– Great styling inside and out
– Handles pretty good
– Decent ride comfort
– Expensive for its class
– Small boot volume
– No low-range gearing
The Range Rover Evoque caused a ruckus back when it was launched in 2011, and with good reason. It has the most well-sorted exterior designs of all time for a small crossover, which is probably why Land Rover has left it largely untouched for 2015. But there have been a few changes since the last time we drove one.
The Evoque looks great thanks to its angular styling that has now been adopted by everything that came after it from the Land Rover stable. You have to go for a well-specced version to truly complete the look, as our test car does with its 20-inch wheels, squared-off exhaust tips and optional black-out trim. While we drove the 3-door version before, this is the 5-door one, with a slightly higher roofline than the “coupe” model. It also gets a surprising amount of respect in the fast lane, something that cannot be said about its German rivals. Maybe it’s the Range Rover lettering on the tailgate.
Stepping inside, the cabin design is infinitely more upscale than its comparatively-dull rivals such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA, 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, although a closer look reveals hard plastic panels below the waistline. You’d think they wouldn’t skimp on the soft-touch plastics, given the price tag. At least the metal trim seems to be real metal.
There’s surprisingly good space, at least for average-sized folks both up front and in the back. 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. There’s the requisite number of cup-holders, with a decent smattering of cubbies and pockets, as well as a space behind the centre-console.
Tech-wise, the Evoque is loaded to the hilt. The touchscreen interface is starting to look outdated, but it includes navigation, rear camera, Bluetooth phone, multimedia read-outs and all that. The screen even has the unique “dual-view” trick where the driver can see one thing and the passenger sees something else on the same screen. 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 August 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, turning HID headlights, front and rear parking sensors, multiple airbags, power-closing tailgate and a motorised pop-up gear selector that’s made of machined metal and gets burning hot in the sun.
Still powered by a Ford-sourced 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 240 hp at 6000 rpm and 340 Nm of torque from 1900 rpm, the Evoque got upgraded in 2014 with a 9-speed automatic. We timed it at 8.2 seconds, which showed the new model isn’t any quicker than the old model with the 6-speed gearbox. Fuel consumption wasn’t any better either, at 13.5 litres/100 km, although admittedly, our previous Evoque test car was actually the slightly-lighter 3-door version with non-adaptive suspension.
Indeed, the version with the adaptive suspension is the one to buy, which has an additional “dynamic” mode for sportier handling. The other driving modes are the usual settings for sand, gravel and all that, selectable using buttons next to the “P-R-N-D” gear-selector knob and electronic parking brake.
The smooth-shifting new 9-speed’s advantage becomes clearer on the road, as the Evoque now has stronger mid-range acceleration, such as in overtaking manoeuvres where jumping from 80 kph to 120 kph is required. And on curvier roads, the adaptive suspension clearly makes a difference, firming up in “sport” mode, with corners handled more flatly and confidently. The steering is reasonably weighted with mild feedback, while the brakes are pretty good and the paddle-shifters are fairly responsive. Despite popular claims, the Evoque is still no “hot hatch” though, and it is easy to reach its still-decent grip limits on tighter corners. Even the stability-control nannies cut in early at that point.
The cabin seems a bit quieter than before, with little wind hush and some road noise at highway speeds. While the 5-door Evoque has a taller rear window than the 3-door, rear visibility still isn’t particularly good, so the reversing camera is a blessing. The ride is mildly firm but fairly smooth in “normal” mode, made better with the adjustable suspension option, aside from clearly improving the handling as well.
Around town, it is easy enough to drive, with features such as auto parallel-parking, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert aiding the inattentive. If we had a complaint, it’d be the slight delay in throttle response from idle, and it also feels uneven as turbo boost comes on.
We wouldn’t take the Evoque off-road. Despite there being a “terrain management” system to select sand or gravel modes, those low-profile tyres and the lack of low-range gearing make sure you stick to gravel plains, as nicking that intricate front bumper isn’t in the best interests of your wallet, despite what you may have seen in promotional videos.
When we first drove the Evoque, we didn’t really like it aside from the styling. But with the latest upgrades and when equipped with the right features, such as dynamic suspension and the new gearbox as in this test car, the compact Evoque redeemed itself by a fair degree. It’s still very expensive for what it is when compared to its direct rivals, but that’s the price of exclusivity.
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