“That’s the one that Victoria Beckham designed, isn’t it?” I was asked this question by several people during my time with the Range Rover Evoque and the answer was always a qualified ‘yes’. Yes, the pouting ex-Spice Girl was involved in the design of a limited edition model but that’s about as far as it went. No, she didn’t get her hands dirty on the oily bits. No, she didn’t spend hours finalising the chassis settings and no, she didn’t join in with the cold weather testing. However, her limited involvement was enough to add a sprinkling of celebrity glitter to this baby Range Rover.
That showbiz sparkle has pushed the Evoque firmly to one side of the gender gap. In the week I spent with this Mauritius Blue coupé I counted 48 other Evoques on the road and 43 of them were driven by women. According to my not-very-scientific poll almost 90% of Evoque drivers are ladies so it’s safe to say that this is a girl’s car, and that’s reinforced by some of the options. This is the first car I’ve seen with ‘Botanical Aluminium Veneer’ or, to my simple mind, a silver leafy pattern on the dash. It reminds me of the wallpaper pattern my wife picked for the bedroom but it works surprisingly well in the Evoque’s cabin.
Don’t worry if bright blue paint and leafy dashboards are a little too feminine for your tastes, you can always go to the other extreme. May I recommend Barolo Black and the optional Black Design pack if you want to give your off-roader an air of menace?
This is the 3-door coupé and its design cleverly disguises the Evoque’s size. Not that you’ll be fooled for long as the disguise is blown when you first see it in a car park surrounded by ‘normal’ cars. It might be the smallest Range Rover but that’s like saying that HMS Illustrious was a small aircraft carrier. Another clue is the smart (and optional) 20-inch wheels – they should look ridiculously big but they don’t, they’re almost in perfect proportion to the rest of the car. Overall it is an attractive shape, and it’s a mark of how well the Evoque has been received that you can now see its influence in the new Range Rover.
Being a big car, the Evoque also has a feeling of solidity and security. This was one of the first things Mrs A. picked up on (after the dashboard/wallpaper comparison) and that’s a big thing for her. Knowing that the family is well protected is high on her list of priorities, and the Evoque certainly delivers in this regard.
A big car means a big cabin. Climb into the driver’s seat (only the tallest of drivers will drop into the seat) and you’re treated to soft, sumptuous leather and plenty of space, a sensation enhanced by the panoramic glass roof. The rear is just as pleasant, although getting back there will make you question the wisdom of picking the 3-door Evoque. If you carry passengers they won’t appreciate the indecorous scramble to get into the rear seats. My 5-year old daughter struggled with the height of the door sill and needed lifting over the driver’s seat, followed by a bit of a stretch to help fasten her seatbelt. Much better to opt for the extra practicality of the 5-door model, which sacrifices little of the Evoque’s visual appeal.
The coupé may be compromised on practicality but it still offers a useful 550 litres of boot space.
So Much Technology
There’s so much technology fitted to the Evoque that it’s difficult to know where to start. First up is the Active Driveline, an ‘on demand’ four-wheel drive system that helps improve economy by switching to two-wheel only when conditions allow, reverting back to four-wheel drive within 300 milliseconds when the sensors think you might need it. Then there’s Active Torque Biasing system (the wheels with the most grip get the most power), an electronic differential (improves traction) and Torque Vectoring by Braking (it dabs the brakes in each corner to adjust cornering attitude).
Enhancing its off-road capabilities are features like Hill Descent Control and Wade Sensing, useful for stopping you from turning your Evoque into a boat. Next to the gear selector are buttons to cycle the four-wheel drive system through three special profiles designed to cope with Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts or Sand. The clever thing here is that, while the Evoque is a complex creature, that complexity is mostly hidden from the driver. For the most part you do the driving and the Evoque handles the rough stuff.
External visibility is enhanced by the optional camera pack, placing cameras at each corner of the front bumper, one in each door mirror and one at the rear. You can then see them all at once on the touchscreen, making parking in tight spots a breeze, blind junctions less of a problem and avoiding tricky obstacles off-road even easier.
On The Move
With a 190PS and 420Nm 2.2-litre diesel engine the Evoque is quick enough to shrug off its 1,685kg kerb weight, and the quoted 8.0 seconds to 60mph seems entirely plausible. The closely stacked ratios of the new nine-speed automatic gearbox help here. You’d think that with nine gears to choose from the gearbox would be forever changing up and down but it handles itself with aplomb, swapping cogs both quickly and with the slightest hint of a pause in power delivery. In normal driving you really can forget about the hassle of changing gears.
What the Evoque doesn’t do is tick the usual Driving Spirit boxes of light, nimble handling. You can really lean on it in corners and it will carry impressive speed but despite all the technology that’s about as far as entertainment goes. The nine-speed ‘box can feel a bit tardy on the kick-down as it works its way down two or more ratios, although the manual control offered in Sport mode means you can dictate the action if you want. It’s a bit of a blunt tool on B-roads but comes into it’s own on less twisty sections where you discover the Evoque’s true strength – comfortable cruising.
On a long journey down a soaking wet A1 it pounded through standing water like it wasn’t there, supple suspension dismissing expansion joints with disdain. The lofty driving position provides better visibility too, raising you out of the worst of the spray and allowing you to scan the road ahead. It turned what could have been a thoroughly miserable drive into one that was almost relaxing.
At 70mph the Evoque’s ninth gear equates to little more than 1,500rpm on the rev counter. Wind noise is almost imperceptible and even the roar of those enormous tyres is little more than a distant hum. Just set the adaptive cruise control, settle into those soft leather seats and relax.
The Evoque can make long trips almost as relaxing as sitting at home watching TV. OK, that might not be entirely true for the driver, but if you specify the digital TV tuner and rear media screens the passengers really can relax while watching TV or DVD. They get their own wireless headphones too, so Daddy doesn’t have to listen to endless episodes of Peppa Pig on DVD while the clever dual-angle front screen allows the front passenger to watch repeats of Coronation Street without upsetting the driver’s view of the sat-nav. It’s as if Range Rover set out to make a car that would eliminate all the causes for family squabbles.
Of course, you have to pay for these luxuries. The starting point for this Prestige coupé model is £45,655, which bags you a nicely equipped Evoque that includes 19-inch wheels, leather interior, automatic xenon and LED lights, auto wipers, air-con, DAB radio with MP3 and USB, sat-nav and parking sensors with rear camera. Careful though, the options list contains many ways to tempt you towards £50k.
Running costs are higher than you might think. The SD4 diesel should return good economy, especially with that 9-speed ZF ‘box keeping the engine speed down, but the Evoque’s aerodynamic abilities are roughly on a par with a garden shed. You’ll struggle to reach 40mpg on anything but the gentlest motorway run but that’s on a par with similarly blunt-nosed rivals and emissions figures are relatively low at 153g/km.
The Final Reckoning
The Range Rover Evoque isn’t what we’d usually go for at Driving Spirit but that doesn’t make us blind to its charms. It’s an extremely good cruiser that is almost as good as its bigger Daddy at tackling long distances with ease and delivering you feeling fresh and alert.
It also doubles up as excellent family transport. Load it up with the media pack and you have the makings of a child-friendly, squabble-free zone. Unless the kids can’t decide on which DVD or TV channel they want to watch, but it’s doubtful even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon could resolve that particular conflict, never mind the Range Rover team.
The Evoque is also quick enough for most, handles with confidence if not enthusiasm, and returns reasonable fuel economy for a car of its size. It is one of the more expensive options in its class, particularly once you’ve added the most appealing options, but that’s backed up by a feeling of quality and a bold style that still turns heads.
Don’t let the celebrity glitter fool you, the Range Rover Evoque is much more than style over substance. It’s got ample amounts of both.
Range Rover Evoque Prestige Coupe Rating
Great for long distances
Family friendly options
Proper off-road capabilities
Poor access to rear
Range Rover Evoque Prestige Coupe Specs
|Performance & Economy|
|Engine||2,179cc 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Transmission||9-speed automatic, front-engined, all-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||190 / 187|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||420 / 310|
|0 - 60 mph (seconds)||8.0|
|Top Speed (mph)||121|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1,685|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||153|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||48.7|