2019 Range Rover Evoque review: Prototype drive

International first drive

CarAdvice had a very brief experience with the brand new Evoque at its global reveal in London - and things have changed for the standard-setting small luxury SUV.

The word 'drive' in relation to our experience today in London with the all-new 2019 Range Rover Evoque is a tenuous one. Quick drive? Rapid drive? Almost a drive? Not quite a drive? A drive just to whet the appetite? Any would probably be more apt than 'drive' specifically.

However, CarAdvice was among the first media in the world to drive the new Evoque – and the first people in the world outside the factory – to see it in the flesh. So, there's no complaining here.

Our drive followed a deep dive into the changes, you can read about in our reveal story, and an explanation of the look to the future with the new PTA – or Premium Transverse Architecture in Range Rover-speak.

Does it look different? You bet it does. And it's largely in all the finer details. Designer Massimo Frascella (yes you'd know his name from other manufacturers like Kia) and chief of design Gerry McGovern, refer to the new Evoque as an exercise in 'reductive' design.

By that they mean reducing superfluous design elements, lines and exterior additions, while still remaining true to the original Evoque design ethos which, according to the design team, needed to be respected on what has been the fastest selling Range Rover of all time. It already has something of a following globally.

Our test drive is a very low speed, urban off-road course in the freezing confines of an abandoned underground railway line.

The course has been set up to showcase some of the new technology available on the Evoque, the camera systems specifically, and it's manned by security guards to ensure members of the public can't just wander in to take a look.

It's all very low-speed stuff too, so low that we have to manually close the new flush door handles that hide automatically above five miles per hour. Looks better for photos and video, you see. (You can see why I wrote that it was a brief test drive.)

A couple of things to note on first impression: The styling to me, while definitely still indicative of an Evoque, has a lot of Velar smoothness and minimalism about it. Yes, it's not just a smaller copy of the bigger SUV, but there are elements beyond the door handles that will, um, evoke, images of the Velar. That's no bad thing either, if you're as style sensitive as Range Rover says its buyers are.

Secondly, the new cabin is a serious step forward in terms of premium quality. It starts with the addition of simple tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto of course, but diverts through all the new technology that has been packed into the driver assistance systems, and then goes to the materials, finishes, and sense of quality wherever you look.

The seat trim, the carpets, the touch surfaces, all exude a vastly more premium feel than the model it replaces.

I reckon Range Rover has done an amazing job in making what remains a small SUV still feel small externally, despite the cabin feeling airier and roomier than it ever did before. I appreciate the compact exterior as we crawl our way around the urban off-road course, where wheel position and vehicle placement are key.

I also appreciate the increase in elbow, shoulder and headroom that the designers have managed to wedge into the cabin.

While our drive is short, there's no doubt the 2019 Evoque feels like an even more premium proposition than it ever did before - and that's saying something, because most buyers were buying the Evoque because it was a premium, luxury small SUV.

Crucially, it's also properly capable of tackling the usual array of Range Rover off-road driving madness. 600mm water fording is tested, as are the extreme lean over angles and climbing ability. It's a properly capable 4WD, despite the style-focused design brief.

Whether or not you like the styling, is absolutely a matter of personal preference, but I like the way the black cladding has been removed, and some of the more off-road focused design elements have been dulled right out.

The Evoque is, after all, the Range Rover that would be least seen bombing around in the mud or the dust. Yes, it needs to be capable of that kind of abuse, but the reality is most buyers wouldn't know much about anything other than a gravel driveway to a country estate.

You can read our breakdown of all the changes, and in the meantime, stay tuned to CarAdvice for all the details relevant to Australia. We'll bring you the model grade specification breakdown and pricing information as soon as it is available.

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