Beneath the revolutionary skin, the Range Rover Evoque is a rather more evolutionary tale. Because it rolls down the same Merseyside production line as the Freelander, the two cars’ architectures are inextricably linked.
The Range Rover is up to 100kg lighter than the Freelander, though, partly because it is much shorter (at 4355mm it’s shorter than a Volkswagen Golf) and partly because of more extensive use of aluminium, both in its body panels and suspension, and plastics in the body.
That’s part of a drive for greater efficiency, as is the Range Rover Evoque’s electric power steering system, which is fixed to the front subframe, rather than the body, to improve steering feel.
The 2.2-litre diesel used in the Freelander, and in a raft of Ford, Peugeot and Citroën models, has been laid to rest with Land Rover populating the range with two versions of its Ingenium 2.0-litre oilburner - the an eco-friendly and efficient eD4 (available in only driving the front wheels, or 2.0-litre TD4 unit which produces 178bhp. Thumb the starter to fire the diesel and chances are that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the relative absence of clatter at idle. For initial refinement, it feels to us on a par with this engine’s application in Jaguar’s XF or, in fact, anywhere else that derivatives of this unit have been used to date.
To haul 1815kg, as tested, the Evoque’s 178bhp is on the modest side. At our test track, that power and 317lb ft of torque propelled the Evoque to 60mph in 9.5sec and dispatched 30-70mph in 9.5sec. The claimed maximum is 124mph. These are not poor figures and people do not usually come to SUVs expecting to find they go fast. Most Evoque buyers, however, will not have come to an SUV before and might be a mite surprised by how moderately their monetary outlay performs compared with the estate or coupé they had before it.
The Evoque features Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which affects not only how the hardware and stability software reacts to different road surfaces, but also how much accelerator movement you need to make progress. Left in either ‘no program selected’ or Dynamic, both intended for road driving, the response is clean and smooth. There’s a little creep from rest, step-off is clean and the six-speed auto feels like it begins to lock up early to give positive shifts.