The Range Rover Evoque is a likeable little tyke. As the entry point to the vaunted Range Rover luxury SUV line up, it’s got no easy task to fulfill the expectations afforded by the family name. And yet, despite a little four-cylinder engine and a starting price less than half of its bigger siblings, the Evoque truly feels worthy of the Range Rover moniker.
It is still a Range Rover, which means it’s also capable of going off-road, to places no vehicle that looks this stylish has any business going.
When introduced a few years ago, the Evoque was based on the forgettable Freelander/ LR2 platform – the previous entry point to the Land Rover brand in North America. Unlike the rather plain-looking LR2, the Evoque was – and is – all about the flash of its styling. Even eight years after the LRX concept vehicle (that looked just like the production Evoque), the little Rover still looks like it would be just as at home on an auto show turntable as it is parked in front of a tony boutique.
With such aggressive proportions – trim dimensions and a low and sloped roofline – it would be easy to write off the Evoque as little more than a mobile fashion accessory for the purse-dog crowd. But Range Rover wants consumers to recognize it as a legitimate sport utility vehicle; one that’s capable of hauling people and stuff just like any other compact luxury sport ute. Plus, it is still a Range Rover, which means it’s also capable of going off-road, to places no vehicle that looks this stylish has any business going.
Like, for instance, the backwoods hill country of Georgia, which is exactly where I took this one you see here.
Part work and part play, my friend and I loaded up the little Rover with a series of big Pelican cases, tripods, cameras and our own personal luggage for a journey that would take us into the Deep South. During the loading process, we were careful to fold down only the 60-part of the 60/40-split rear seat, remembering that the trip home would also have my brother (and his luggage) joining us too.
Despite an alarming pile of equipment to bring, the Evoque contained it all without having to Tetris too many pieces. For 2016, the Evoque adds a Gesture Tailgate feature that enables the tailgate to be opened by pointing a foot under the rear bumper.
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With an early morning departure, we set out and crossed the border with little delay, cycling between satellite radio stations and our iPods. Having good music is key to a successful road trip, and choosing a road trip companion with similar musical tastes can be the difference between a fun, memorable journey and a much less pleasant one. Our Evoque featured a powerful Meridian audio system that sounded great and was thankfully powerful enough to drown out our sing-along sessions.
That sound system is also part of the new-for-2016 InControl Touch infotainment system that enables the user to operate the audio controls, navigation and access other functions of the car and trip computer. Incorporating some popular smartphone apps, the new InControl Touch system still provides slow responses to inputs – a complaint aimed at earlier-generation Jaguar–Land Rover infotainment systems too.
Still, operation of the system itself is intuitive and while not as crisp or bright as some of the industry’s best, the graphics aren’t bad. The navigation proved to be accurate, getting us everywhere we needed to go, even into some of the rural waypoints we entered. The rest of the Evoque’s ergonomics are quite good also, with big, round gauges for both speedo and tachometer, and enough “redundancy buttons” to make quick operation of climate and audio controls a snap.
I’ve always loved the rising rotary-knob gear selector found on some Jaguar–Land Rover products. Compared to the silly stalks employed by one German carmaker that shall remain nameless, the knob here is a refreshingly simple (yet stylish) approach to the task of selecting gears.
Interior materials on our HSE-trim Evoque were first rate. Nice aluminum trim and soft-touch plastics abound, and the light beige seats are swathed in butter-soft leather. Plus, being both heated and cooled meant that as we went from chilly spring in Southern Ontario, to the hot, sunny Southern States, our buns were always kept comfy. And although my driving companion didn’t like the sensation, I welcomed the massaging seats – especially as they helped add a bit of circulation to the lower back and extremities during long stints behind the wheel.
The light-hued leather and enormous panorama roof make the Evoque a much brighter and airier place to spend the hours than its squashed profile would suggest.
The further south we ventured, the more grotesquely unhealthy our food choices became. At one point in the Carolinas, the curiosity of Biscuit World’s offerings grew too strong to resist and we were not disappointed, though the hand-written sign on the kitchen door, reminding staff that shoes were required, was a bit alarming.
At highway speeds occasionally north of 120 km/h, the Evoque’s interior remains luxuriously quiet, with plenty of insulation and sound deadening, removing most of the noise from the 2L turbo four-cylinder engine. The ride along most of the southern freeways was fine, but when facing some of the lesser-maintained county roads, the little Rover’s ride proved to be pretty stiff. The big 19-inch wheels make for a bit of a thud over potholes too.
The upside to the stiff-legged ride is surprising handling capabilities when we finally hit some of the weaving and undulating roads through rural northern Georgia. The woodlands there are dense and the lightly travelled routes beg for a performance machine to be flogged, and yet piloting the Evoque was not a disappointing experience even on these roads. Its compact size made it easy to manage and the steering is remarkably communicative for an SUV.
That little turbo engine does a decent job of motivating the Evoque around town and up to highway speeds. That said, fully laden with five grown men and some camera gear from time to time, the turbo lag coupled with a transmission tripping over too many (nine) gears, created a few wait, wait…. GO! driving moments. With approximately 90 percent of the week’s driving on the highway, we saw an indicated fuel consumption average of 9 L/100 km of premium gas. The official figures for the Evoque are 11.3 and 7.9 for city and highway driving, respectively.
Drivers can select between a series of terrain modes (from sand to gravel and climbing) for off-road travel and the Evoque will reportedly ford nearly 20 inches of water, putting its 8.3-inch ground clearance and steep approach and departure angles to good use at either side of the stream. Our trip – even into the Georgia hills and woodlands – never had us traversing anything requiring the Rover’s fancy off-roading functions – but it was nice to know that it could, should a hasty escape be required at the sound of Dueling Banjos.
Now a few years into its lifecycle, the refreshed Evoque sees largely superficial changes (the new LED headlight treatment looks cool and does a great job of illuminating the road), and yet it’s every bit as fashionable and cool as the day it first appeared as a show car. What’s more impressive is that it also remains a rewarding machine to drive, whether your travels take you down the highway, to the big-city boutiques or far off the beaten path.
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque HSE|
|Price as Tested||$66,465|
Luxury Seating Package, $1,750; Dark Grey Oak Wood Trim, $400; Head Up Display, $1,300; Sirius Satellite Radio, $450; Advanced Driver Assistance Package, $2,300; Upgraded Meridian Surround Sound, $1,100