We’ve had the Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 Dynamic Coupe in for a week to review and road test. Is it just style over substance?
If there’s one car that’s really hogged the headlines for the last year it’s the Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover’s new style icon and the ‘must have’ for every yummy-mummy from Guildford to Alderley Edge.
But we’re keen to find out if the first Range Rover of the new era at Land Rover is more than just a style statement and is actually a proper Land Rover. Does it have the high-riding authority of a full-sized Range Rover and can it actually cut the mustard on the rough stuff?
What we have in to play with is probably the top of the tree in the Evoque stakes – the Dynamic Coupe with the 2.2 litre SD4 engine and auto ‘box.
That means we get the real style statement with an almost comical sloping of the roof line down to a letter-box sized back window, a wheel and tyre combination that is so relatively big it looks like a motor show concept and the Dynamic trim that adds plenty of OTT ‘Sporty’ cosmetics.
That it works – and not only doesn’t look silly but actually looks hugely impressive – is astonishing.
Range Rover Evoque – inside and out
The whole raison d’etre of the Evoque is to look stylish, and Land Rover has accomplished that with real panache. The expectation was that the original LRX Concept would be watered down in to a slightly slicker Freelander, but Land Rover has been brave and delivered a really stunning design that is very close to the original show car.
That means proper Tonka Toy looks with an exaggerated coupe roofline, butch front end, oversized wheels and lots of glitzy trim bits. But it works. The Evoque looks like a proper Land Rover – albeit a smaller, sportier take on the marque – yet more like a coupe on big wheels than a real crossover or SUV.
Inside, Land Rover has done a very good job of making the Evoque both stylish and functional with a combination of plastics and leather that conspire to make the Evoque’s cabin look more premium than it actually is.
Our Land Rover (and, for that matter, Jaguar) moans about cost cutting in silly areas like the Airfix-feel flappy paddles and a lack of tactility on some of the switchgear continues, but the overall impression is of a hugely stylish and high quality interior. The Evoque is a nice place to be.
It’s comfortable too – especially in the front – but even if the back has more room (and more headroom) than you’d expect, the three door isn’t designed for people who eat pies – getting in and out is neither easy nor elegant unless you have a Mrs B body shape.
One area the Evoque does fail in is visibility. Just like the Jaguar XJ, the Evoque pays the price for its dramatic coupe styling with visibility out back on a par with a Countach, and the comically sized door mirrors – a bit bigger than an average child’s head – make visibility out of the side borderline dangerous.
But, just as we do with the XJ, we forgive the Evoque its poor visibility because it looks so damn good - inside and out.
Range Rover Evoque – Performance on the road (and off)
In the real world, with real Evoque buyers, off-road performance isn’t of any consequence. Almost none of the demographic will choose to take their new toy off road. So, although it seems sacrilege, all that really matters is how the Evoque handles on road.
And we have to say the Evoque handles better – and is more comfortable – than anything else in this sector. It doesn’t just drive like a competent crossover, it actually drives like a competent hot hatch.
That’s in no small part down to the Adaptive Dynamics with MagneRide dampers that give a ride quality that really is very good. Not quite up to full size Range Rover standards but well on the way.
Where the MagneRide dampers really excel is in keeping the Evoque flat on the twisty stuff. There’s little in the way of wallow and pitch and the Evoque sits flat and feels very well sorted. The steering is also nicely sorted and much quicker than other Range Rovers.
Where the Evoque does fall a bit flat is in the performance stakes. It’s reasonably lively, but with new buyers probably coming from a hatchback they’re going to find the performance a bit underwhelming. They may also be a bit shocked to see the headline economy of 43.5mpg falling the wrong side of 30mpg in spirited driving.
The bit most buyers won’t care about is the off-road bit. We didn’t take the Evoque anywhere particularly harsh, but we do manage some green-laning. Much to our delight the Evoque acquitted itself admirably.
The Terrain response works just as it does in any other Land Rover, and a twist of the dial lets the Evoque play on mud and ruts very well indeed. Astonishingly, the flat on-road demeanour is replaced with lots of axle travel and a properly cocooned off road venture with no anxiety and very little discomfort.
Range Rover Evoque – Verdict
Yes, the Range Rover Evoque does have its faults. It’s not as swift as we’d have liked, it’s not especially parsimonious if you make the most of its ability to mimic a hot hatch, the visibility is dire and, if you dig deep, the quality of the interior isn’t quite as solid as it appear.
But, like all the best cars, the Range Rover Evoque is better than the sum of its parts.
Criticism seems nit-picking when you look at what Land Rover has delivered with the Evoque. It’s an incredibly stylish compact SUV that conspires to be not just a comfortable family car and a more than passable hot hatch, but also manages to be Land Rover clever when it goes off road.
Land Rover has been really clever by delivering a car that has no real competition. Just like the full sized Range Rover, the Evoque cannot be sensibly compared to anything you might reasonably consider competition. It has more style than any other compact SUV, has more panache than any hot hatch and more kudos than…well, just about anything the right side of really stupid money.
It may not be perfect, and it’s certainly not cheap (our car is over £44k with the Lux Pack), but the Evoque fills a niche in the market that no other vehicle does.
Which is why Land Rover can’t build the Range Rover Evoque as quickly as it sells it.
Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 Dynamic Coupe Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 2179cc, 188bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.5 seconds / Top Speed 121mph
- Economy: 43.5mpg - Official / 29.7 mpg - Test
- Emissions: 169g/km
- Price: £40,000 / Price as tested £44,325
- Test car supplied by Land Rover