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Range Rover Evoque review (2011 onwards)
What - Range Rover Evoque
Where - Liverpool, UK
Date - July 2011
Price - £27,955 - £39,995
Available - September 2011
Key rivals -Audi Q3, BMW X1, Audi TT, MINI
Summary - The Range Rover Evoque is almost as good in action as it is to look at. A genuine British groundbreaker that deserves the iconic status it may soon command.
We like - Promise of incredible looks is realised on the road, interior finish, practicality, cohesiveness
We don't like - Steering and auto gearbox so-so compared to the rest of it, quickly becomes expensive
The launch of the Evoque moves Range Rover in line with the modern trend to downsize. Its large, expensive off-roaders are iconic: now, here's an all-new compact Range Rover, smaller, greener and cheaper than any before. The right car for the times.
Be in no doubt, the Evoque is a groundbreaker. Particularly as the design has reached production virtually unchanged from the 2008 LRX concept car. Shorter than a Ford Focus and more economical than a 1.2 Fiat 500, this is like no Land Rover product before it.
Bosses admit it's uncharted territory. That's why the launch campaign has been running so long. It's the Land Rover that moves furthest from the brand's original off-road roots. As standout style is nothing without substance, cue the great deal of effort from Land Rover over the past three years. The development effort has been enormous.
Three trims will be offered, with so many options, production can theoretically run for four years without two identical models being produced. The cheapest cars are Pure models, with pricier Dynamic and Prestige matched in price and adding, respectively, sportier and more luxurious extras.
There are also three- or five-door body styles, four- or five-seat layouts, front- or four-wheel drive, four engine choices and two gearboxes. Prices start at £27,955 (20k less than the entry Range Rover Sport) and the bulk of models are mid-£30,000s. Cheap for a Range Rover, expensive compared to BMW X1 and Audi Q3 rivals.
Land Rover says rivals span more broadly than the compact premium SUV norm: MINI, Audi TT, Porsche Boxster. Like all great cars, sector boundaries are not expected to be a limiting factor. So the order book proves: 18,000 are already sold, meaning those ordering today must wait until February 2012. Now to discover if your order should join them...
Nearly every Evoque in the UK will come with a 2.2-litre diesel engine. The green 57mpg front-drive model arrives next year, so for now, it's all four-wheel drive, in either 150hp or 190hp output, with manual or automatic. Both are strong and drive like much bigger engines, as all good turbodiesels do.
Being a Range Rover means refinement is essential, so Land Rover has fitted the same uprated motor as the Jaguar XF 2.2D. It works: smooth and free-revving, there's no shudder or rattle from the torquey engines. Only a touch of low-rev whine particularly says diesel.
The alternative 240hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol is fantastic. It is effervescent and performs almost like a hot hatch, with vibrant response, amusing turbo rush and an enthusiastic feel. Even the rorty engine note is like a Golf GTI.
The manual gearbox is both meaty in feel and smooth in action. Most of the early cars will be autos, complete with Jaguar-style rotary selector. Shifts are OK but in sporty driving, downchanges are sometimes lazy and come in with a jerk: choosing sport mode improves things, and 'Drive Select' steering paddles give driver control on-road and off.
Ride and handling
Land Rover aimed to make the Evoque drive as well as it looked: sporty and agile, but without losing the Range Rover sophistication. Ride comfort passes this test. It is a bit taut and firm over the worst city lumps, but also cushioned, quiet and extremely fluid at speed. Optional MagneRide further imitates the larger air-suspended Range Rover.
It handles superbly, like a hot hatch with a great view of the road. Agile and precise, it is roll-free and entertainingly checkable like no Land Rover before it. The firm's first fuel-saving electronic steering system is average though, with a magnetic feel and inconstant weight at times.
You wouldn't expect it to off-road well: it does, surprisingly so. It can do things no right-thinking owner would ever even contemplate, with sophistication and a smooth ride that take the edge off the usual off-road jostling and banging.
A brace of electronic aids includes Hill Descent control, whose downhill speed you can alter using the steering wheel cruise control buttons. Gadgets stop you rolling back on hills too, and the Land Rover Terrain Response controller tailors it all to specific surfaces. At times when off-road, it's quite breathtaking.
The Range Rover Evoque's interior is a triumph. The seating position is high yet the driving position somehow seems low and sporty, despite the sit-above view out. The rakish dash complements it but still carries the trademark Range Rover central vertical bars. They're just inclined back much more.
The choice of trims, colours and materials is amazing. Some very rich and attractive combinations are available. Range Rover helps choice with 16 pre-selected 'designer interiors'; Pure, Dynamic and Prestige also get their own themes. The degree of personalisation available is near-boutique level.
It also shows premium-level quality and the detailing, from the intricate dials to the superb dished steering wheel. Pity there are no grab handles for passengers though. Also, the touchscreen sat-nav may use the 'dual view' tech from the Range Rover, for two displays in one, but the blocky and dated navigation graphics are out of place.
Most are expecting a cramped rear cabin, because of the Evoque's sporty roofline. The surprise is just how accommodating it is, even in the three-door. There's ample headroom and legroom. The boot lacks Range Rover's trademark split tailgate but is well shaped: designers even made sure a golf bag with driver in place can be stowed.
Entry to the rear of the three-door is awkward. The seat blocks access unless it is slid right forward - electric seats do this at the press of a button, but it's painfully slow. Leave a good 10-15 seconds free to get in and out. The five-door is better, and its doors need less of a hefty slam to close cleanly.
A big Range Rover deal is refinement. Efforts to meet this have been considerable, and successful. Engines cruise quietly, ride refinement is good, wind noise is low. The wide tyres create some noise at speed but it's not excessive: the superb Meridian stereo has tailored settings to drown them out.
Economy and safety
This Range Rover has to be economical: future legislation demands it, to offset all the larger Range Rovers. Manual diesels impress, averaging 49.6mpg even in 190hp guise. The autos are a bit disappointing in comparison - 43.5mpg is good, but you expect a bit more still.
The petrol averages 32.5mpg but has the pace to justify it, and CO2 emissions still come in below 200g/km. The Evoque hasn't been Euro NCAP tested but expect it before long. Optional blind spot monitors and five-camera 'surround view' parking system are positive dynamic safety gadgets.
The MSN Cars verdict
After all the hype, the Range Rover Evoque lives up to its promise on the road. It looks incredible but it's not all style over substance. It is not cheap, nor is it perfect, but it's very able and very desirable in more than enough ways to back up the world-class styling.
|Need to know||Diesel||Petrol|
|Engines||2,179cc four-cylinder turbo diesel||1,999cc four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power, bhp||150@4,000rpm - 190@3,500rpm||240@6,000rpm|
|Torque, lb ft||280@2,000rpm - 310@2,000rpm||251@1,900-3,500rpm|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.6 - 8.1||7.1|
|Top speed, mph||112 - 121||135|
|Mpg combined||57.6 - 43.5||32.5|
|CO2||129 - 174g/km||199g/km|
|Ratings||Range Rover Evoque|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
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