That was all before the explosion of the European compact SUV segment, though – something a brand like Land Rover could hardly ignore. The sheer force of competition to be faced by this car today means it must be a more serious, rounded, practical and multi-talented prospect than the car it replaces just to tread water.
By convenient coincidence, of course, developing the Evoque in that direction might also help to address one of the criticisms levelled at it over generation one: that it didn’t quite seem, to some, like a proper Range Rover underneath those celebrated designer clothes. Though the second-generation version is still smallish and transverse-engined, and still uses a clutch-based, front-axle-biased four-wheel-drive system, you’d be quite a bit less likely to say that about it, I reckon.
What changes has Land Rover made to the Evoque's drivetrain?
But for the door hinges and some parts inherited though widely updated powertrains, this is genuinely an all-new car; and that’s true right down to the model platform.
Evoque II (L551 if you’re into your Land Rover model generation code numbers) becomes the first car to adopt Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture: a platform that allows lightweight mixed-metal construction, but that also permits both 48-volt mild-hybrid electrification for all but the very cheapest version of the Evoque. The platform will also allow Gaydon to introduce a plug-in hybrid Evoque in 2020 – something which, in light of the arrival of all-electric competitors like the Mercedes EQC and Audi eTron, is probably the least it ought to be doing.
All derivatives but the aforementioned very cheapest Evoque D150 get a clutch-based torque vectoring four-wheel-drive system and a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, as well as a redesigned all-independent suspension system of struts up front and JLR’s Integral Link set-up at the rear. Adaptive dampers are optional (though weren’t fitted to our test car).
There’s a choice of seven engines at launch, four diesel and three petrol, with the entry-level diesel version offering a feed-in price of just under £32,000 and broadly competitive lab-tested carbon emissions for fleet drivers. All versions of the car will be powered by British-built Ingenium four-cylinder motors, though, until JLR’s three-cylinder Ingenium turbo petrols augment the line-up next year. The enlarged lithium-ion battery for the car’s mild-hybrid electrical circuit, meanwhile, is carried under the back seats, and stores what electrical energy can be harvested under braking using the engine’s belt-driven starter-generator motor, to be redeployed back into the crankshaft later under acceleration.
And if all of that sounds, well, a bit heavy? You’d be guessing right. Despite that mixed-metal construction, the 2.0-litre turbo petrol-powered Evoque P250 we tested was actually 66kg heavier than its like-for-like predecessor – but, more revealingly, also almost 200kg heavier than an equivalent Audi Q3 45 TFSI and more than 100kg heavier than an equivalent Volvo XC40 T5. Luxury costs weight, Land Rover would reply, as does genuine off-road capability, too. But that’s a lot of extra weight for any relatively compact car to carry around – even one with 212mm of ground clearance and 600mm of wading depth.
Suffice it to say, you can feel that weight in more than one facet of the Evoque’s driving experience – though not always as a detracting factor. The car has weightier steering, marginally more permissive body control, a longer-wave ride gait and more stable, dampened down handling than the last Evoque: in none of those ways by a lot, but enough to notice.