RANGE ROVER EVOQUE SD4 2.2. DYNAMIC
The Range Rover Evoque is a very sexy thing. With its concept-like proportions and plush interior, it is one of the most desirable SUVs out there. But what sort of drive does it offer? Does its handling and performance live up to the promise of its looks, or is the Evoque all show and no go?
Text and photography: GG van Rooyen and Danie Botha
Photography: GG van Rooyen
GG van Rooyen writes: Supermodels such as Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum and Alessandra Ambrosio look great strutting up and down the catwalk, but do they have the speed to complete the 100m dash in under 11 seconds or the stamina to finish a 42km marathon? Who knows? And who cares?
Models, you see, are not expected to display athletic prowess. No one cares if they have the stamina and speed to take on Marion Jones. The only thing they have to do is look slim and pretty.
Similarly, most potential Evoque buyers wouldn’t really care if Land Rover’s fashionable 4×4 performed shoddily on gravel, had a bad approach angle or rolled worryingly through corners. For them, it boasts all the characteristics that matter: it looks good, it’s very trendy and it has a Range Rover badge.
The Evoque is aimed at young and “hip” individuals – the sort of people, in other words, that Land Rover has struggled to attract in the past.
Yes, the normal Range Rover has become a status symbol in certain circles, but its hefty price has kept it out of reach for many aspiring buyers. With a price tag of around R600 000, though, the Evoque has made the much-coveted Range Rover badge far more attainable.
Moreover, the Evoque isn’t some bargain-basement version of a Ranger Rover. It is the real deal. Its cabin has all the soft-touch materials, high-quality finishes and modern accoutrements that you would expect to find in a proper Rangie. It has exquisite leather seats, an eight-inch touch-screen, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a 380-watt Meridian sound system, to name a few.
It is obvious that Land Rover didn’t want to cheapen the Range Rover marque by releasing a sub-par vehicle. The company’s luxury SUV has always been synonymous with elegance and opulence, and the Evoque is no exception. Yes, it is substantially cheaper than the full-size Range Rover, but you’ll find no hint of that in the cabin. True, it is smaller, but it is no less plush.
The vehicle’s exterior is equally impressive. In fact, its exterior design is arguably its most amazing feature. The Evoque is a fantastic-looking thing. As you probably know, it is based on the LRX Concept, and that vehicle’s dimensions have made the transition to the production Evoque virtually unchanged. If you didn’t know that the Evoque was a production vehicle, you would struggle to believe that this was an SUV that you could find on any Land Rover showroom floor.
The black perforated grille and the narrow, squinting headlights combine to give the Evoque a very aggressive front end. This is the sort of vehicle you notice in your rear-view mirror when it’s barrelling towards you.
Its profile is the most dramatic of just about any SUV. It rides on massive 20-inch rims that sit at the corners of its body, creating very short overhangs. Its sides are angled upwards, while its roof slopes down, which results in an extremely narrow rear window. Is it practical? No. Visibility out the back isn’t great, and you could feel a bit claustrophobic if you ride in the rear. But it looks cool, and anyway, it doesn’t hamper the vehicle’s practicality much. The rear seats of the three-door Evoque are unlikely to see much use and there’s a reverse camera to help you get out of parking bays.
Thanks to the narrow window, the proportions of the SUV’s rear are fantastic. The chunky rear, slit-like window and showy exhausts make it seem like a hot hatch on steroids.
Yes, the Evoque looks superb, both on the inside and the outside. In fact, it is so concept-like that its 2,2-litre oilburner has the potential to disappoint. The controversial Land Rover DC100 Concept, for example, has the Range Rover Sport’s V8 powerplant, and you almost expect the same engine to growl to life when you push the Evoque’s start button. The Evoque’s design is so sporty, futuristic and aggressive that you want the powerplant to match it.
Of course, this isn’t really possible. When the DC100 makes it into production, it will also sport a more frugal engine. Caring for the environment is the fashionable thing to do these days, and a thirsty V8 just won’t do in a fashion-conscious vehicle such as the Evoque.
However, there is a two-litre petrol model that churns out 177 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque, so if you’re looking for an Evoque with a little more oomph, that’s the one to go for. We tested it during the launch and loved it. With that petrol powerplant under the bonnet, the baby Rangie really performs like a hot hatch.
But what about the 2,2-litre oilburner? Does it provide the performance and refinement expected from a Range Rover? It does.
The engine delivers 140 kW of power and 420 Nm of torque, though these figures belie its actual performance. It feels far more powerful. Step on the go-faster pedal, and the Evoque accelerates very nicely. Turbo lag is minimal and power delivery is very linear. This oilburner definitely encourages spirited driving.
The six-speed automatic gearbox with Command Shift also performs well. It complements the engine and never struggles to find the right gear.
What impressed us most, though, was the ride comfort and handling. This vehicle isn’t likely to venture off road very often, so one would expect it to be set up to do its best work on tar. And indeed, the Evoque handles very well on the black stuff. This is still a high-riding SUV, so it will never corner like a hot hatch, but it comes terrifically close. Body roll is kept in check and steering is direct.
When we ventured onto some pretty bad gravel roads, we expected its Achilles heel to be revealed. After all, in Dynamic guise, the Evoque is equipped with 20-inch rims – not exactly ideal for dirt roads. We recently took a double cab bakkie with 19-inch wheels on the same road and the experience was, well, unpleasant. The vehicle felt loose and the ride “comfort” was horrendous.
How did the Evoque do? Very well. Not only did it feel surefooted, but the suspension absorbed every bump. It inspired so much confidence that it was difficult to keep our speed below triple digits.
Travelling on gravel also emphasised the Evoque’s refinement. NVH levels are unbelievably low. Ensconced in the opulent cabin, we hardly noticed that we were driving on an ugly dirt road.
So does the Evoque’s handling and performance live up the expectations created by its stellar design? I would argue that it exceeds those expectations. With launch parties hosted in collaboration with Vogue magazine and Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham acting as its ambassador, the Evoque can seem like nothing more than a fashion accessory. And in truth, the vehicle will appeal primarily to those looking to buy a look-at-me status symbol. You’re unlikely to walk into a Land Rover dealership wanting to buy a Defender or Disco, and driving away with an Evoque.
Don’t be fooled, though. Beneath its supermodel exterior beats the heart of a true athlete. Yes, it is good looking. But it’s so much more than a pretty face.
Danie Botha writes: As I understand it, Victoria Adams used to wriggle her backside – covered in sparse clothing – on stage. Back in those days, she was a member of a group of similarly attired girls, collectively known as Spice Girls. Apparently Miss Adams was, on occasion, also required to sing.
Then she married a guy called David Beckham – apparently he plays the violin. Or wait, was he the rugby player?
Anyway, so Victoria Adams became Victoria Beckham. Since then she has turned into a solo artist, and recorded four UK Top 10 singles. But it’s said that Victoria is even more successful as a style icon. She has her own clothing ranges, fragrances, sunglasses, handbags and even jewellery.
Ms Beckham is all style, and this is why Land Rover recruited her as a design consultant for the interior of the Evoque, and to act as its ambassador.
This is where Range Rover completely lost me. You see, I clearly don’t know much about fashion. Just ask my children. And I genuinely believe good “style” is the pose that cricketer Jacques Kallis holds after he has hit a magnificent straight six. Oh yes, that’s style!
So, when a manufacturer announces – with a drum roll – that Victoria Beckham, the style guru, helped design the interior of the new Evoque, it’s like saying to me that AB de Villiers has taken up a career in singing. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to me.
So, on paper, the Range Rover Evoque doesn’t make sense. Surely this is something that only drivers of Mini Coopers and VW Beetles will understand and appreciate? Surely this concept is flawed, and doomed?
I mean, Jacques Kallis will never swap his Audi R8 for an Evoque. Graham Smith might, but not Jacques. In essence, the Evoque is not a real Range Rover. Therefore it is not a real 4×4 either, even though all four wheels are driven. I don’t even know if it is actually a real car.
It was with this very resolute mindset that I entered the Evoque cabin for the first time. GG had driven the Evoque in the UK a few months earlier. It is built there following a R270-million grant from the British government. Clearly the international ambience had an unusually positive effect on GG’s reporting. Luckily I’m more steadfast, and more realistic.
The front seats are horrible! They are overly colourful and cheerful – I mean this is not a sofa, it’s a car! They are a little bit comfortable, though. For some weird reason the designers, probably influenced by some backside wriggling style guru, have made the gear lever disappear into the centre console. Press the start button on the keyless system, and this round, er, thing, rises out of the console, almost magically. To select a gear you turn the “knob”.
What nonsense is this? Where is the traditional gear lever? Do you see Jacques Kallis striking a post-shot pose without a cricket bat? No, you don’t!
Driving this car is equally frustrating. I mean, you can’t even hear if it’s a diesel or a petrol engine! Opening the front windows doesn’t help either – it doesn’t clatter like a diesel at all. Surely there must be something wrong with it? But it still goes rather fast, so it’s probably not a serious issue.
That brings me to another bugbear: Only a clueless style guru would put 20-inch wheels and low-profile rubber on a 4×4! Tackle the comers with gusto, and there is virtually no body lean. There is no under- or oversteer. It’s all just very boring, very stable and very surefooted, cornering at high speeds. Yawn!
Ride quality! Oh deary me. Those 20-inchers are going to get it now! On tar the ride is sporty, stable and confidence-inspiring. I wouldn’t call it pliant – it’s more like an Audi TT than a heavily loaded Toyota Land Cruiser Troopy, which is a pity.
No traditional swaying or tram-lining to keep the driver on his or her toes. It’s all just so… so controlled, stable and predictable.
Hah! Bad dirt roads! And, yes! Driving at 120km/h on a very badly rutted dirt road does create some… dust?
Er, yes. It just makes lots of dust, and not much else. It’s as stable and efficient on the rough gravel road as it was on smooth tar. It’s quiet and refined, and as GG mentioned, NVH levels are amazingly low.
Switch off the stability control system and you can induce some oversteer in the corners. But not oversteer, like in a Mahindra Scorpio, where you have to keep your Michael Schumacherness about you while you battle the machine in a duel to the death.
No. In the Evoque it’s like driving a fine-tuned rally car on a PlayStation game. It responds immaculately, in an almost surreal manner.
The steering feel, the way the vehicle immediately reacts to input, the lack of body roll… It is, ahem, fun.
Look, I still don’t know much about fashion, or about style. What I do know is that there is more to the Evoque than I initially gave it credit for. It may not be a real 4×4 in the traditional sense of the word, but it’s probably the ideal torchbearer for our recently coined fashion utility vehicle (FUV) class.
I do struggle with the idea of parting with more than R600 000 for an impractical three-door, coupe-style hatch, never mind if there’s a Range Rover badge stuck to its rear tailgate or if the gear lever magically appears from the centre console. Personally, I would opt for the five-door model, which is more spacious.
Right, so here goes: I admit that I really enjoyed driving the Evoque. I loved the cool gear lever, the awesome front seats, the engaging driving experience, the handling and the diesel’s refinement and power. We didn’t test it off-road, but with Landy’s terrain response system and reasonable ground clearance, it should be as good as any other non-low range softie.
Maybe I even like the styling. But just a little bit. Okay, a bit more than a little bit.
If the Evoque represents the future of all things 4×4, then it will be a truly sad state of affairs. However, as a niche model that bridges the gap between traditional car and traditional 4×4 – as it does – it ushers in an exciting period of a new premium crossover genre. Like in a stylish and fashionable one that also gets it right in the dynamic driving department.
Just ask Victoria what’s-her-name and her chess champion husband. They clearly know stuff. But they still can’t bat like Jacques!
THE TEST ROUTE
Our route was designed to test the vehicle under a variety of conditions. For this reason, it included congested city streets, open roads and dirt tracks. Some of the dirt roads that we tackled were in a very bad state, which helped us test the Evoque’s handling thoroughly. It has to be said, though, that very few Evoques will ever traverse these sorts of roads. We also had to negotiate heavy traffic and deal with countless trucks on single-lane roads. The total length of the route was 216km.
Total distance: 216km
Fuel used: 19,79 litres
Average consumption: 9,16 litres/100km
Verdict: We did not attempt to drive the Evoque in an economical fashion, so the consumption we achieved wasn’t bad. Land Rover claims that you would be able to average 6,5 litres/100km, so if you drive carefully, you should be able to post some impressive consumption figures.
BY THE NUMBERS
Range Rover Evoque SD4 2.2 Dynamic
Engine: Four-cylinder, in-line, transverse
Power: 140 kW @ 4000 r/min
Torque: 420 Nm @ 2000 r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Ground clearance (claimed): 215mm at the front axle and 240mm at the rear
Off-road gadgets: Full-time four-wheel drive with Haldex rear-axle differential. Terrain Response system
Price: R598 995
IN A NUTSHELL
Catnip for the fashion-conscious. Sure to be 2012’s must-have SUV. Most people will buy it because it has a beautiful design and is the SUV to own, but it also delivers great handling and performance.
It has: Great looks, a plush interior and an involving ride.
But it doesn’t have: A lot of appeal for hardcore Defender and Disco owners.
We say: This isn’t an SUV designed to spend much time off road – it is aimed at young and trendy urban individuals. But the Evoque is not just a fashion accessory — it offers excellent handling and performance.
THE OTHER PLAYERS
THE BUDGET OPTION
Nissan Juke 1.6 DIG-T (Leather) – R258 800
Nissan’s funky Juke is the ideal alternative for those on a tighter budget.
Buy it if: You’re still trying to win the lottery.
It has: A flashy and unusual design that’s guaranteed to attract attention.
But it doesn’t have: A four-wheel-drive system.
We say: Sure, the Juke isn’t as plush or refined as the Evoque, but it is a wonderfully funky fashion accessory.
THE RACING RIVAL
Mini Cooper S All4 Countryman AT – R414 999
Mini’s Countryman might not be quite as desirable or chic as the Evoque, but it is trendy and a lot of fun to drive.
Buy it if: You want to pretend that you’re taking part in the WRC.
It has: Loads of fashion appeal.
But it doesn’t have: The same level of refinement as the Evoque.
We say: For what you get, the Countryman is pretty pricey, but it is cool and fashionable. You’ll also be surprised by how much fun it is to drive.
THE SENSIBLE CHOICE
Land Rover Freelander 2.2D SD4 HSE AT – R499 995
If the Evoque is too showy for you, the Freelander is a good alternative.
Buy it if: You’re a sane and sober family-oriented sort of person.
It has: Similar performance to the Evoque and a more practical cabin.
But it doesn’t have: The plush interior of the baby Rangie.
We say: The Freelander 2 is a great all-round SUV. It isn’t as plush or refined as the Evoque, but it is a more practical vehicle, which makes it a good choice for a family SUV.
THE BAVARIAN COMPETITOR
BMW X3 xDrive30d AT – R593 835
The BMW X3 isn’t as eye-catching as the Evoque, but it is a great all-round SUV.
Buy it if: You’re a bit of an introvert.
It has: Loads of power and excellent handling.
But it doesn’t have: The look-at-me design of the Evoque.
We say: The X3 is not as funky or trendy as the Evoque – it is a far more understated vehicle. But it is comfortable, spacious and very quick.
THE FULL-SIZE ALTERNATIVE
Porsche Cayenne AT – R665 000
The Cayenne is not as good looking or “hip” as the Evoque, but it offers a lot of car for your money.
Buy it if: You want a big, fast and fashionable 4×4.
It has: A plush interior and impressive performance.
But it doesn’t have: A concept-like design and a Posh Spice endorsement.
We say: If the Evoque’s too small for you, and you don’t have the cash for a larger Range Rover, the Cayenne is worth considering. It is elegant, quick and surprisingly well priced.