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Driven: Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.

Driven: Range Rover Evoque
Time to take a proper drive in a facelifted five-door Evoque.

 



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Range Rover Evoque

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: looks great inside and out, new diesel engine massively improves refinement, sharp handling for an SUV.

Not so good: ride occasionally firm, limited rear visibility, price with options can spiral quickly.

Key Facts

Model tested: Range Rover Evoque eD4 SE Tech manual
Price: Evoque from 30,600; eD4 SE Tech from 32,200; car as tested 37,800
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 113g/km (Band C, 0 VED first 12 months, 30 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 65.6mpg
Top speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Power: 150hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,500- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

Great ideas in mankind's past: the wheel, sliced bread, and whoever it was at Land Rover in the late 2000s who said 'you know what'd be worth trying? Shrinking the Range Rover and then selling the resulting car at half the price'.

Cue the Evoque, arriving in 2011 and flying off the shelves so fast that Land Rover could hardly build them quick enough to keep up. Within the space of a year, 100,000 had dropped off the line in Halewood, Liverpool (the first Land Rover ever to hit such production numbers in a mere 12 months) and the extraordinary demand has continued from there. To the extent that, little more than four years down the line, half a million Evoques have now been built and the best part of 70,000 have found homes in the UK. As sales success stories go, this one is a phenomenon to rank up there with BMW's MINI, which appeared a decade before the baby Rangie.

So confident is Land Rover in the Evoque proposition that the latest addition to the fold (if you'll forgive the pun) is the Convertible model, but if the idea of an open-top SUV is simply abhorrent to you - and it will be, to motoring diehards - then the good news is that the regular five-door and three-door Coupe Evoques are still going strong, and have benefitted from a recent facelift and changes to the drivetrain.

Which sees us spending a week in what is close to Evoque entry-level territory. This eD4 variant is shorn of four-wheel drive, with propulsion going to the front axle only, and possesses the basic 150hp version of the Ingenium 2.0-litre turbodiesel mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. A nine-speed auto is available elsewhere in the range, one of the updates of the 2015 overhaul. Only its SE Tech specification, which brings cruise control, split-zone climate control, eight-way adjustable electric front seats, 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a reversing camera and satnav amongst much more, lifts it above the 30,600 minimum price for a new Evoque - although options on our test car added 5,600 to the ticket.

And that leaves us needing to resolve four queries, which we'll deal with in turn. The first is whether the Evoque is good value or not. On the one hand, you've got the cachet of that Range Rover badging, which clearly holds sway in the minds of the wider public. Two friends, who know a little bit about cars, clambered into the eD4 and promptly had a guess at value; one said 70 grand, the other 86,000. So they were pleasantly surprised to find out that this luxury SUV, with aforementioned options, came in well below 40,000. On the other hand, those with a more in-depth knowledge of all the whys and wherefores of the automotive world (i.e., dreadful car bores like us) will probably say that 37,800 for an overblown front-wheel-drive hatchback fashion trinket is way too much money. We'll try and adjudicate, by saying the car looks and feels like a properly luxury item inside and out, and while we're not suggesting nearly 38,000 is in any way cheap, for the amount of kit you get on board then the Evoque seems to be a very fair price - and, as we'll come to see, it comes across as even more expensive when it's on the move. On that basis, we'll call it and aver that the Evoque eD4 is indeed good value.

The second query revolves around the levels of refinement and this one's much easier to figure out, because replacing the noisy old 2.2-litre engine with the Ingenium unit has done wonders for the Evoque in a number of ways. Less shuddering and shaking from the new 2.0-litre means there's less vibration transmitted to the driver via the pedals, steering wheel and seat of their pants, so it's more relaxing on that score. It's just generally quieter and smoother in delivery of its power, too, and as a result the Evoque starts to feel a lot more like its two big brothers, the Sport and the full-on Range Rover, in terms of quality. The giant 380Nm available from as little as 1,500rpm makes the eD4 feel nice and punchy, and without going anywhere near a fuel economy-boosting motorway or dual carriageway during 200 miles behind the wheel, we still managed to get 41.6mpg out of the Evoque while driving it fairly briskly, which should be reason enough to go front-wheel drive and manual. Massive, massive tick for the facelifted Evoque on the drivetrain front, then.

Historically, the Evoque's Achilles' heel has always been its ride quality and this is one area where we're going to sit on the fence, if you don't mind. The 2016MY Range Rover is better than the pre-facelift cars at flattening out road surfaces, but the impressive body control it displays when you start driving faster does equate to a ride that can easily become unsettled on poorer surfaces. Vertical body movements aren't controlled with a languid fluidity, but are instead quickly quelled with damping that seems a bit too eager to take command and get the Evoque's shell back on an even keel at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps knocking the shock absorbers down a few notches would eradicate the fleeting occasions where the Evoque starts to feel uncomfortable when traversing a bumpy road. Given that, for 90 per cent of our time with it, the eD4 was supremely composed, we're not about to crucify it for its ride, but it remains the Evoque's main bugbear.

Finally, rear visibility - is it easy to see out the back of the Evoque? Well, no, it isn't. Yet you don't get those rakish looks without some compromises. Glancing in the rear-view mirror while driving is like staring down a long tunnel at the road behind, but as you only need to do this occasionally, that's no great hardship. And with its sloping roofline and chunky, jacked-up stance at the rear, the Evoque is looking as good in middle age as it ever has before. Land Rover didn't do much to the 2016MY cars, beyond fiddling with the light clusters (giving the junior Range Rover 'signature' LED daytime running lamps at the front in the process), lightly re-sculpting the bumpers and adding a few other visual flourishes. Such minor changes, however, are understandable when you've got a sure-fire hit on your hands and the best news is that subtle though the alterations are, the resulting Evoque still looks thoroughly cutting-edge and of the moment. Little hint for you: we've seen quite a few 2016MY motors running around in Firenze Red and, even without the black contrast roof and while running on plain old silver alloys (remember those?), these Evoques look twice as pricey as they actually are. Maybe the still-striking looks are why those two friends thought it was getting on for a hundred grand.

You can probably see where this is headed. Visually, not much has changed with the Range Rover Evoque, but Land Rover has done just enough to make the 2016MY more desirable than the pre-facelift cars. And by fitting the Ingenium engine under the bonnet and the new InControl Touch software inside, the overall package has been improved handsomely. For that reason, there's no reason to doubt that the likeable Mk1 Evoque will continue to do a roaring trade for its parent firm until it is properly replaced in two or three years' time. And the Convertible, love it or loathe it, is only going to help even more of them find buyers in years to come, because truly great ideas like the Evoque do not come along very often.

Alternatives:

BMW X3: been around a while now, but still a class act in second-gen guise, although - like the Evoque - it's not cheap to start with and can get very expensive with options.

Lexus NX: hybrid model is pricey and saddled with a CVT, while the extremely angular looks won't be to all tastes.

Mercedes-Benz GLC: the GLK predecessor was never sold in the UK, so the GLC seems like a novelty. Nice appearance, but venerable 2.1-litre diesel is about to be phased out - and not a moment too soon.


Matt Robinson - 4 Jan 2016









  www.landrover.co.uk    - Land Rover road tests
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2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.

2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.2016 Range Rover Evoque. Image by Land Rover.








 

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