Range Rover Evoque a smoothie in rough stuff
The Evoque may be the new baby Range Rover but it makes a big impression both on and off road, says Andy Russell.
The young man welcoming people to the trendy Hotel Missoni in Edinburgh was sporting a natty zig-zag patterned kilt.
'That's not a tartan,' pointed out my Scottish driving companion.
'It's not a tartan as you know it,' he replied. 'It's a Missoni tartan.'
And we had pulled up in the new Range Rover Evoque… not a Range Rover as we know it either. It's the new entry model to the range that looks set to woo new customers to the prestige British brand with expectations of 100,000 sales a year worldwide – that would be 25pc of total Land Rover registrations – with conquest sales from rival sport utility vehicles, prestige estates and even sports coupes.
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With prices starting just under �28,000 for the entry two-wheel drive model – a first for Range Rover – it's going to open up a new market for the brand.
Two models are offered – a three-door coupe and a more practical five-door version which will be the big seller.
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The coupe is little changed from the Land Rover LRX concept apart from the wing mirrors and a slightly higher clamshell bonnet for better pedestrian crash safety. And that's what makes it so exciting – a concept brought to reality in its purest form rather than being diluted. This is a car that gets you noticed.
Three engines are offered – 150 and 190PS 2.2-litre turbo diesels, shared with the Land Rover Freelander, and a 240PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine.
The petrol version, only available with six-speed automatic gearbox, has sparkling performance but is rather thirsty, although nothing like the big Range Rovers, but most buyers will go for the diesels. The lower emissions 150PS eD4 is six-speed manual only and offered in entry-level Pure and luxury Prestige levels and from early next year will also be available with front-wheel drive. The 190PS version, set to be the big seller, has standard four-wheel drive, manual or automatic gearboxes and is also offered in sporty Dynamic trim.
On paper the petrol is the quickest but on the road the more powerful diesel doesn't hang around with plenty of low-down pulling power for effortless performance and remains so smooth and refined that you are more aware of tyre noise than the engine.
And there's nothing unrefined about the way the Evoque drives. The Dynamic models on the test route featured adaptive damping as standard for an even sharper ride and handling and did a fine job of sorting out some poor roads even riding on 20in wheels. It drives more like a well-sorted estate car than a sport utility vehicle or crossover with good steering feel and taut body control through corners but you get the elevated driving position.
The suspension also proved more than capable on a cross-country route taking in grassy fields and muddy, rutted farm tracks with decent ground clearance and good traction from the Terrain Response system with settings for different off-road conditions and hill-descent control which can be adjusted between three and 20mph.
The well-appointed cabin oozes Range Rover quality and ambience and will seat four six-footers comfortably with acceptable headroom in the coupe, particularly with the optional panoramic sunroof which floods the cabin with light. But it's quite tricky getting in and out of the back with the higher ground clearance. The windows are quite shallow as well in both models so it can be difficult placing the corners of the car when parking and the rear screen, particularly the coupe's, is slotty and seriously limits visibility.
Both models have a useful, well-shaped boot, although the sill is quite high, while the five-door has 60/40 split-fold seats to raise cargo capacity to 1,445 litres.
The fascia is pure Range Rover – it looks good and works well although the touch-screen to control many functions is rather daunting until you find your way round. The electronic parking brake and automatic gearbox selector knob that rises from the centre console creates an uncluttered feel.
The Evoque features high equipment levels and even entry Pure includes front, side, curtain and driver's knee airbags, traction and dynamic and roll stability control, cruise control, 18in alloys, leather upholstery, climate control, heated front seats and rear parking aid. Luxurious Prestige gets 19in alloys, front fog lamps and brighter xenon headlamps with washers, metallic paint, upgraded trim and electric front seats, front parking aids and rear camera, satellite-navigation with 10 CD changer, automatic wipers and lights and heated front screen. Sporty Dynamic has 20in alloys, adaptive dynamic damping and sports body styling. A host of individual options and combined packs allow owners to tailor their Evoque to their needs and wants.
The Evoque ticks all the boxes – it looks brilliant, drives very well, oozes quality and image and has that desirable badge across the bonnet.