Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 190 Prestige 4WD Auto Coupe28 | 07 | 2011Scotcars rating

    Range Rover's Evoque has finally arrived, but is all the hype just bluster and no substance?

    EVERY SO OFTEN a car comes along which has been hyped so much, you begin to feel suspicious that the razzmatazz surrounding the vehicle is there simply to disguise faults and weaknesses. So you could imagine the anticipation when our plane — carrying the first 30 journalists to drive the Range Rover Evoque at its global launch — landed at RAF Valley in Anglesey.

    Was the Evoque — which doesn't enter Land Rover's Scottish showrooms until September — going to look as impressive on-the-road as it did on paper? Were the early indications that it really does drive as if it's a sports coupe be true? I was about to find out.

    First though: what is the Evoque? Offered in five-door form or, as tested here, a three-door whose looks befit its Coupé tag – the Evoque is an SUV right at the premium end of the compact 4x4 market.

    So, on the road it's a lot of fun. Well planted, secure and composed. But is it any good offroad? Let's be honest — and the Land Rover guys admit this themselves — the closest the Evoque is likely to get to green laning is driving down a leafy tree-lined avenue in Edinburgh's Morningside.

    Of course there were questions when Land Rover announced not only was it going to build a car which supposedly had the desirability of a Range Rover — and, some thought controversially, carried its name — but also an extremely stylish interior and external looks to die for. Oh? And it was going to be "more affordable".

    Let's deal with the affordability aspect right away. Yes you can buy an Evoque for £27,955, but that will only buy you a five-door 150bhp eD4 Pure 6-speed manual two-wheel-drive … phew, that's a mouthful! The 4WD equivalent will set you back another £750. So far then, so good.

    Watch our video of the Range Rover Evoque Coupe

    It's also available in 5-door or Coupe; the 3-door has a 30mm lower roofline, and costs an extra £995 across the range.

    The reality is, to get the right spec, the auto gearbox and the a few "necessary" options, you're looking at north of £40k; and in anyone's language, that's a lot of money. To be honest, with the range-topping 240bhp, 6spd auto 4WD Dynamic-spec 2.0-litre petrol model fitted with the Lux Pack costing £44,320, you could easily tip over the £50k threshold. My test car, in Prestige spec, had almost £6k of options on it; the best, without question, was the panaoramic sunroof.

    So, is it worth it? I had the best part of two days — both on- and offroad — to find out. And it didn't take long to come to my first conclusion: this is pretty much the full package.

    Stylistically, the Evoque is almost like no other car; it demands that you stop and look at it. There is, simply, nothing else like it on the road; and it is a brilliantly successful interpretation of how a contemporary 4x4 should — and does — look.

    Worth highlighting here, perhaps, that beneath the finely honed muscular exterior lies 30% of a Freelander. Not surprisingly, both cars go down the same Merseyside production line at Halewood, but it must be emphasised the Evoque's engineering is definitely its own.

    Watch our video of the Range Rover Evoque 5-door

    Chunky and robust as the Evoque looks — it's up to 100kg lighter than the Freelander — at 4355mm it’s actually shorter than a Volkswagen Golf and has a smaller footprint than a Ford Focus. Evoque also benefits from extensive use of aluminium, both in its body panels and suspension, and plastics in the body. The 187bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine — the same as in the Freelander — fitted into the Evoque Prestige 4WD test car, emits 169g/km of CO2 and has a combined economy of 44.1mpg.

    Slide yourself into the cabin and you find yourself in a world which mixes dynamism and bling. It's a classy place to be, but I wasn't the only person to feel Land Rover have slightly overstepped the mark by giving the dials a Swarovski crystal-type look to them. Even more scarily, ease the auto gearbox into the Motorway setting and the dials all turn red. Every fellow journalist I spoke to who experienced the same thing thought it was a warning sign, and that we'd done something horribly wrong!

    Anyway, those issues apart, the cabin is a spectacular success. It would have been easy for Land Rover to go over-the-top, but they haven't. The result is a blend of leather, textures and high quality plastics which sets it far ahead of the opposition.

    The front is dominated by the centre console which, unlike previous Land Rovers has been frighteningly upright, instead sweeps gracefully down towards the transmission tunnel.

    Range Rover planning Evoque Cabrio?

    Resting at the foot of it is the rotary gearlever, spawned from Jaguar but which is rapidly becoming the 'go-to' design for all automatic Jaguar Land Rover cars. It's surrounded by an intelligent cluster of neatly designed, small switchgear.

    Now I'm no giant — 5ft 7in — and generally I tend to set the seats in all my cars high to give me a 'dominant' view of the road. But strangely in the Evoque, which by design has its seats set low in the cabin against the high window waistline, I found myself hunkering down into the almost Recaro-type racing seats.

    And with the multi-adjustable steering wheel, there was no denying it was easy to get into a sporty, low-set seating position and still have excellent all-round visibility. Oh, and the rear-view mirrors either side of the car look big enough to be fitted to a 40-tonne arctic; they're huge!

    Somewhat surprisingly, there's respectable room in the rear — even in the three-door — for two adults, and the boot can swallow a healthy 550 litres of luggage. What's more, it can take a set of golf clubs “without long clubs having to be removed from the bag”. Throw the rear seats forward and the storage space increases to 1350 litres.

    One thing though which is rather unforgivable is Land Rover has done away with a spare wheel in the Evoque; on paper not the brightest decision to take with an SUV, but probably a very accurate representation of how little the Evoque will spend its life offroad. And that's a pity, because it is incredibly capable in the mud; but more of that later.

    Work starts on new £6m Edinburgh LR site

    The Evoque has a starter-button; press it and my money's on the fact you'll be surprised by how little diesel clatter there is at idle. The cabin is a quiet place to be, and the atmosphere inside the Evoque certainly pays testimony in terms of refinement to that of the bigger brother, the Range Rover.

    Land Rover’s Terrain Response system has been fitted to the car; this not only affects how the hardware and stability software reacts to different road surfaces, but also how much throttle you need to make progress. It's a delight to drive.

    Leave it in either Dynamic, or ‘no program selected’ — both of which are intended for road driving — and the system's response is crisp and smooth. It's easy to make smooth and rapid progress; the auto box shifts up and down seamlessly and intelligently. The best economy figure is achieved in its Drive programme.

    But flick the rotary gearlever into Sport, and the fun really begins. With shorter kickdown and more immediate response, the Evoque suddenly becomes a highly chuckable car when faced with sweeping, empty A-roads and deserted B-roads. The Sport setting is identified by the letter 'S' on the controls, but it could just as easily stand for 'smile'. And just for good measure, the system also comes with shift paddles on the steering wheel.

    So, on the road it's a lot of fun. Well planted, secure and composed. But is it any good offroad? Let's be honest — and the Land Rover guys admit this themselves — the closest the Evoque is likely to get to green laning is driving down a leafy tree-lined avenue in Edinburgh's Morningside.

    Read our roadtest of the Freelander 2 SD4

    And that's a pity because, though we didn't try any 'severe' offroading, the Evoque certainly shone in the Welsh hills, steep climbs and descents, plus the half-metre-deep muddy water in the bowels of the 3km-long Edge Hill Tunnel in the centre of Liverpool.

    I'll not send you to sleep you with a history lesson, but the old railway tunnel, opened in 1832 but closed in 1972, was the first to be bored under a metropolis and enabled goods to be shifted between Liverpool docks and Manchester. Land Rover, never shy of a challenge, reopened the tunnel and sent the fleet of Evoques through the darkness, the mud and the glaur (have a look at the photos in the gallery).

    Anyone who thinks the Evoque is just a pretty four-wheel-drive incapable of mixing it with the world's best offroaders should think again. It's way more capable than all of its rivals.

    So, what's the verdict on the Evoque. Honestly? Like a number of fellow hardened motoring scribes, I was blown away by the package. I'd headed to the launch, as I said at the start, suspicious the Evoque was more bluster than substance. I was wrong.

    Yes it's expensive — I'd love to drive an entry-level £28k 150bhp 2WD model when it comes out next year, just to see what you get for your money — but, for me it is a brilliantly packaged piece of kit. It also looks incredible and has stunning showroom visual appeal.

    Of course there will be those who knock it as being simply a piece of over-stylised, over-priced automotive engineering. That's their view and they're entitled to it.

    But believe me, the reality is if you have the money and want to not only make a statement, but drive a car which will turn heads, meet all your needs — oh, and comfortably cope with whatever next winter throws at us — then the Evoque's for you.

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on twitter.com/scotcars

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £38,990 / £45,330
    Engine / Power: 2198cc / 187bhp
    How fast?: 0-60mph 8.0secs, Max 121mph
    How big/heavy?: H1605mm, W1965mm, L4355mm / 1670kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 44.1mpg / CO2 169g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: BMW X3, Audi Q3 (2012), Land Rover Freelander

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