The 2019 Range Rover Evoque is, without any hint of overstatement, a genuinely vital car for the iconic English marque. The original Evoque was, of course, the fastest-selling Range Rover in history. Whatever the shortcomings or criticisms from the so-called experts over the time the old model was on sale, the Evoque made an immediate and significant impact on the brand’s sales globally.
Redesigning it then – refreshing it, evolving it and bringing it back to the forefront in 2019 – will be no easy feat.
At the launch in Greece, we test both diesel and petrol engines, and despite the stark reality that I’m yet to see one off-road anywhere in Australia, we test the new Evoque thoroughly on-road and off.Its performance off-road continues to blow the rest of the segment out of the water – more on that later.
As James has covered in our pricing and spec story, the new Evoque range will be kicking off at $62,670 plus on-road costs for the entry-level Evoque S D150 and topping out at $96,090 for the flagship Evoque HSE R-Dynamic, the price of entry into the smallest Range Rover is up by over $4000 compared to the previous-generation's 'Pure' grade, though there's more standard equipment across the range.
You could see from our initial reveal story a few months ago that the design of the Evoque has been modernised quite significantly, but don’t make one of two mistakes that I overheard in discussion quite a few times at the launch. Firstly, don’t assume it’s just a scaled-down Velar. Sure, there are elements like the retracting door handles that are common to both, but park an Evoque next to a Velar and there is a lot to differentiate them. Secondly, don’t simply assume this new Evoque is ‘the same’ as the original. It isn’t. A lot has changed, and the design is the most visible starting point.
Styling is an interesting automotive subject – perhaps the most interesting. It can’t be measured in numbers like power, torque and fuel economy. You can’t feel it like acceleration, braking or cornering performance. And it doesn’t add to the driving experience like ride comfort or interior ambience. It is, though, probably the most important factor an Evoque buyer is weighing up. Australians certainly buy cars on style, we know that – we are an enthusiast market.
Style, or the perception of it, is as individual as the person evaluating it. Now, while I’m not even remotely the target audience for the new Evoque, when I look at it from any angle, my feeling is that it looks precisely the way the intended buyer will want it to look. This new objective of chasing what design boss Gerry McGovern calls ‘reductive design’ means the Evoque looks clean, uncluttered, sharp, and perhaps most importantly, premium.
You’ll make up your own mind obviously, but there’s tangible benefit in the commitment the design team has had to stripping it down, paring it back, sharpening the exterior and removing extraneous lines, curves, scallops and plastic trim. If less is indeed more, the Evoque is on to a winner in a styling sense, despite the styling being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
That theme moves through to the cabin, where the Evoque almost certainly paves the way for the larger, more expensive Range Rover models to follow. Every touch surface feels expensive, and the screens are beautifully executed, clear and concise. The touchscreens are fast to react too, with none of the annoying lag we’ve experienced with some systems.
The interface between the driver and the controls – whether that be the air-conditioning or the off-road modes – feels as premium as the leather trim. On that note, McGovern is aware that younger potential buyers want a vehicle to reflect their own environmental values, and as such there is theoption of recyclable, sustainable materials should buyers wish to avoid animal products like leather.
Making that sustainable material feel premium is a challenge, but in the case of the optional eucalyptus-based textile seat trim, Range Rover has done an impressive job. The leather trim is, of course, sumptuous and classy, as you’d expect from the British manufacturer, and there’s also synthetic suede, wool and quality plastics.
Cabin highlights include the central 10.0-inch screen that accommodates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the second 10.0-inch screen below it that controls the vehicle’s functionality and the ‘ClearSight’ rear-view mirror that, at the touch of a button, transforms the conventional rear-view mirror into a high-definition monitor that shows the view behind you in crystal-clear imagery.
What these high-tech inclusions do is indicate that the Evoque is setting itself as a standard bearer for the rest of the brand. It's debuting new technology that works in an affordable package, and wouldn’t be as accessible to as many buyers if it were in a Range Rover priced north of $200,000.
There’s more room in the cabin than before – one of the few bugbears we’d hear from owners of the outgoing Evoque. A wheelbase increase of 20mm and clever interior packaging have liberated crucial occupant space in the second row. You can now also fit your shoes under the front seats thanks to the revised positioning of the base to the floor.
Luggage space has grown by nearly 10 per cent: 591L on offer with the second row in use. Fold those seats down and you get 1383L of useful storage. There’s more storage throughout the cabin too, in the door pockets, the console bin and the dashboard. The harsh reality of modern motoring is that buyers demand storage and manufacturers have to offer it to keep up with changing trends.
First up, we sampled the R-Dynamic S P250, which offers up 183kW and 365Nm from its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. Not as punchy as we find the diesel to be the next day, the petrol engine still sings to redline cleanly without any drop-off in power delivery. It will scoot from 0–100km/h in 7.0 seconds and the combined fuel use on the Euro scale is 7.9L/100km.
The next day we move into the 177kW and 500Nm S D240 variant with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, which both feels and sounds punchier than the petrol. 0–100km/h is dispatched in 7.7 seconds, however, while the fuel use is a claimed 6.2L/100km. The slower sprint time indicates that the extra punch we seem to feel through the seat of the pants is quite possibly the strength of the diesel engine’s mid-range, once you’re rolling past 100km/h.
The diesel engine gets a particulate filter and is assisted by the mild hybrid system, which according to the engineers adds that little bit of electric assistance to help fill the small torque hole you’d traditionally have with a diesel engine while you wait for the turbo to spool up. While it almost certainly helps matters, I’d like to see Range Rover use more of the available boost, more of the time. I assume that will come, though, as the system is refined.
While both engines have their strong points, if I had to choose one, it would be the diesel. The petrol is impressive in both operation and efficiency, and despite the fact that SUV buyers are starting to look back to petrol, I reckon in this platform the diesel (with mild hybrid assistance) is the pick. Despite that, the petrol engine is beautifully smooth around town.
Much of that smoothness is aided by the exceptional nine-speed automatic, which doesn’t seem to constantly hunt through the ratios as some have the tendency to do. Shifts, especially at normal traffic speeds, are so smooth you barely notice them happening at all – another hallmark of a premium driving experience.
While the outgoing Evoque did indeed ride well, this new one feels more comfortable, more insulated, and quieter from behind the wheel. In fact, the sensation of quiet inside the cabin is a real standout for me. It’s a definite addition to the premium nature of the cabin whether you’re a driver or passenger, and a crucial element in making a vehicle feel exclusive. Rolling along the highway at 130km/h, there’s hardly even any wind noise that enters the cabin.
We tested both standard non-adaptive and optional adaptive dampers at the launch, and both platforms rode (and handled) capably. There were some properly twisty mountain roads on the launch drive outside Athens and the steering felt sharp, there was no nasty tendency to understeer when pushed harder, and the all-round balance was impressive.
We’ll need to test the Evoque back-to-back with its segment competition, but it feels like it’s going to be right up at the head of the segment in a handling sense. If you intend to be one of the very few to drive your Evoque like it’s a sports car, you’ll be ticking the adaptive dampers box, though.
Range Rover engineers claim the ride is softer than the old model, despite an increase in torsional rigidity through the chassis. Toggling between drive modes does more to alter the mapping of the power delivery and gearshift points than it does transform the ride, but the Evoque does a solid job of rewarding the driver when you put the hammer down. Needless to say, sporty handling is hardly more relevant for the target buyer than off-road ability, but it’s a point worth making nonetheless.
On that note, the Evoque once again overachieves off-road. In impressive fashion too. This despite the fact that most buyers are never likely to use it off-road – it’s a reality for any vehicle with a Land Rover badge. It must be capable off-road, full-stop.
The various drive modes (Terrain Response 2) and under-the-skin electronics work properly and keep things safe off-road for novice drivers, while features like hill descent control are more enhanced than they’ve ever been. Gone is that sense the brakes were being overworked on a long descent, for example, and the Evoque is able to maintain a crawl even on slippery gradients.
ClearSight Ground View is a clever addition off-road, which will assist in showing the way ahead thanks to new camera positioning and imagery. It uses a combination of cameras inside the grille and underneath the external rear-view mirrors to provide the image. And with the front wheels artificially ghosted into the display inside the cabin, it helps the less experienced off-road driver to place the tyres exactly where you want them.
In summary, I think the new Evoque’s most impressive attribute is its ability to do exactly what the intended buyer will want. It stands out on the road thanks to its revised, modernised styling. It feels premium and exclusive inside the cabin. It has cutting-edge tech that works. And it's a luxurious SUV to drive.
It’s hard to find a reason why it won’t carry on the sales success of the original – a hard-to-believe eight years after its initial launch. McGovern told us that someone internally estimated sales of around 30,000 per annum when the Evoque was first launched. Sales exceeded 100,000 units from the get-go, and peaked at approximately 125,000.
The 48V mild hybrid system brings the Evoque up to date with the competition in a technical sense, and the plug-in hybrid will be eagerly anticipated for 2020.