rolling refinement, made it feel worthy of the Range Rover badge.

However, the 2024-model-year update has laid waste to many of those positive aspects, without addressing the plug-in hybrid’s electric range, which is falling behind rivals.

The ride has needlessly been firmed up; while the interior has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. Not only has the well-considered combination of physical buttons and a touchscreen been removed, but it has been replaced by an ugly, cheap-feeling slab of plastic; while its functions have been clumsily integrated into the main touchscreen. The whole cabin has been cheapened with inferior materials.

The Range Rover Evoque still has its good looks and smooth hybrid powertrain, but in one fell swoop, this clumsy update has reduced it from class leader to just another crossover.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First drives