The smallest Range Rover makes a big impression.
It’s been widely feted as one of the great automotive designs on the road today and there’s even been a special edition created by Victoria Beckham, so you could say the Range Rover Evoque has already created quite a stir.
The styling is undeniably striking, especially in the three-door ‘Coupe’ form that made it from the 2008 Land Rover LRX concept to Range Raver Evoque production virtually, and remarkably, intact.
The Evoque features the dramatically tapering roofline and narrow glasshouse combination that was promised by the Range Rover Stormer concept but didn’t quite eventuate when it reached showrooms as the Range Rover Sport.
Land Rover Australia says it can’t get enough Evoques from the UK to satisfy demand, and it’s perhaps not surprising the most affordable Range Rover ever has already supplanted the Discovery as the company’s best-selling model.
The Range Rover Evoque starts at nearly half the price of the next model in the Range Rover line-up, the $99,900 Sport, though it still starts at a higher point than direct rivals that include the new Audi Q3 (from $44,800) and BMW X1 (from $43,900).
That’s for the the eD4 Pure five-door ‘Wagon’ version that costs from $49,995 and, as a front-driver, is the first non-four-wheel-drive Land Rover vehicle to be sold in Australia. (A 2WD Land Rover Freelander 2 is available in Europe and may come here, too.)
For those who want to venture more seriously off-road – likely to be much fewer than owners of other Range Rover models – the first all-wheel-drive Evoque on the price list is the $53,395 TD4 Pure.
All up, there are a daunting 24 variants to choose from, so we’ll try to simplify the range:
There are two body styles: ‘Coupe’ and ‘Wagon’, with the three-door carrying what is essentially a ‘fashion’ premium over the more practical five-door.
Each is available in three trim levels: entry-level Pure, mid-range Dynamic and top-tier Prestige.
Both can be ordered with 2WD or AWD, though the front-drive Evoque is powered by only one of the three engine types available, all four-cylinders.
That powertrain trio comprises a 110kW/400Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel (TD4) and a higher-output 140kW/420Nm (SD4) version, with the petrol Si4 a 177kW/340Nm 2.0-litre. But does the baby version of the vehicle that gave birth to the luxury 4WD live up to the Range Rover badge inside?
Absolutely. There’s a genuine prestige look and feel to the Range Rover Evoque interior.
There’s a high-quality feel to the dash (with stitched leather for the top section), door trim and rooflining, and the leather upholstery is beautifully supple. (We’d probably skip the spraytan-gone-wrong colour option, though.) Switches such as the heating and ventilation controls have a delightful tactility, with subtle détentes.
The design is thoroughly contemporary, too, and there’s a simple but smart symmetry to the Evoque’s console and main dash. An air of sophistication is further aided by the electronic park brake and generously sized colour touchscreen.
The Evoque also adopts the rotary gear selector dial – which rises out of the centre console on start-up – that made its JLR (Jaguar-Land Rover) debut in the Jaguar XF luxury sedan.
Form doesn’t override function, either, with a decent-sized glovebox and a useful console bin, though the door bins only allows drink bottles to be stowed flat rather than upright.
The three-door Range Rover Evoque, of course, isn’t as ideal for passengers taking the back seat. Access is a tad awkward even with the electric sliding front seats, and headroom is inevitably reduced by that sloping roof – though occupants up to 6ft will just be about comfortable, including reasonable leg room.
The boot is relatively small and the rear seatbacks don't fold down completely flat.
Our ‘Coupe’ test car included a no-cost-option three-seat bench, though the middle seat is a bit of a token effort.
The Evoque with the most sloped roof also has an effect on rear vision, which is wide but very narrow. It’s still poor in the five-door.
Manoeuvring the Evoque is via a small and sporty steering wheel that fits in with a vehicle that is fun to punt along.
Around the straight-ahead position it’s noticeable this is an electrically assisted steering rack, though its responses are encouragingly sharp and the weighting consistent.
The steering is also lighter and more user-friendly than that of the rival BMW X1 that is heavy around town.
And compact dimensions and a well-sorted chassis mean the Range Rover Evoque wouldn’t feel embarrassed dynamically in the presence of the rival BMW X1, either.
In this scenario the Si4 is the pick of the Evoques, with the four-cylinder petrol turbo motor’s enthusiasm for revs matching the spirit of the baby Rangie’s steering and underpinnings.
The standard paddleshift levers mounted behind the steering wheel play their part here, too, allowing the driver to flick between the six ratios of the automatic gearbox.
The six-speed auto is generally on the pace when it comes to picking the right gear itself though shifts are relatively slow and slurred compared to the rapidity of the dual-clutch systems becoming increasingly prevalent.
The petrol turbo is a fairly refined unit, too, and isn’t loud even at freeway speeds (you’ll notice mild wind rustle more), helped by the fact it uses just 2000rpm at 110km/h.
It’s not blessed with the greatest amount of low-rev response, however, and it’s here where the SD4 turbo diesel, despite a hint of turbo lag, can feel more driveable in the town or city thanks to its smooth, torquey nature.
The auto diesels also offer better combined fuel economy: 6.5 litres per 100km (5.7 manual, 5.0 for the 2WD eD4) versus 8.7L/100km for the petrol. Both are thirstier than the comparable Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
That still makes the Evoque, which disappointingly features engine stop-start on manual models but not autos, a vastly more fuel efficient vehicle than bigger Range Rovers.
Just don’t expect the kind of plush, loping ride you get with a Range Rover Vogue; the Evoque’s suspension is very firm. So you do feel more lumps and bumps, though not enough to prevent the baby Rangie from being a sufficiently comfortable urban vehicle.
Yet while there’s also a vast difference between the starting prices of the big and small Range Rovers, be aware that the Evoque’s teasingly tempting price tags can climb rapidly into six figures with the plethora of options available.
The Range Rover Evoque Prestige Si4 Coupe costs $75, 895 initially but spiralled to $98,414 with additions such as keyless entry ($1495), privacy glass ($670), dual-view touch screen ($1270), panoramic roof ($1035), park assist ($1090), surround camera system ($900) and a $5900 Tech Pack that brings HDD premium navigation, 10-CD/DVD storage, electric tailgate, front parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
Our Range Rover Evoque Prestige SD4 Wagon starts at $75,375 but in test vehicle form totalled $107,115.
Key standard features for the entry-level Pure include LED foglights, Terrain Response multi-surface control, electric park brake, 17-inch alloy wheels (with 18-inch temporary spare), front, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, stability control, automatic climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming and 5-inch colour information display.
You’ll need to step up to the mid-range Prestige, however, to get items such as rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, full leather upholstery, xenon headlights, full electrically adjustable front seats, rear centre armrest, reverse-gear auto-dipping side mirrors and an 8-inch hi-res touch screen display.
Regardless of the three trim levels you buy, you’ll have to pay extra for the likes of metallic paint ($1300), tyre-pressure monitor ($545), keyless entry ($1495), rear vent climate control ($190) and automatic tailgate ($1020).
And a reverse-view camera that would be useful considering the Evoque’s poor rear vision requires another $670.
With the newest Rangie in such hot demand, resale values at least can be expected to be highly positive.
Land Rover, however, continues to dwell at the lower end of the respected JD Power quality surveys despite sister brand Jaguar performing admirably at the other end.
It’s too early for the Evoque to have had an effect on such surveys, but the company will be hoping for significant improvement in this area.
It should certainly be applauded for building such a bold, concept-style vehicle as the Range Rover Evoque.
And there’s certainly substance to go with the style.