Facelifting a model range born of arresting design in excess is, you might imagine, fairly risky business. So it's unsurprising that the mid-life makeover that is the 2016 Range Rover Evoque exercises deft restraint in stylistic enhancement, gift-wrapping expanded features in a now more concise and easily digestible range, all with the aim of maintaining the lustre on the funkiest-if-no-longer-freshest compact SUV on the market.
For key sweeping changes to the Evoque, check out Anthony’s rundown from the international launch in October.
The facelift has just landed in Oz, and of the MY16 range’s 14 variants – slimmed down from slightly dizzying choice of an outgoing 46 – to be sold through local dealerships it’s the turbo diesel versions fitted with Jaguar Land Rover’s recently introduced all-alloy 2.0-litre Ingenium engine that are most comprehensively updated for 2016.
In its most frugal 110kW form when fitted to entry eD4 Pure front-drive variant, the Ingenium is claimed to return just 4.4 litres of diesel consumption per 100 kilometres combined, earning the mantle of Most-Efficient Land Rover Ever and, as a point of difference, a blue-coloured 'Evoque' badge of honour to wear on its body work.
Our test car here, however, represents neither the cheapest and most frugal (that’s the $51,995 eD4 Pure manual 2WD) nor the priciest and most performance-infused (that’s the $80,605 Si4 HSE Dynamic 4WD) of the local line-up. Instead, we’ve opted for the mid-range Td4 180 SE, boasting the Ingenium engine its most potent ‘high-power’ 134kW and 430Nm tune, shoehorned into the second-rung-up SE spec – a package that should ideally exemplify the broader improvement in the Evoque breed quite comprehensively.
The five-door-only Td4 180 SE’s $66,495 list price is big money for a small SUV, regardless of how prestigious the aspirations or how bold the styling, but the standard equipment list does go some way to justifying the rich ask. Torque-vectoring-by-braking chassis control, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, newly introduced InControl Touch infotainment and satellite navigation with a high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen, auto headlights and wipers, and seven-airbag surety all feature on the entry Pure trim version.
The SE, then, adds a paddleshift nine-speed conventional automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels (up to 20 inches can be cost-optioned), some (limited) active all-wheel-drive smarts, eight-way front electric seats, leather trim throughout, power folding/heated wing mirrors, interior mood lighting and foot gesture-control automated tailgate functionality among its key features.
What’s not included in SE trim is glaring once you consider that the cost options fitted lift pricing as tested to a whopping $79,925. That’s, alarmingly, a few grand beyond that of the list-topping Td4 180 HSE Dynamic version ($76,995 plus on roads).
Even before we hit the start button, the murky value equation sinks under the weight of those cost options. Our SE adds a $3250 Driver Assistance Package (multi-park assist, blind spot monitoring, et al), an $1800 panoramic glass roof, $1870 12-way memory front seats, $1770 auto-levelling xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, a $1390 surround camera system, $1200 380-watt Meridian sound system, $1150 HDD Premium Navigation, $540 load space stowage rails/retention kit, $450 All-Terrain Progress Control…
These just scratch the surface of added extras available, which includes a choice of 13 body and three contrasting roof colours, and no fewer than 12 different wheel styles in various sizes.
Few buyers will likely tick boxes so enthusiastically – to be fair, our test car merely serves to sample a variety of extras available. Point is, if $80K is burning large in your pocket, the flagship HSE Dynamic alternative not only loads many of our test car’s options as standard, it adds 19s, top-tier seating with Oxford leather opulence and exclusive sporty styling cues (such as bonnet vents) outside and in.
Climb in and the front seating in our SE struggles a little to live up to the price point. There’s a huge amount of (optional 12-way) adjustment to position them to taste, but the quality of the grained leather, and its cut and fit, won’t lose Audi any sleep. And while the seats' design looks purposeful enough, they’re quite flat-backed and the modest lateral support may have some owners slipping around during cornering.
Its maker says that the seat and door casings together with the instrument binnacle and soft-touch surfaces are new, though a casual glance might suggest otherwise, such are the subtleties at play. The dash top, fascia and elaborate door panel design present well and are trimmed in a padded, textured material with a sort of spongy appearance. The combination of grey plastics and brushed aluminium trim inserts lend to a general presentation neither pedestrian nor overly premium.
The new (optional) InControl Touch Plus ‘Level 2’ infotainment system’s high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen looks fantastic, with a crisp (ditto) HDD sat-nav display and a very clear (again, optional) surround-view camera view. The interface, however, is rudimentary: there’s no rotary controller - as is the norm in many premium rival systems - and there’s no pinch or swipe functionality. It requires some distracting sub-menu digging to access some of its functions, though what it does have, such as customisable camera views, is quality. The Bluetooth pairs quickly and there’s plenty of user adjustability throughout, including handy customisable shortcuts to the home screen. One glaring omission, though, is the lack of digital radio given the infotainment options fitted.
The other key update, the new driver’s instrument screen, is a little fiddly to use on the move, and the tiny digital speedo could be larger and easier to read, though the display itself offers consummate clarity.
The rest of the interior, from the signature JLR rotary transmission controller to the unchanged 575 litres of boot space, is all-so-familiar territory to existing Evoque owners. As a small family-swallowing package, functionality remains a little at the mercy of the all-round design that, admittedly, lures so many buyers in.
That said, by small SUV standards, the Evoque’s rear accommodation isn’t terribly compromised by the overall Evoque design brief, offering decent shoulder-room and adequate kneeroom and headroom for average-sized adults in the outboard positions, though squeezing three footy players into the second row is a little ambitious. A trio of child seat tethers, dual Isofix mounting points, rear air vents and 60:40 split-fold seatback functionality – albeit without providing a flat load space – covers essential small-family bases, if you ignore the lack of USB or 12V power facilities.
There is, however, a 12V outlet in the luggage area, while the cargo area’s high floor hides a full-size spare wheel. The gesture-powered tailgate kept Matt, Tegan and I amused a fair while with ridiculous kicking actions around the rear bar attempting to find the ‘sweet spot’ to activate the function.
Ditching the old 2.2-litre in lieu of JLR’s much trumpeted 2.0-litre Ingenium does move the powertrain game forward for Evoque, if in diesel terms and at least against the stopwatch. At a claimed 9.0 seconds for the 0-100km/h, the ‘180’, at a portly 1674kg kerb weight, isn’t quick by conventional measure, though this 132kW/430Nm unit is a whole second quicker to triple figures than the lower-spec ‘150’ with its 110kW/380Nm, despite both engines having identical 5.1L/100km combined-cycle fuel claims (which would prove a couple of litres optimistic against our independent testing).
If pace is your want, the closet petrol-powered cousin is the 177kW/340Nm Si4 SE that wants for a modest $1110 premium ($67,605 list) yet wipes 2.4 seconds – daylight – from the sprint to 100km/h while upping top speed from 200km/h to 217 if, as you might expect, presenting a running cost penalty at the filling station (7.8L/100km claimed).
In enriching the Evoque breed, the Ingenium is a mixed bag. Where it achieves claimed improvements best in noise, refinement and response is most certinaly on the move and during highway or country driving, where low-rpm torque plays the major role and the auto isn’t tasked heavily with shuffling through all nine forward ratios. With leisurely, on-the-move progress, it rewards in everything from quiet operation and sheer energy.
While there is some diesel clatter, it most noticeable from outside the car rather than in, and under load the engine noise is noticeable, if far from being coarse. Worth a shout out, too, is its decent towing capabilities: 750kg unbraked and a full 2000kg braked, and trailer stability assist is fitted as standard across the range. It’ll also load 75kg on its roof rails.
Around town and in traffic, the new diesel – indeed, the powertrain in general – doesn't shine quite as brightly as we'd hoped. Off the mark, the engine can be caught snoozing. Once awake, it produces a large chunk of its tractive effort within the initial few centimetres of throttle application. This all-or-nothing engine calibration imparts a seat-of-the-pants impression that the engine has more potency than it actually does – as you discover as revs rise – but, equally frustratingly, it demands concentrated driver input to prevent lunging forward in low-speed or stop-start traffic. It’s as if it’s stuck in Sport Plus drive mode, permanently.
The nine-speed can be slightly abrupt in changes and more recalcitrant self-shifting than it should be. So the diesel Evoque’s lightswitch character off the mark resurfaces during mundane urban cornering. Even under a constant throttle, the Td4 180 SE lags and lunges all too often. And in very much the same manner we found the Ingenium-powered Jaguar XE that occupied the CarAdvice garage recently.
It’s certainly a different impression than we had at the international launch, though that high-spec test car was fitted with an optional Adaptive Dynamics package ($1850) only available on high-end HSE/HSE Dynamic variants, which adds adaptive suspension tuning and - you guessed it - a Dynamic drive mode.
While a great many buyers will option up to 19- or 20-inch wheels, our test car is sat on chunky 60-series Michelins on standard issue 18-inch rims and, thus, ride quality is surely as promising as it's likely to get for this mid-spec SE. With no suspension update, the MY16 face-lift unsurprisingly maintains the firm if unflustered ride comfort character, where damping isn’t quite compliant enough to smooth out smaller road imperfections and there’s a slightly terse thump over squared-off speed humps.
The ride and handling balance is reasonably well struck in that there’s a whiff of sportiness about the chassis though without an overly generous sense of connection and communication between the driver the road below. The same can said for the light, untasking electrically assisted steering.
Despite restricted view through the narrow tailgate glass – more than amply compensated for with the superb reverse-view camera – all-round vision is decent, it's easy to judge its compact 4730mm-long stature and it’s amply friendly plugging the Big Smoke’s ever-shrinking supermarket parking spaces.
The Evoque continues to excel in blending compact urban friendliness, upmarket panache and smartly packaged utility. But while the diesel version - a differently specified version at that - acquitted itself admirably during the international launch, the local car simply hasn't impressed as confidently during our week-long experience in (mostly) urban Australian conditions.
Unfortunately, its much-heralded headlining act, the Ingenium engine, isn’t quite the highlight we’d hoped for. Or, to be more accurate, it seems like a great engine let down by powertrain calibration not quite as well-sorted, or well-suited to stop-start local urban driving, as it could or should be. Perhaps the turbo petrol engine is the unit that lights the fire under the facelift...
Further, given the full clarity of the Australian spec - a stripped-back range encumbered with a now convoluted list of sometimes pricey options both singular and packaged - there are areas where cost-options fitted leave the otherwise standard mid-spec SE wanting for core value. And in addenda as broad ranging as a lack of DAB+ fitment and quality of leather trim.
On another day, with a different engine, trim level and set of options, the updated Evoque might make a more compelling and enticing proposition.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Range Rover Evoque images by Sam Venn.