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 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.
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 VW 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.
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 for the petrol engine to restore charge into the battery in order to, for example, negotiate a low-emissions zone at the end of a long drive. If you had such a route set in the car’s navigation, however, the car can at least manage its power sources automatically, leaving sufficient charge in the battery for the required electric mileage.
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.