Petrol-fuelled Evoque is the closest thing yet to a hot-hatch SUV, but the brilliant version we drove isn't in the price list.

What is it?

A turbodiesel engine seems the obvious choice for any weighty SUV, with inherent economy and a strong, torquey delivery. But the Range Rover Evoque, the genre-busting 'statement car' with the wedgy waistline, compressed glasshouse and hefty wheelprint, plays by different rules.

Have we fallen for the hype? No, but we have now driven the Evoque with the 2.0-litre Ford Ecoboost turbo petrol engine with 237bhp and 251lb ft of torque on tap. This engine dramatically alters the Evoque's character, playing to the strengths of taut, agile handling overlaid on proper off-road ability.

What’s it like?

It takes just a few hundred yards to sense this fastest Evoque's eager pace and the crisp revvability of its engine. It's matched to a six-speed automatic gearbox which, set to S mode and manually triggered with paddle-shifters, complements the engine's efforts well. Upshifts are quick, firm but smooth, downshifts are also quick but suffer through a lack of proper revs-matching as the lower gear engages.

Our test Evoque here is running on 19in wheels and passive dampers, and with an engine lighter than the diesel it turns into corners and holds on tight in a way almost astounding for an SUV. The steering is always precise and confident – it's one of the better electric systems – and only occasionally do you sense the Evoque's height. It feels like a big hot hatchback with an especially good vantage point, and the damping is beautifully controlled at all speeds.

Should I buy one?

This is JLR dynamics guru Mike Cross's favourite Evoque version, even though it is also the thirstiest. All the stranger, then, that in the UK all petrol Evoques will come only in Dynamic trim with adaptive Magneride dampers and 20in wheels, and this optimum version is denied to us. Time for a marketing re-think, maybe?

John Simister

Range Rover Evoque Si4

Price: from £38,995; Top speed: 135mph; 0-62mph: 7.6sec; Economy: 32.5mpg; Co2: 199g/km; Kerbweight: 1640kg; Engine: type, cc: 4cyl 16V DI turbo, 1999cc; Power: 237bhp; Torque: 251lb ft; Gearbox: 6sp auto

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Honest Paul 1 November 2011

Re: Range Rover Evoque Si4

So many people are missing the point of this car whilst they allow their constant cynicism to cloud their judgement. It looks epic, both inside and out, is well proportioned, drives like a hot hatch, will wade rivers, climb mountains, smash ski slopes into submission, cocoon its occupants in a beautiful interior, can return 30+mpg and will sit serenely at 100mph all day long. Try one before you knock it, I did and it blew me away. Stunning, capable car, well done Land Rover.

Overdrive 28 July 2011

Re: Range Rover Evoque Si4

theother wrote:

artill wrote:
I really strugle to understand why someone with 40K to spend would but this. There are so many ways to spend 40K on a car, and every other one i can think of gets you more car, or something more interesting.

It says Range Rover on it. Every other one you can think of doesn't. The end.

In other words, you should buy this thing for badge snobbery reasons, is that your point?

Lady Godiva 28 July 2011

Re: Range Rover Evoque Si4

I really don't want to like this car as we all know it's going to be owned by the mum brigade transporting their children from A to B and cluttering up school car parks in an errand that would be just as well served using a Fiesta. However, I actually think it's the best looking LR on the road bar none (personal preference obviously). Would I buy one? Absolutely not - if I had £40k hanging around i'd have something with a Stuttgart badge sitting out the front right now in preference every time but I can see it being very popular despite it's ludicrous association with Mrs Lollipop Head Beckham!