2012 Range Rover Evoque Review:
Like a slow-motion volcanic eruption, a new automotive era is materializing, one that overwhelms the time-honored American affectation of “bigger is better.” In a world increasingly sensitive to jammed highways and finite natural resources, smaller vehicles are poised to proliferate.
Moreover, they are arriving across the motorized spectrum, from smaller, entry-level cars and crossover utility vehicles to nearly as diminutive, but expensive, luxury and near-luxury vehicles.
In the latter category are such machines as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Mini Cooper Countryman, Lexus CT, Infiniti EX and, now, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque.
The Evoque is both a departure and an evolution for the storied Land Rover brand of Great Britain, now owned by Tata Motors of India along with the United Kingdom’s Jaguar brand.
Land Rover built its reputation on rugged go-anywhere, military styled vehicles, but morphed into a luxury nameplate that appealed to the country club set, few of whom ever ventured away from the polished pavement.
True to its heritage, however, the company maintained the off-road capabilities of all of its vehicles, and the new Evoque is no exception. Nevertheless, it is a departure, more of a sports car than a terrain thrasher, though it has the practicality of a hatchback with fold-down, non-adjustable rear seatbacks that more than double the cargo space of 20 cubic feet.
Just 14 feet 4 inches long, it is 17 inches shorter than its garage mate, the Range Rover Sport. It also is shorter than the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK and Infiniti EX, but eight inches longer than the Mini Countryman. Unlike the others, it is available with either two or four doors, enhancing its sporting credentials.
At first sight, the Evoque—especially in the two-door version—looks as if it might be hopelessly compromised as a vehicle someone might use as a daily driver. Surprisingly, however, its interior space and comfort belie its tidy profile.
There’s an abundance of space up front, and the back seat can easily accommodate six-feet-plus individuals with plenty of head and knee room—even in the two-door, which has a roofline one and one-half inches lower than the four-door.
Of course, getting into the back seat of the two-door, which Land Rover refers to as a coupe, takes some doing. The power front seats slide forward with glacial speed, and then the passenger must do the twist-and-double move to get back there. But coupe buyers supposedly don’t care about that sort of thing.
Both the coupe and sedan have three seatbelts in back, though the center-rear position is severely compromised. Also available is a four-passenger version, with the back seats divided by a couple of small trays that can barely hold anything.
To allay any feelings of claustrophobia, the Evoque comes standard with a panoramic glass roof. It does not open but admits generous amounts of light. An opaque power sunshade shuts out unwanted sunlight and scrutiny from above.
There are three Evoque trims: Pure, Dynamic and Prestige. The last is the all-out luxury version and the Pure would be the choice of someone who wanted to go off-road occasionally. The test car here was the sporty Dynamic four-door.
All three are expensive, and all three can be loaded with options that can drive the price up in the neighborhood of $60,000. The test car had a starting price of $43,995 (the coupe starts at $1,000 more). With options that included navigation, a power tailgate and 20-inch alloy wheels, it had a bottom-line sticker price of $58,670.
Power is provided by a turbocharged 240-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine that Land Rover inherited from its previous ownership by Ford, but reworked for the Evoque. It has solid low-rpm torque, with no turbo lag, that results in a zero-to-60 miles an hour acceleration time of about seven seconds, along with the grunt to manage steep grades off-road.
The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual-shift control via paddles mounted on the steering wheel. All Evoques have Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, controlled by buttons on the console, which offers four modes: General driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, and sand. Adjustable downhill descent control also is part of the package.
However, the Evoque lacks a low range for its full-time all-wheel drive, and unlike some of its siblings, does not have an air suspension system that can increase the ground clearance.
On the tested Dynamic version, an air dam under the front bumper limited the Evoque’s capability to negotiate some deep ditches off-road. The Pure version does not have that trim piece and would be a better choice for the occasional off-road foray. But the guess here is that few Evoque owners will chance messing up their vehicles in the wilderness.
Bottom line: the Evoque is a stylish, expensive and capable sports car, both on and off the pavement, that also can give its well-heeled owners a certain amount of environmentally-friendly smugness because of its 18/28 city/highway fuel economy rating and the fact that it is 85% recyclable and uses 35 pounds of recycled plastic—the equivalent of about 1,000 plastic bottles.