After sixty-four years in the four-wheel-drive business, Land Rover has at last relented to market pressure and released its first ever two-wheel-drive vehicle: the Range Rover Evoque eD4 Pure (coupe and five-door versions).
The arrival of a front-wheel-drive Range Rover represents a significant milestone of sorts, when you consider that only a few years ago Land Rover bosses were saying that any vehicle wearing either a Land Rover or Range Rover badge would set the segment benchmark when it came to off-road capability.
Armed with cutting-edge styling that can turn as many heads as a Ferrari 458 Italia, it’s no surprise the Evoque is selling like the proverbial hot cakes.
In Australia, things are just as rosy for the brand with Evoque notching up a sales victory in July 2012 when it took market leadership in the medium SUV segment above $60,000 over quality rivals such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60.
It’s not like Evoque has cannibalised sales from other Land Rover models, either. Around 90 per cent of Evoque sales are to customers who have never previously owned a Land Rover product.
But with the average Range Rover Evoque customer spending about $65,000, could the arrival of the eD4 Pure for under $50,000 mean that more buyers will swing towards the cheaper option?
Not likely. Our front-wheel0drive eD4 Pure has been largely stripped of many of the more luxurious features available as standard kit on the higher-specification Dynamic and Prestige models.
However, the cupboard isn’t completely bare. It does come equipped with the likes of an electric parking brake, hill start assist, push button start, 17-inch alloy wheels, partial leather seats, Oxford leather (multifunctional) steering wheel and gear shifter, electrically operated and heated exterior mirrors with directional indicators, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control, eight-speaker audio system and Bluetooth phone and music streaming.
But there are a few glaring omissions inside the entry-level Range Rover Evoque. Namely, the 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen and the superb Oxford leather seats that are standard kit in the mid-spec Prestige model.
Without the contrasting leather that’s a familiar feature in the premium and dynamic Evoque models, it’s all a little too black and monochromatic inside this Evoque. Stylists have tried hard to break it up with plenty of brushed-alloy accents, but this interior doesn’t quite measure up to typical Range Rover standards.
Outside, the eD4 Pure also misses out on the distinctive xenon headlamps with signature LED lighting, but from a design perspective the entry-level Evoque looks near identical to the top-of-the-range Si4 Prestige that sells for $77,395 before on-road costs are added.
The eD4 Pure is also a manual-only model, regardless of whether you choose the five-door or ‘coupe’ three-door body.
Under the bonnet of the eD4 Evoque Pure, you’ll find the least powerful engine in the Evoque range. It’s an economical 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel developing 110kW and 380Nm, enough for a top speed of 180km/h and a far-from-quick 0-100km/h time of 11.2 seconds (claimed).
While that might sound tardy to some, progress from behind the wheel feels more immediate than the numbers suggest in the eD4 Range Rover Evoque.
With peak torque reached from 1750rpm there’s also plenty of pull for accelerating up steep inclines or passing slower traffic on the freeways – even in sixth gear.
The short-shift six-speed transmission is well matched to the powertrain, providing plenty of low-down torque for ample acceleration and in-gear pace.
The shift action itself is a little notchy, but it’s still easy to manage and not something you’d ever strike as a negative with the vehicle.
Stop/start technology is a feature of the manual transmission in the Evoque and while it serves to reduce fuel consumption to a claimed 5.0L/100km and lower CO2 emissions by a further eight per cent to 133g/km for the five-door version, it’s more intrusive and not as quick to restart as other systems we have tested.
Like the various Evoque models we’ve already reviewed at CarAdvice, the eD4 Pure is very well sorted in the ride and handling department.
The Evoque’s long-travel suspension travel, large-diameter gas dampers and stiff subframes ensure a supple and absorbent ride over almost any road surface.
There are obvious constraints with a front-wheel-drive system that does without Land Rover’s proven all-terrain technologies, but there’s still plenty of grip and on-road poise with this Evoque.
Through S-bends it still feels agile even if the electric power steering can feel unnaturally weighted at times.
It may be the budget-priced Range Rover Evoque, but the eD4 Pure comes with a full suite of safety kit including dynamic stability control with traction control, anti-locking brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, roll stability assist and trailer stability assist.
There’s also a comprehensive system of airbags including driver and front passenger, knee, side curtain and thorax airbags.
If you’re not intending to cross the Tanami Desert but are awestruck by Evoque’s unique styling, then the front-wheel-drive Range Rover Evoque eD4 Pure makes good sense if you’re on a budget.