Land Rover is a company whose roots are founded on tractor-based off-roaders that could go anywhere and do anything. But over the decades, the marque's products have become more and more refined and luxurious. While the brand still produces the rough-and-ready Defender, it's busy chasing down luxury buyers who now have a plethora of high-end SUVs to choose from. Land Rover's current entry-level luxury nameplate, the Freelander, isn't a convincing argument in the face of newer, prettier competition. To stay ahead of the curve, Land Rover needs something different. And they don't get much more different than the Evoque.
There aren't enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe the Evoque's styling. Without reading the brochure, I'm pretty sure the words "dynamic" and "evocative" are used a whole bunch of times. I'd add "superbulous," "sexotic" and "fantasterrific" to that.
The razor-sharp lines look even better in the metal than they do in pictures. That's a mean feat, considering the car looks fantastic in photos. The cartoonishly large 19-inch wheels and chopped roof evoke images of sci-fi hot rods. Further reinforcing the racy looks are the spoilers, the diffusers and the vents. Unlike with other cars, those vents are functional items.
The Evoque's cabin is a marvelous blend of high-class soft-touch surfaces, contrast-stitched leather, and futuristic design. This unit gets extra goodness with comfy and deeply-bolstered sports bucket seats that hold you firmly in place during high-g maneuvers.
Despite the small glass area, the view out front is decent, though overhead stoplights are difficult to see. Then again, there's that awesome panoramic roof that stretches from the A-pillar to the rear hatch, so that's less of an issue. In fact, the only real issue here is ingress to the rear seat, which is surprisingly roomy. Even the trunk is decently large.
The Evoque uses a Ford-PSA sourced 2.2-liter diesel mated to a six-speed automatic, with a rotary dial lifted straight from Jaguar. The transmission is a bit lazy in "D" mode, but well-responsive in "S" with solid shifts, a quick-locking torque converter, and a flappy paddle option. While the response of the diesel is lovely, it's disappointing that it's not faster. What's not disappointing is the noise--or the lack of it. There's a substantial amount of sound-deadening and vibration-canceling equipment attached to the motor, making it feel vastly more refined than the competition's.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Despite the large 255/55 R19 Pirelli Scorpion tires, the Evoque's long-stroke suspension does a great job of smoothing out road imperfections. Though stability control and all-wheel drive elicit some "push" in tighter corners, the Evoque is a joy to drive, thanks to sharp electric steering, short overhangs, good body control and great reflexes. Sure, it's no X3, but throw in some broken tarmac and the Evoque can push further, harder, faster and longer. The "Dynamic" variant promises even sportier handling, but I reckon this "Prestige" version is fun enough. What's not fun? Parking. And that's despite the optional backing-up camera.
Aside from the backing-up camera, there's an 11-speaker sound system and integrated touchscreen, but sadly, the optional sports seats can't take rear-mounted video monitors. Then again, that expansive slice of sky through the glass ceiling makes up for any lack. Sure, that glass compromises chassis stiffness, but you'll only notice it deep off-road. Despite being less capable than an LR4, the Evoque is still a true Land Rover. Eight inches of ground clearance and good articulation mean it can go further than any of the SUV-wannabes in its class. It even has underbody armor-cladding, like any true off-roader should.
The question of "yea" or "nay" boils down to how you feel about the huge price premium over an X1, a Q5 or a GLK. In this company, the Evoque will never be the practical choice. Then again, none of these cars are remotely practical compared to a diesel-fed Japanese SUV, so that argument isn't going anywhere.
Rather, the Evoque presents itself as an experience above and beyond the staid and conservative Germans, in all possible ways. This is a car you can fall in love with. And she has a name, not just an alphanumeric combination. It has an evocative performance, too, and that--quite frankly--is reason enough for me.
SPECS: RANGE ROVER EVOQUE SD4 3-DOOR
Engine: 2.2-liter common-rail turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 187hp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 1,750rpm
Drive layout: AWD
Price: Available upon request
Photos by Niky Tamayo