2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is a refreshing change of pace in the premium compact utility segment, with a high fun-to-drive index, off-road capability that leaves some competitors in the dust, good fuel economy, handsome interior design, supportive seats; plus its trump card, head-turning good looks.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tony Swan reported from Detroit, with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.

The Range Rover Evoque stuffs  Land Rover's legendary off-road capability and Range Rover's style into a subcompact SUV. Evoque's wide cabin means there's plenty of space for driver and front-seat passenger, with room in the rear for two more. A  turbocharged engine delivers a good balance between responsiveness and fuel economy, enhanced by a 9-speed automatic transmission. The  diminutive exterior dimensions of the Range Rover Evoque make it easy to park and maneuver in the big city or off road.

For 2015, two new limited-edition Autobiography versions have been added to the lineup. Both include 20-inch forged alloy wheels and premium leather interior detailing. The
Autobiography uses the standard 240-hp engine; the Autobiography Dynamic gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 285 horsepower.

Also for 2015, Reverse Traffic Detection has been added to the Blind Spot Monitor, which comes standard on upper-level models. Perpendicular Park has been added to the available Advanced Park Assist system for 2015. A new convenience package includes Smart Key passive keyless entry and hard-disc navigation, with off-road navigation and intuitive voice control.

The 2015 Range Rover Evoque is in the same class as the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and Audi Q3. These subcompact sport-utility vehicles are smaller than compact SUVs such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, and Volvo XC60.

Evoque is wider than most compact and subcompact SUVs, however, resulting in a broad cabin and appearance. Evoque's width and low roofline contribute to its athletic look and aggressive stance.

Though quite small, Evoque delivers cargo versatility with a hatchback design. Fold the rear seatbacks forward and cargo capacity expands to a useful 51 cubic feet. Small size makes the subcompact SUVs easy to park.

The Range Rover Evoque comes in two body styles: a five-door and a three-door coupe. The five-door is more practical and less expensive, and vastly more popular, though both are essentially the same size. The paint palette includes hues and two-tone schemes of sufficient variety to make Mini Cooper owners jealous.

Evoque employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine allied with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The engine is rated for 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. We found the turbocharged engine works very well, with performance similar to a Range Rover V6. The 9-speed automatic, which includes paddle shifters for manual operation, kicks down quickly for passing, and it delivers respectable acceleration. Expect 0-60 mph in the low-7-second range.

Evoque's low mass and sophisticated powerplant add up to a decent power-to-weight ratio and respectable EPA fuel-economy ratings: 21/30 mpg City/Highway.

Evoque stands out in its class for its off-road capability. With a sophisticated Terrain Response system, all-wheel drive, good ground clearance, and a short wheelbase, the Evoque can tackle tough off-road terrain. Most Evoque competitors have no off-road pretensions whatsoever, though they can handle primitive roads. Evoque's off-road pedigree follows Land Rover's tradition of go-anywhere proficiency and broad capability.

Range Rover Evoque models offer a Park Exit feature to get you out of parallel parking spots, adaptive cruise control with forward warning and collision mitigation braking, and an active driveline that does not use all-wheel drive at speeds above 22 mph unless needed.

The 2015 Range Rover Evoque lineup offers a choice of trim levels. The Evoque five-door comes in Pure, Pure Plus, Pure Premium, Dynamic, and Prestige trim levels. The Evoque coupe is offered in Pure Plus, Pure Premium, and Dynamic trim.

The Evoque Pure five-door ($41,100) comes standard with leather and synthetic suede upholstery, 10-way driver and 8-way passenger power seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors with memory, remote keyless entry, pushbutton start, intelligent start/stop, rearview camera with tow-hitch assist, front/rear park distance control, configurable ambient lighting, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth cell phone link and streaming audio, 11-speaker 380-watt Meridian AM/FM/CD audio system, two USB ports, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Evoque Pure Plus five-door ($44,100) and Pure Plus coupe ($45,100) upgrade to leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, front LED fog lights, high-pressure headlight power washers, HomeLink universal garage door opener, power-adjustable lumbar support, memory for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors, a rear center armrest with cupholders, power tailgate, and 19-inch wheels.

The Evoque Pure Premium five-door ($48,900) and Pure Premium coupe ($49,900) get adaptive xenon headlamps with LED signature lighting, automatic headlamp leveling and automatic high beam assist, five-camera Surround Camera System, 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound System with 17 speakers, navigation system with off-road maps, Blind Spot Monitoring with Closing Vehicle Sensor and Reverse Traffic Detection, hard-drive audio file storage and playback, keyless access and starting, and cargo area luggage rails.

The Evoque Dynamic five-door ($56,600) and Dynamic coupe ($57,600) come with unique 20-inch alloy wheels, sport exhaust pipe, rear skid plate, pedal finisher kit, Ebony Oxford leather-wrapped steering wheel with perforated palm grips, leather seats with perforated leather inserts, contrasting twin needle stitching on seats and dash, and unique textured aluminum interior trim. A Climate and Comfort package includes heated front seats. Advanced Parking Assist includes Perpendicular Park.

The Evoque Prestige five-door ($55,700) features 8-way power driver and 6-way power passenger seats, heated/cooled front seats, aluminum metal interior trim, premium carpet mats with leather binding, and Oxford leather with twin needle stitching on seats, fascia panel, door tops and center console lid. SiriusXM and HD radio also is included. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)

The Autobiography edition features 20-inch forged alloy wheels and premium leather interior details, with the standard 240-hp engine. The Autobiography Dynamic model gets an upgraded 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, developing 285 horsepower, and a chassis tuned for sharper handling.

An optional Vision Assist Package ($2,250) for the Pure Plus includes Blind Spot Monitoring, Reverse Traffic Detection, Surround Camera System, and adaptive xenon headlamps with LED signature lighting, automatic headlamp leveling and automatic high beam assist. A Climate Comfort Package ($1,300) adds a heated windshield with heated windshield washer jets, heated steering wheel, and heated seats. Other options include SiriusXM satellite and HD radio ($750), ebony headliner ($275), paint finishes, roof treatments and wheels. A Convenience Package ($2,150) includes passive keyless entry and a hard-disc navigation system with 4×4 information.

Safety equipment standard on all Evoque models includes dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control with Trailer Stability Assist and Roll Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, and front and rear park assist.

The Range Rover Evoque is small: about the same size as the Audi Q3 or just slightly smaller than the BMW X1; the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is longer and much lower. Diminutive dimensions are a plus in urban environments for parking and maneuvering, but also serve the driver well in rugged terrain.

The Evoque coupe and five-door bodies are nearly identical in dimensions, riding on the same 104.8-inch wheelbase. They are the same overall length: 171.5 inches. Measuring 64.4 inches high, the five-door models are 1.2 inches taller than the coupes.

Launched as a 2012 model, the Evoque led a redesign of the entire Land Rover lineup. An all-new Range Rover followed as a 2013 model, and the Range Rover Sport for 2014.

With its relatively low roofline, wide stance and short front and rear overhangs, the Evoque has an eager, sporty look that's unique in this class. Evoque has the same 108.4-inch wheelbase as the Land Rover LR2, but, at 171.5 inches long, the Evoque is shorter in overall length than the LR2. Evoque's sloping roofline is more than four inches lower than that of the LR2, and the Evoque is distinctly wider.

The minimum ground clearance, 8.4 inches, is at the front axle and the Evoque can safely ford (that means driving slowly, not jumping in) water up to 19.7 inches deep without inhaling any of it.

The downside to the Evoque's dramatic styling is at the rear of the vehicle. The sloping roofline and ascending beltline conspire to compromise rearward vision, and sightlines in the rear quarters are limited. On the other hand, if style wasn't important, we'd all be driving cars that look like the old Checker Marathon taxicabs. For someone who wants a compact luxury crossover that's a departure from the rectilinear mainstream, the Evoque merits a longer look.

The Range Rover Evoque cabin is attractively designed, with luxurious interior appointments comparable to those from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Audi, and BMW, though more stylish. Even though the materials are quite nice, long-time Range Rover buyers may not think they live up to the name. While the dashboard, door panels and armrests are all soft to the touch, they don't match the quality of the Range Rover flagship model, and everything from the glovebox down is hard plastic. The interior quality is about what we expect for this class.

All of the compact and subcompact SUVs have seatbelts for five passengers, but none of them provide anything approaching comfort for a center rear seat occupant, and the Evoque is no exception.

The control layout of the Range Rover Evoque is effective and fairly easy to use. Land Rover provides a couple of five-way controllers on the steering wheel to operate the radio and trip computer, and the low-set climate controls and rotating gearshift are self-explanatory. The center console angles up toward the center stack, absorbing some of its controls and making them easier to reach.

An 8-inch screen dominates the dashboard, offering an array of telematics. Digging through the controls on this screen may take some time, but it is intuitive. An available five-camera system shows a 360-degree view on this screen; it is quite handy in tight places. The navigation's off-road mode provides such information as topographic contour lines, latitude, longitude, altitude, trace, waypoint, and compass functions, all of which will be appreciated by experienced trail pilots.

Interior roominess is surprising given the stylish, sloping roof. There's good rear-seat headroom, even in the three-door coupe. Without a moonroof, the five-door has 39.7 inches of headroom in the back seats, while the Evoque Coupe has 38.2 inches. Passengers over six-foot-two might find their hair brushing the ceiling, but leg room is adequate and the brawny width creates plenty of room, front and rear, to squirm around on longish trips. Evoque is comfortable for four. It has seat belts for five, but the rear center seat is a spot you'd reserve for people you don't like.

The front seats are supportive enough to hold occupants in place during aggressive driving, and they offer lots of room. The five-door has 40.3 inches of headroom, and the coupe has 39.1 inches, both of which are plenty for just about anyone.

Cargo capacity totals 20.3 cubic feet of stowage with the rear seats up, 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. That's slightly better than maximum cargo capacity for the BMW X1 and ahead of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. The Evoque Coupe roofline means less cargo space, with 19.4 cubic feet with the seats up and 47.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded.

Range Rover Evoque uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated for 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. It pulls smoothly and has very little throttle lag. The 9-speed automatic, which includes paddle shifters for manual operation, kicks down quickly for passing.

Acceleration performance is neither lethargic nor particularly quick, but certainly enough to keep up with urban traffic. The 9-speed automatic has four overdrive ratios for loping along at speed, but often you'd need hyper-legal speeds before it engages top gear. The BMW X1 xDrive28i, also with a 240-hp 2-liter turbo four, is both quicker and more economical.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg City/Highway. The BMW X1 xDrive28i is rated 22/32 mpg, while the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is EPA-estimated at 24/32 mpg.

Evoque's turbocharger builds boost very quickly, so it takes some practice to achieve smooth launches. We also found that it's not too difficult to confuse the computer controlling the 9-speed automatic; its electronic brain seems to balk at abrupt changes in throttle position. These are traits that become transparent to an owner over time, but there's room for improvement here.

In really rough stuff, Evoque's Land Rover credentials shine. With its short front and rear overhangs (i.e., not much vehicle protruding beyond the front or rear axles), the Evoque has far more off-road ability than you might expect based on its looks.

The all-wheel-drive system employs a series of differentials and disconnects to maximize economy when grip isn't needed, and traction when it is. Off-roading is also aided by the Terrain Response system. It has settings for Mud-Ruts, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Sand and General Driving, and it works with several vehicle systems to help the Evoque conquer almost anything the world throws at it. For example, the throttle is dulled and the transmission shifts up sooner in Grass-Gravel-Snow, while the throttle is aggressive and the transmission holds gears longer in Sand mode.

While the Evoque is the most capable off-roader in its class, it isn't as accomplished as the other Land Rover models due to a relatively low ground clearance and less wheel travel (by Land Rover standards), no low-range gearing, and a lack of locking differentials. Also, do not consider a tire stamped M&S (mud and snow) to excel in either condition; the best tires for snow are snow tires, the best tires for mud are mud tires.

The Evoque balances its off-road capability with impressive on-road dynamics. Suspension tuning is firm, and that trait, combined with the rational ride height, gives the Evoque a lively sense of agility without any apparent sacrifice in comfort. Directional changes are brisk, body roll is limited, brake feel is firm, and the words car-like driving experience certainly apply here. When equipped with the optional adaptive dynamics MagneRide suspension, Terrain Response also includes a Dynamic mode that firms up the shocks in corners to further reduce body lean.

If there's any soft spot in the Evoque's dynamic credentials, it's at the steering wheel. Range Rover has adopted a new electric-assist steering system that varies effort as a function of speed. It's quick, just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, but it's also lacking in road feel. That's not a good combination. But it's another of those little quirks that owners adapt to over time.

SUV 6 Trim Levels Available

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure SUV

Starting at: $41,100

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure Plus SUV

Starting at: $41,100

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure Premium SUV

Starting at: $41,100

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Prestige SUV

Starting at: $55,700

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Dynamic SUV

Starting at: $56,600

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Autobiography SUV

Starting at: $60,000

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