If you’re onto something good, why change it?
Another saying often touted with the same sentiment is, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. It’s fair logic that seems to stack up when put through numerous stress tests. Yet car brands often deviate from this. They like to revolutionise, change, reshape, and do big, bold and new things with their products.
Porsche is a great example of evolution rather than revolution. Sticking to the same formula, just changing, adapting, and when needed evolving elements with the times. Be it water to air-cooled, hydraulic power steering to electric power steering, et cetera.
With such a trend-setting design to work with, in terms of the mark-one Evoque, applying the 911 treatment seems to be a smart move. Has it paid off for the English brand, however?
On test today we have the 2020 Range Rover Evoque P250 R-Dynamic S.
I’m sure this means absolutely nothing to you, even if you’re considering an Evoque. The range is highly confusing and quite difficult to understand, unless you’ve spent hours studying it. So, let me care to explain.
There are three petrol engines on offer, and this example features the middle-rung P250 petrol engine. Once you’ve decided what power plant to opt for, next is the model. There is a choice of regular Evoque or sporty Evoque R-Dynamic. This is the latter.
Then there’s the variant. With the middle of the range P250 engine choice, you can pick between S and SE levels. Top-line HSE is reserved only for the larger, P300 engine, so is unavailable at this point. This car is the entry-level S variant.
That makes it a middle of the range example. The complicated Evoque offering could benefit from some form of rationalisation or simplification in order to make navigating the range easier for brand newbies.
Either way, the base list price for this car is $69,820 before on-roads. As tested, however, with some decent options thrown at it, it’ll set you back $88,435 before on-roads.
The first thing you get for your money is an abundance of style. The new Evoque remains a very pretty object. Land Rover's head of design, Gerry McGovern, states that a reductive design treatment was applied to the new Evoque. This means the paring back, simplifying, and reduction of fuss in terms of what’s going on with lines, shapes, and design elements.
You can see the old car in more ways than one, but this version is even more elegant. Areas such as the design lines along the side of the car now appear smoother and less clunky than before. Everything has been reduced in order to become purer. I am a fan of McGovern; he is one of the contemporary masterminds when it comes to creating visual appeal without drama. Pure and classy design that most, if not all, will universally recognise as premium and high-end.
The dimensions are very similar between old and new, but improvements in packaging mean space inside has grown. The Evoque has always been more of a compact premium SUV, and remains to be so. Size-wise, it sits between that of an Audi Q2 and a BMW X3, though falls into the same medium-SUV sales class as the latter.
The front row is roomy, and now back to being as upmarket as it once was when the first car launched. Once you’ve jumped in, you’ll be welcomed by some of the most comfy seats found in any SUV. They’re simply divine, with firmed-up bolsters that are contrasted by an elastically springy backrest and squab. They literally soak you up. It’s like sitting on a slightly taut sponge, if you can draw any sense from that.
Long-winded descriptions aside, I found them extremely comfortable and supportive during a decent two-hour stint behind the wheel.
Visibility is also good. I did not find myself ever struggling to park or navigate congested inner-city areas. Its small footprint helps, but so does the elevated seating position and plentiful glass to peer out from.
Occupants at the front will also become privy to the multitude of storage, be it behind the floating centre console, in the doors, under the armrest, or underneath the removable top tray just aside the gear lever.
Vehicle systems are managed, in the case of this test car, by JLR’s Touch Pro Duo twin 10.0-inch infotainment system. This is a $600 option that makes zero sense living on the list of items that are not standard.
For that price, I am not sure why JLR persists with keeping it there. It adds so much perceived quality to the cabin, and there’s little to no reason not to opt for it. Regardless of how it comes to be, it’s a great system. It’s tactile yet high-tech, with an interface that’s quick to learn.
From the lower screen, you can manage climate control, seat functionality and vehicle terrain/dynamics systems. You can also force Apple CarPlay to appear on the other 10.0-inch screen, too, which is a nice shortcut.
Overall, the interior presentation is first-rate. The standard leather trim is excellent, and there’s beautiful detailing, which is expected with the price. I quite like the diamond-perforated material that’s used on the dashboard and door trim areas. It’s ornate, but not super fussy. Consider it in keeping with the exterior design ethos.
Out in the second row, passengers will be treated to more space than ever before. This is an area where the new Evoque really shines. The old car was a little squashy out back, whereas this new car is supreme in its offering of space.
I found there to be comparable knee room to others in the class, namely the much larger BMW X3, despite the Evoque being almost 35cm shorter end to end than the German.
The seats are also quite comfortable, with a high hip point that makes ingress and egress a simple task for the body. Disappointingly, there are no USB power ports in the back of the centre console, just a 12-volt outlet and some air vents.
Our test car was equipped with the optional parking pack, which includes the clear-exit monitor. This system employs warning lights on each of the doors that flash to alert the occupant if they’re opening their door into oncoming traffic. Clever.
I also took the opportunity to install a larger, convertible baby seat in both forward-facing and rearward-facing positions. You’ll find both set-ups easy to use, making the Evoque a great option for a premium baby hauler.
Given the space dedicated to the second row, the boot remains a sore point. Its VDA measured at 420L is a little under the likes of the BMW X3 at 550L and the Lexus NX at 500L.
But given the petite proportions of the Range Rover Evoque, it does well to cram in as much space as it does. The overall sizing of the cargo area is wider than it is deep, which makes it easy to access its farthest points.
Once you’ve thrown in a few passengers and filled the boot up, it would naturally be time to hit the road.
The petrol P250 driveline in this tester produces 183kW and 365Nm of torque from just 1300–4500rpm. Power is managed by a ZF nine-speed automatic. I found this driveline to be a little thirsty in our Discovery Sport long-termer, which feels overly enthusiastic in its nature.
However, the driveline's calibration in the Evoque is better. The engine doesn’t feel the need to rev as hard in the little Range Rover, and the transmission has been taught to click gears at lower RPM, resulting in a smoother time behind the wheel.
It also uses less fuel in the Evoque, too. On test, the onboard computer returned 10.2 litres per 100km travelled, against an official claim of 8.1L/100km.
It’s a gutsy engine that’s very well balanced for a four-cylinder. It’ll happily sit in ninth gear at 1200rpm travelling just over 70km/h. You’ll only notice an ever so slight vibration at these speeds and RPM.
Engine technology has come a long way thanks to ever-stricter European emissions regulations. There’s enough power to take the odd gap, merge and easily overtake in traffic. The P250 driveline represents a good balance of power and price in the wider petrol-engined Evoque line-up.
The suspension set-up is equally as good, with ride and handling that’s up there with the segment's best. It’s comfortable, quiet, and was never fazed by Sydney’s lacklustre road surfaces.
It manages great ride comfort despite rolling on 20-inch wheels. Other brands should look to see what the secret is here, as there are plenty of competitors that feel busy and frustrated on the same roads.
If you decide to push it through some faster-paced winding roads, you’ll remain comfortable during the ordeal. The vehicle loads up nicely, and lets you know when it’s beginning to break away. I felt quite confident in flowing it through back roads while carrying some decent speed.
A good country tourer, then, in that case. Once again, the JLR engineering team has done a stellar job with the way the suspension works, especially on local terrain.
However, the steering remains a little odd. Once turned past 90 degrees, it goes a little loose and drops most of its resistance. This means the user can very easily input too much steering or react quite suddenly to the unforeseen change in feeling.
It makes the steering feel really artificial, which lets down the overall great ride and handling package. You learn to drive with it, and become accustomed to it, but I continued to find it a little irritating at times.
Another sore point is that the gamut of driver-assist technologies on offer in our test car do not come as standard. They are not standout features, might I add, just regular modern safety fare you would find for free in many cars that cost a whole lot less.
Simple pieces of equipment like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and full-speed autonomous emergency braking make up part of a $1340 driver assist pack. An equally simple head-up display will set you back $1300, which is strangely $100 more than the Meridian premium audio system. Usually, high-end audio costs a bit, especially compared to what is essentially a small LCD screen in the dashboard.
It strikes me as gouging and unnecessary. I can imagine that at this pricepoint, a few grand here or there built into the list price, in conjunction with making these features standard, wouldn’t cause mass hysteria to Range Rover’s clientele.
Does the myriad of options bring down the cabin’s beautiful intrinsics and quality finish? I’d say no, it doesn’t. Does the mediocre steering overwhelm the excellent ride and handling? I’d argue that isn’t the case here.
The Evoque still has a few flaws, but continues to represent a beautiful, premium SUV package. Some will pursue one on styling alone, but fall in love when they realise how compact yet spacious it remains.
Once you get past the visual appeal, there’s a solid backing of good on-road manners and a great driveline. The P250 engine performs well and is worth a drive if you’re considering a petrol model.
Be careful not to get carried away with the options, as costs can quickly escalate if you’re a little carefree.
If you do your homework and pick wisely, you’ll likely tailor yourself a stylish, seductive package that doesn’t cost the world, yet remains well suited to your needs and desires.