– Least expensive Range Rover
– Cabin space and features
– Smooth-enough ride
– Most expensive crossover
– Rear access and boot space
– Some hard cabin plastics
The worst thing a carmaker can do is launch a new model while vaguely proclaiming that Victoria Beckham “designed” it, of all people. It alienates non-girly male buyers and brings down the brand as well, especially if that brand built its reputation as a conqueror of mountains and jungles. It’s perfectly fine the opposite way -– women love big Land Rovers that are generally marketed towards men. But judging by our readership’s reactions, the Evoque has already established itself as a “chick” car, alongside the Mazda MX-5, the VW Beetle, and the Ferrari California, and it’s Land Rover’s own fault. However, we’re always ready to look beyond labels, at the meat underneath, with an open mind.
First off, the Evoque looks great, especially in this decently-specced version with 20-inch wheels and squared-off exhaust tips. It looks especially good because it’s the 3-door version, with a slightly-lower roofline than the 5-door one. It also gets a surprising amount of respect in the fast lane. It’s just an expensive compact crossover, but we have no idea what the usually-aggressive Land Cruiser and S500 drivers think it is, given how easily they move over without a fight, and not tailgate either.
Stepping inside, the cabin design is infinitely more upscale than relatively-dull rivals such as the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, with a stitched-leather dashboard integrating a large touchscreen, generously-padded door panels and optional racing-style bucket seats. From the driver’s seat, you’ll feel like you’re in the big-brother Range Rover with a chopped top, but look closer and you’ll notice the hard plastics that make up every below-the-chest cabin panel. You’d think they wouldn’t skimp on the soft-touch plastics, given the price tag.
There’s surprisingly good space though, at least for average-sized folks both up front and in the back. The only issue would be accessing those rear seats, as the powered front seats take ages to move forward and out of the way, that too only partially. The boot is only slightly larger than that of a compact hatchback, although you can always fold down the rear seats for a bit more space. Inside, there’s the requisite cup-holders, with a decent number of cubbies and pockets, as well as a space behind the centre-console.
Tech-wise, the Evoque is full of it. The touchscreen interface is pretty, although we don’t remember using it much. It includes navigation, rear camera, Bluetooth phone, multimedia read-outs and all that, at least in our mid-range tester. Everything worked fine, including the premium CD/MP3 stereo with USB support and streaming audio. The dual-zone a/c was pretty decent during our July test, and would’ve likely performed better were it not for the panoramic glass roof, but it did have rear vents. Other features in our tester included power-adjustable front seats, smart keyless entry and start, HID headlights, multiple airbags and all that, but we believe several more options are available if you pay for it, such as a power-closing tailgate.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s straight out of Ford’s catalogue, it makes 240 hp at 6000 rpm and 340 Nm of torque from only 1900 rpm, but it has to move 1745 kilos, so the Evoque’s not particularly quick. We timed it at 7.9 seconds, leaving the fairly-responsive 6-speed gearbox in automatic. The gear-selector is simply a “P-R-N-D” knob, with some driving-mode buttons and an electronic parking brake around that. Letting the automatic do its own thing netted us a fuel-consumption figure of 12.7 litres/100 km.
The all-wheel-drive Evoque looks like a hot hatch but, despite all the hype, it doesn’t handle like a hot hatch. A Toyota RAV4 could keep up with it in the twisties, even though the twice-as-expensive crossover is fitted with wide 225/40 tyres. The tyres promise huge levels of grip, but the aggressive stability-control nannies cut in way too early during hard cornering and swift lane-changes, forcing the car to understeer in unnatural ways. Body roll is noticeable, but never excessive. The steering is mildly weighted and offers limited feedback. The brakes are above-average, but the pedal feel is light. Also, nothing much happens on initial pedal tip-in, the calipers kicking in properly only when pressed a little more. And there’s a horrendous delay in throttle response when taking off from idle, something that several owners are complaining about, although we hear there’s a software fix for that now.
The ride leans towards the firm side, but it is acceptable. We assume higher models fitted with fancier “magnetic” adjustable suspension possibly ride better, aside from potentially improving the handling as well. The cabin is noisier on the highway than we expected it to be for a luxury car. Wind and road-noise levels reach moderate levels, akin to that of the aforementioned Toyota. Also, rear visibility is as bad as that of a Chevy Camaro, so the reversing camera is a blessing.
We generally try to make SUVs, including crossovers, at least put a tyre into some soft sand to test out the all-wheel-drive system, but we didn’t bother with this one, especially since Land Rover discourages any sort of offroading with their test cars. There is a “terrain management” system to select sand or gravel modes as such, and there is somewhat-respectable ground clearance, but those low-profile tyres and the lack of low-range gearing make sure you don’t get too adventurous. It managed the gravel plains we drove it on just fine, but it wasn’t particularly fun considering there’s no handbrake to really enjoy some rally-style hi-jinks.
Earlier, given all the overblown media hype, we were absolutely convinced we had to buy one for our personal fleet, even before we drove it. But after actually driving it, we realise it’s just another crossover that drives like any other crossover, albeit with a stylish ambience inside and out. As such, we’re now wondering what kind of difference it would make to drive one with a software-updated throttle and a dynamic-suspension package. Maybe then it’ll be more to our liking. We love our own slow, jiggly-handling previous-gen Range Rover, but only because we knew exactly what to expect from it. The Evoque promises a whole lot more, and doesn’t quite deliver, at least in this mid-spec version.
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