It seems even the world’s most enduring brands can still enjoy a full scale resurgence, and that’s exactly what’s been happening to the quintessentially British 4x4 maker Land Rover since it launched its first compact SUV in 2011 – the Range Rover Evoque.
It’s a fair claim that the Evoque’s instant success was entirely due to its ultra-contemporary styling that mirrored the LRX concept car’s head-turning design from the 2008 North American International Motor Show.
And so, just as it had turned the 4x4 world on its head in 1970 with the introduction of the world’s first luxury SUV, the Range Rover, Land Rover once again re-wrote the book with the Evoque by injecting high-end luxury into the compact SUV segment.
Almost half a million Evoques have already been sold and the model is still going gangbusters. In fact, of all Land Rovers currently sold, one in three is a Range Rover Evoque.
The company is also experiencing the same kind of overnight success story with its recently released all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport, which has wooed the market in a similar fashion to the Evoque, and according to JLR insiders, even has the potential to outsell its Range Rover cousin.
But now its time for the Evoque’s second coming, with a host of new enhancements both inside and out as well as a brand new 2.0-litre diesel engine to replace the ageing Ford-derived 2.2-litre oil-burner.
The new Ingenium engine is the first of a new family of high-efficiency engines that will power JLR product well into the future, and is designed and built entirely in house at Jaguar Land Rover’s brand new £550 million manufacturing facility at Wolverhampton in the UK.
It’s a welcome step in the right direction, but it’s not the only change for MY 2016.
For starters, this latest iteration of the Evoque will be the first Land Rover to offer full-LED adaptive headlamps, allowing a slimmer, fiercer headlight design and less drain on the vehicle’s electrics. The daylight running lights also have a new shape, creating a new light signature that also serves as the turn signal when it flashes amber.
The update adds a restyled front bumper too, which is more aggressive with larger air intakes and two new grille treatments, depending on which trim level buyers choose. Borrowed from the two-door Evoque are contrasting black bonnet vents which serve as heat extractors, as well as providing a more aggressive look.
Around back there’s a new taillight design and slimline LED stoplight integrated into a roof spoiler. Options include a powered gesture tailgate, allowing drivers to open the tailgate by simply waving a foot underneath the vehicle. Conveniently, the system places sensors at each side, so it can also be operated from the kerbside.
Additionally, dual roof fins added for Evoque variants specified with Wi-Fi hotspot feature an integrated 3G antenna for optimum signal strength.
Inside, the changes are similarly subtle but big ticket items include new seats – more comfortable and more supportive. 2016 models also get JLR’s latest InControl Touch infotainment system, with an eight-inch high-resolution screen with swipe functionality.
There’s also a brand new five-inch TFT display sandwiched between the main instrument dials and controlled via buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. More soft-touch material on the door trim too, for an even more luxurious look and feel than the previous Evoque.
There’s no change to Evoque’s internal space packaging, meaning there’s still plenty of room for four adults to travel in comfort, even on longer journeys. That said, the Evoque’s tapering roofline still means less headroom for taller folks than some of its rivals.
The big news though is the new Ingenium diesel engine, which Land Rover promised would bring class-leading refinement, efficiency and performance to the model, something the outgoing 2.2-litre diesel simply wasn’t capable of.
So has Land Rover delivered on its claims?
An emphatic yes is the short answer, but its even better than we expected. Finally, the Evoque has a diesel engine that befits its luxury Range Rover badge.
Available in two states of tune: 110kW/380Nm and 132kW/430Nm, the new engine is actually less powerful than the outgoing 2.2-litre engine, but performs significantly better on the road. At least that’s what we concluded after a few hundred kilometres behind the wheel of the top-spec HSE Dynamic fitted with the more powerful tune.
It’s a huge improvement in every way – chalk and cheese, if you will.
Whereas the old engine displayed noticeable lag off the line, the new Ingenium unit reaches peak torque from just 1500rpm, and you can feel its urgency right from the get-go. It’s a brilliant match for Evoque’s nine-speed auto transmission.
Beyond that is a beautifully metered power curve that gives you plenty of go without ever feeling like there’s too much boost.
It’s infinitely more refined too, even when pushed beyond 4000rpm. Motorway cruising in typically wet conditions almost always produces a serene experience in the new Evoque, with any vibrations from the powertrain all but eliminated, under any load.
The Evoque has always been a very satisfying drive, less like an SUV and more like a well-sorted hatch. Nothing has changed in that regard. It’s still an enjoyable vehicle to punt through a series of corners at a reasonable clip, with sharp steering that’s also delicately weighted.
Our Evoque tester was also fitted with the optional Adaptive Dynamics system ($1850) that includes a Dynamic driving setting, which firms up the (already improved) suspension, adds weight to the steering and sharpens throttle response. It’s useful on those deserted twisty mountain passes, but unless you want to be paddle-shifting every few seconds, leave it in Sport mode and let the gearbox do its thing.
That said, the ride in the sportier setting is irritatingly busy and too firm for the daily commute. But left in Normal mode, the Evoque is able to soak up all that the British B-roads can throw at it, with little of no thump ever transferred through the chassis and into the cabin.
Proper efficiency testing will need to wait until we get behind the wheel of the Evoque back home in Australia, where we can compare the two engine tunes. In the meantime, Land Rover claims consumption as low as 4.5L/100km and emissions of just 134g/km for both engine tunes.
It’s unlikely that many Evoque owners will ever venture too far off the beaten track, but off-road in very muddy conditions through typical English woods, the 2016 Evoque made light work of deep, slippery ruts and steep descents. And that was with a tester on 20-inch wheels and relatively low profile tyres.
Land Rover’s coveted design director, Gerry McGovern and his team have been careful not to play around with Evoque’s celebrated styling, beyond what they deemed necessary for improvement.
The introduction of the new Ingenium engine means the Evoque is now better than ever and will continue to sway buyers away from the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, which have stronger engines and more space, but simply can’t match the Evoque’s on-road appeal and presence.
The 2016 Range Rover Evoque will arrive in showrooms from this week.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the 2016 Range Rover Evoque.