I wasnt sure that I understood the Range Rover Evoque when it was first released. In fact, Im pretty certain that I didnt. I drove a couple of models and just didnt get it. But everyone else did. Land Rover now works round the clock to meet demand and the Evoque has single-handedly created thousands of jobs. It is, without doubt, one of the most important new cars of recent years and the strong demand shows no sign of slowing down.
Never shy to admit that I might be wrong, I asked Land Rover if I could borrow a five-door Evoque for a week to try and understand what it is that has drawn so many new customers to the brand and to see if I could forget that Victoria Beckham was involved
Youve all seen one – and opinion is still polarised. I hated it on release, revolted by the squashed roof, comedy large wheels, and tiny rear window. And yet, when my five-door turned up in Barolo Black I had to admit that it looked terrific. Perhaps Id been influenced by the sight of too many white coupes in the early days, but to my eyes the five-door in a sober colour looks wonderful. Mature and purposeful, elegant and exclusive. Everything, in fact, that the rest of the world has been saying for a couple of years.
It isnt perfect, of course. That rear window really is too small but other than that it reeks of individuality. Which is a good thing, for most people, at least.
Its just as nice when you step inside. Its a beautiful design executed in high quality materials, installed with millilitre-perfect precision and ergonomically flawless; this is a place you simply dont get bored of.
The Ebony Premium leather seats are supportive and coped with a nine-hour day at the wheel with ease, leaving me feeling fresh even though Ive managed just three hours sleep the night before. And while the backseats might not be as voluminous but they coped with a teenage son and his younger brother with ease, even if they complained they couldnt see the dual-screen TV in the dashboard.
Dual-screen TV? Yes, Land Rover is now dabbling in the black arts; the technology has been explained to me but Ive forgotten the details now – if I ever understood them in the first place. Suffice it to say that the passenger can watch TV at the same time and on the same screen that the driver is using for the sat-nav. This is Magic, not science, and is probably a good enough reason to buy a current-model Land Rover by itself.
Our car was fitted with the Lux pack, costing 4,425. Comprising a powered tailgate, panoramic glass sunroof, 825W Meridian stereo, surround camera system, dual-screen TV, blind spot monitoring, Park Assist, keyless entry, and a posh air-con system its worth every penny, a statement that I dont make lightly.
At carwow we generally advocate buying the cheapest model possible and giving the options list a swerve, but in the Evoque that would be a mistake. The sum of these options is far greater than the individual components; together they transform the Evoque into a little slice of theatre that enhances your life at every turn. Flowery language? Perhaps, but still true.
The Evoque is not a substitute for a sports car, no matter what you might read or infer from the advertisements. Its actually something far better.
Setting the Terrain Response dial to Dynamic turns the dials red and tautens steering and suspension a little. Select Sport on the gearbox and the Evoque hangs onto gears a little bit longer, and selects them more eagerly. For fast sling-shotting from one roundabout to another it works well, with the Evoque (no lightweight, remember, at between 1595kg and 1670kg depending on the model) darting about like a hare with a greyhound at its heels.
But better (and God, I feel old writing this) to waft in Drive, letting the Adaptive Dynamics (with MagneRide dampers, no less!) suspension do its stuff. The balance between sporty handling and a cosseting ride is nigh on perfect and frees you to sit back and enjoy the journey.
I also had time to play in the snow and slush, as well as a muddy field, and can report that the Evoque is every inch a Range Rover in that it has more off-road performance than you or I are ever likely to need.
If I have just one gripe its that the gearbox can be a bit slow to engage from a standstill. But that is nit picking of the first order.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine, producing 187bhp and 309 lb/ft of torque, suits the Evoque perfectly. Performance is strong, if not outstanding, with a top speed of 121 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 8.0 seconds dead (or around 8.5 seconds if were using a level playing field and timing it to 62 mph or 100 km/h). Its impressively refined and decently eager, without a hint of coarseness.
Economy is the SD4 engines weakest point. Land Rovers official fuel consumption figures suggest that up to 44.1mpg is possible but you wont get anything like this. I managed just under 31mpg after nearly a week of mixed driving, rising to 37.4mpg on a long run when I was taking it easy, something that the eco display encouraged when I activated the cruise control. This clever little device demonstrated that cutting my cruising speed by 8-10mph would significantly reduce my CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. I prefer to be encouraged rather than bullied and this did the trick.
Value for Money
The VfM depends on your personal financial position and how much you want to get behind the wheel of one. My test car cost just over 45,000 and Id buy one in a flash if I could afford it.
The Evoque floored me completely. It is, perhaps, the most balanced, most capable, most likeable dual-role car Ive ever driven, a niche previously occupied by the little Skoda Yeti.
Its cleverest trick is that it simply makes you feel good when youre driving it. Or walking up to it. Or simply sitting in it. My wife, a long-time critic of the Evoques looks and no lover of cars she considers to be flash (a sobriquet that is widely used and encompasses an eclectic range of cars from the MINI to the Peugeot RCZ and includes the Discovery) was smitten; when I told her Id been looking at how much it would cost to lease one she only asked: how much?
You can, and should, compare it with rivals from Audi, and BMW, and even Volvo, but I guarantee that none will smite you like the Evoque. Im a changed man – and couldnt be happier!
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