Still beautiful and balanced, the Range Rover Evoque’s coming of age has done nothing to erode its appeal...
Every large family has its own boisterous and footloose youngster; the one who seemingly isn’t mired in the limitations that come with grown-up responsibilities but rather gets by with their charisma. And, as much as that person may grate, going against the grain of what the family stands for, there’s no getting away from their infectious personality. This was certainly the case when the Evoque joined the Land Rover stable back in 2011. It left the practical stuff to the Discovery and Defender, instead taking a more style-conscious and fun-loving route between them and the bigger Range Rovers. This ruffled a few feathers among dyed-in-the-wool Land Rover fans; the design input from Victoria Beckham certainly raised an eyebrow or two.
But it didn’t matter; the public fell in love with the footloose youngster and it became a hit among fashionistas. Everyone has to grow up sometime, though, and, with the previously purpose-defined gaps between Land Rover’s wares blurring, the Evoque now has to toe the line with its peers. But beneath that more grown-up exterior, the Evoque has lost none of its youthful charm…
In an automotive world where the dimensions of cars seem to balloon with every generation that passes, the Evoque has managed to retain much of its compact charm. Underpinned by Land Rover’s new Premium Transverse architecture platform, the new car is just 1 mm longer than its forebear and its roofline sits 11 mm lower. The only areas where this Evoque has grown is in its wheelbase, which stretches 21 mm over that of the first-generation model, and body width up just 4 mm. Take a deep breath and you’ll likely show more bodily expansion than the new Evoque.
Yet, it somehow looks more elongated and substantial. There’s definitely more than a hint of the Velar’s strong horizontal visual elements, from the sharp shoulder line to a more balanced bodywork-to-vent ratio and brakelamps with rectangular LED inserts, that’s afforded the new car some stylistic maturity.
Our test unit’s R-Dynamic styling package also appears to be a more grown-up take on the brash sports treatment often doled out to boutique SUVs; the gloss-black elements are tastefully executed and the slight bronze blush to some of the vent louvres is particularly appealing.
This sense of Velar-flavoured occasion has carried over into the cabin, where the previous car’s button-studded centre console makes way for an optional double-decker TFT array. It places a rising display on the upper section of the dash and a larger one with dial hard points where most of the ancillary controls reside within a responsive tablet-style interface. This latter screen allows you to toggle between such functions as drivetrain management, climate control, seat heating and massage, and media. Although still a step away from the ease of using conventional analogue controls, the combination of physical dials and touchscreen feels more natural than many of the haptic touchscreen systems we’ve recently sampled.
Materially, the Evoque’s cabin is about as solidly built, leather-stitched and luxuriously appointed as you’d hope for in this class but it’s not class-leading in terms of rear-passenger legroom and luggage space, both of which are adequate. Still, the cabin remains a tranquil space that’s well shielded from road noise.
As with every member of the Green Oval family, the Evoque still possesses serious off-road hardware under that designer shell. The latest version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, encompassing mud/sand/ice presets, is joined by some novel assistance systems. Along with sensors in the wing mirrors alerting you when the Evoque’s 600 mm maximum wading depth is approaching, the Clearsight Groundview system utilises a front and side camera feed that projects a frontal view appearing to sport a transparent bonnet on the infotainment display. This system allows you to determine whether the 212 mm of ground clearance is sufficient to traverse or avoid obstacles such as rocks or high kerbs.
But, again, as with pretty much every member of the Land Rover line-up, the odds of the Evoque ploughing through mud and rocks are remote and it’s on-road ability that rather determines the baby Range Rover’s success. And on this front, it doesn’t disappoint. The balanced dynamic package that lent the previous car such appeal has been further honed in the new car. The Evoque’s well-damped ride, manageable proportions and refined demeanour serve it well in its primary roles of round town-runner and motorway mile-eater. But that’s not to say it can’t entertain when called upon to do so.
Press on and, while the steering remains relaxingly light, its directness is aided in no small part by a lateral torque-vectoring system helping negate some of the understeer inherent in AWD midsize SUVs of the Evoque’s ilk. Similarly, the adaptive suspension proves forgivingly fluid on myriad surfaces but still affords a degree of tautness that counters excessive body roll under hard cornering.
The D180’s 2,0-litre turbodiesel may not be the last word in overall performance but it’s a pleasing engine in its own right. The 132 kW on tap is modest in the Evoque’s class but its smooth operation, coupled with the handy 430 N.m of torque that chimes in between 1 750 and 2 500 r/min, lends it just enough oomph to steer clear of stodginess. Even so, there’s no getting around the fact this motor is competing with a surprisingly substantial chunk of car here, despite the (occasionally flustered) nine-speed automatic transmission doing its best to keep the car in its torque band. Notwithstanding claims of the Evoque’s new mixed-metal platform being lighter than the outgoing chassis, the D180 still manages to exhibit the bizarre portliness that’s become an unfortunate hallmark of JLR products. Tipping our scales at 1 981 kg, the Evoque is nearly 40 kg heavier than the equivalent Jaguar E-Pace and eclipses both the larger BMW X4 and Audi Q5 by more than
100 kg. Thankfully, the engine’s good mechanical refinement means this contest isn’t a noisy one and tech such as a driveline-decoupling system that defaults to 2WD at constant cruising meant the 7,1 L/100 km it returned on our fuel run is pretty much on par with our fuel index figure.
Land Rover has done a sterling job of bringing the Evoque closer in line with its stablemates without shedding any of its distinctive charm.
Yes, it remains an expensive choice but from our time spent with the D180, it’s obvious the Evoque has not so much matured as blossomed into an even more polished and appealing product.
ROAD TEST SCORE