Range Rover Evoque boxing clever with nine-speed auto

Range Rover Evoque gets a new nine-speed automatic as part of a drive to cut fuel consumption and em

Range Rover Evoque gets a new nine-speed automatic as part of a drive to cut fuel consumption and emissions. - Credit: land Rover

A nine-speed, automatic has transformed the Range Rover Evoque says motoring editor Andy Russell.

When a car-maker tweaks a model to give it more gear you tend to think of more standard equipment. Range Rover has taken it literally and given the latest Evoque a new nine-speed automatic tranmission.

One of the world's first nine-speed auto units fitted to a passenger car iit is certainly a talking point, even if most people just asked incredulously 'Why?'

Why indeed. Well, modern motoring is making increasing demands on environmental performance, not just performance that involves power, speed and acceleration, so the argument with today's automatics is the more gears the better in regards to all aspects of performance.

And, let's be honest, popular as the elegant Evoque is, it hasn't excelled when it comes to emissions and economy, particularly with the original six-speed automatic.

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I frequently hear from Evoque owners whose average MPG is in the low to mid-30s and know of one Land Rover dealer who is up front with customers about what they can expect to get to the gallon – not that it deters them from buying one. If you can afford a Range Rover Evoque giving away a few miles per gallon is unlikely to worry you too much even though motorists are becoming more environmentally aware and responsible.

I've been driving the new nine-speed auto and it has transformed the Evoque – which also gains new optional Active Driveline on-demand four-wheel drive and electronic driver aids as well as new interior colours and wheel designs.

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Land Rover says the new gearbox and Active Driveline have cut fuel consumption by up to 11.4% and CO2 emissions by up to 9.5% and they certainly stack up in real-world driving.

When I drove the 190PS 2.2-litre turbo diesel six-speed automatic Evoque when it was launched I got around 35mpg and even struggled to better 37mpg with the manual and that was on a long journey. But I averaged 40.7mpg over 400 miles of mixed motoring in the new nine-speed Evoque with a best of 44mpg.

What also impresses is how quiet and refined the Evoque is with this new automatic transmission.

With such a wide spread of ratios the gearbox shifts between them so seamlessly that you barely notice it happening – the biggest clue is the dip or rise in the the engine note and needle on the rev counter. And when you kick down through the gears to get a spurt on there's no big jerk accompanied by a huge roar from the engine.

Land Rover says the new transmission has also enhanced performance and my perception was that the Evoque does feel brisker, more responsive and generally more relaxing as it gets up to speed.

What you also notice about the Evoque is how well it drives given that it is a tall sport utility vehicle with big wheels – 20in alloys on my Prestige test car which was also fitted with Adaptive Dynamics, a £1,174 option, which constantly monitors the suspension damping. The Terrain Response system, controlled via a row of buttons between the front seats, has settings for general driving, grass, gravel and snow, mud and ruts and sand but, with Adaptive Dynamics, it gains a dynamic setting which firms up all the responses.

The supple ride smoothes and soothes poor road surfaces with minimum fuss and minimum feedback to passengers. Handling is entertaining with a surprisingly nimble feel through a serious of corners with little body roll and responsive, accurate steering that weights up nicely at speed but is light when parking to take the strain out of getting in and out of tight spaces.

Inside the exquisitely-finished cabin, there's enough space for six-foot adults to sit front and rear although three in the back is a bit of a squeeze with a smaller middle seat. Small rear doors and the higher ground clearance can making access more difficult that a conventional car.

The boot makes up for it smaller capacity than some rivals by being well shaped and, with careful packing, it will take a good load of luggage and, with no spare wheel, there's underfloor storage. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and drop flat.

The fascia is user-friendly with many functions controlled through the touchscreen.

My wife has wanted a Range Rover Evoque since its launch. With the arrival of the nine-speed auto box and, despite that little niggle of having the money, I can at least share her dream.

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