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JOHANNESBURG – For a manufacturer with such an ingrained sense of adventure, it’s been mission accomplished in terms of the success of the boutique Range Rover Evoque. The fastest-selling model in Land Rover’s history, I clearly remember the buzz and sense of anticipation that surrounded the introduction of the first-generation model in 2011. Talk of Posh Spice’s involvement in the development process and neat proportions that were guaranteed to get you noticed on the High Street paved the way for a newfound sense of chic and occasion that, in return, introduced an inevitably younger, more status conscious audience to the brand. Indeed, Jaguar Land Rover South Africa claims that of the impressive number of models sold locally since its introduction (though three-door, five door and convertible applications), 76 percent of sales were to customers new to Land Raver family.

Interestingly, despite the need for every Land Rover to offer a suitably high level of off-roading ability (as put to the comprehensive test at the international launch of the new model), JLR claims 73 percent of Evoque owners never leave the confines of their urban sanctuaries.

Not keen on meddling with what has so clearly been a winning-formula (770 000 global sales in eight years), the all-new, second-generation Evoque arrives wearing near identical exterior dimensions as the outgoing model. While there are no plans at this stage for either a Coupé or (mercifully) a Convertible derivative, the five-door-only new Evoque gains a 21 mm stretch in wheelbase resulting in slightly more legroom for rear seat passengers (up 20 mm), as well a 10 percent larger luggage area.

Slim new headlamps and an altogether neater rear-end execution (doing away with the Lego-shaped taillamps of the previous car) afford the new model a decidedly sleeker profile than before. A selection of new alloy wheels designs ranging from 17 to 21 inches in diameter is also available.

Built on Land Rover’s all-new Premium Transverse Architecture that’s both 13 percent stiffer than before and capable of housing the infrastructure needed for future plug-in hybrid derivatives, it’s somewhat surprising to note that even the conventionally powered new models (both four-cylinder, turbodiesel or turbopetrol) each weigh close to two tonnes. With 80 percent of previous-generation models sold in South Africa having favoured diesel power, and having sampled both of the heavily revised drivetrain options featured in the new Evoque lineup, I’d suggest this remains the most favourable drivetrain configuration going forward.

Boasting 132 kW and 430 N.m of torque available between 1 750 and 2 500 r/min, it’s the 1 999 cm3 turbodiesel unit that, mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission, offers both more refinement (including at idle), efficiency and, indeed, punch around town than the 183 kW/365 N.m Ingenium turbopetrol is able to muster within this package. While Land Rover claims 5,8 L/100 km for the diesel option, I saw figures closer to 9,0 L/100 km over the course of my test drive.

Updated to include the brand’s latest infotainment technologies, it’s nevertheless only the more premium specifications within the new 14-model line-up that gain the impressive Velar-like dual touchscreen layout as seen on the images above. Crisp and fluid in their operation, these displays allow the driver easy access to both a full bouquet of connectivity technologies (including Apple CarPlay and a 4G WiFi hotspot capable of supporting up to eight devices), as well the vehicle’s standard Terrain Response II all-wheel drive system. Here the presence of a new “Auto” mode for the continuous detection of traction and torque distribution requirement (combined with 212 mm worth of ground clearance and a newfound 600 mm wading depth) is all that the average Evoque owner is likely to need.

Suitably well insulated, generously appointed and broadly comfortable (while favouring front-seat occupants), it was nevertheless disconcerting to note that a handful of the vehicles present at the Evoque’s local launch had very noticeable rattles emanating from behind their instrument binnacles. While neither pre-production nor wearing particularly high mileage, I look forward to sampling future examples of the new Evoque where this issue is no longer a factor.

As popular as the first-generation Evoque has been, it stands to reason that those owners who haven’t already upgraded to the Velar as their need for greater levels of interior versatility (including children) may have grown, will be more than satisfied with the sleek new lines and updated interior that the new model offers. Whether the boldly priced new Evoque line-up has the same effect in terms of enticing new customers to the brand, especially with the likes of the forthcoming new Audi Q3, polished BMW X1 (and, at these prices, even the larger X3) and excellent Volvo XC40 in the mix. As suggested by its own research, the fact the Evoque offers superior off-roading ability compared with most of its rivals matters little when it comes to day-to-day flaunting.

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