Range Rovers are seen as big, expensive, luxury vehicles and the Evoque offers a new interpretation of the marque. Range Rover Sport might have been a precedent (much further up the scale) but Audi’s TT was a very clear inspiration.
As a coupe-like SUV (three- and five-door) the Evoque had to have handling to match the image. It is shorter and lighter than the Freelander and has a lower, wider stance but all the attributes of a proper SUV - short approach and departure angles, etc. It is built on the same line as the Freelander at the Liverpool Halewood plant.
For a production car it is remarkably close to the look of the LRX concept seen at motor shows previously – the three-door especially. Visual impact assured, how does it go? It might not match a TT but, for a compact SUV, it is remarkably nimble. Steering, cornering and body control are pin-sharp compared to the rest.
But this is not at the expense of ride quality which remains pretty comfortable – quite a trick because you still sit higher in a vehicle taller than an equivalent car and the usual ‘solution’ is to strap down the suspension. For an extra £1,150 trick electro-magnetic dampers automatically adapt for a better on-road focus – it seems to work.
Like the Freelander, the Evoque is basically a front wheel drive car and the 4WD is added courtesy of a Haldex transmission unit (also used by 4x4 versions of the TT). However, this adaptation is ‘permanent 4x4’ apparently and the Land Rover “Terrain Response” row of buttons ensures it’s set up for a variety of conditions ahead. The usual electronic aids are there for Hill Descent, slippery slopes, etc.
As per Freelander again, there is no high/low ratio transfer box but, overall, the off-road drive package works surprisingly well in finding and exploiting what grip there might be under the wheels at any given time.
Diesel 2.2 litre 4 cylinder units of 150 or 190 bhp coupled to 6 speed manual gearboxes are the obvious choice here – although there is also a petrol 2.0 litre 140 automatic. Evoque 2.2 TD4 150 (4x4) can reach 115mph and 62mph in 10.3 seconds with 49.6mpg as the official combined figure.
Galling though it might be for a regular Range Rover owner - having just spent £90k on his latest pride and joy - to see his precious badge on a jumped up lower medium hatch, FWD versions of the Evoque start at £27,955. The equivalent (five-door only) Freelander’s asking price is: £22,005.
Honour is salvaged, thankfully, by the 4x4 versions which do command respect: £28,705 is the starting point for 4x4 Evoques. Freelander 4x4s start at £22,755. Audi’s Q3 at £27,980; BMW X1 (4x4 – xDrive is impressive) and X3 at £25,620 and £31,140; Infiniti EX (3.0 litre Diesel) £37,130.
It’s not just style – perceived build quality and cabin interiors do evoke (sic) the Range Rover ambience. The 4x4 ability is good and on-road dynamics are a class apart. It is something “new” and the order bank, apparently, substantial.
Nonetheless, just a tentative dip into the options list will send the price of an Evoque well into the £30k plus orbit. A cool calm look at Freelander, BMW and Infiniti equivalents might provide some perspective.
By Huw Thomas
First published in Welsh Farmer, the newspaper of the National Farmers' Union of Wales.