New Car Test Drive correspondent Tony Swan reported from Detroit, with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.
Evoque is similar in size to the BMW X1 and European-market Audi Q3 that comprise a new class of premium subcompact sport-utility vehicles. These subcompact SUVs are smaller than the compact SUVs such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, and Acura RDX.
Evoque is wider than all of these, however, a substantial 3.3 inches wider than the BMW X3, for example. As a result, there's more elbow room inside. And it looks great: Evoque's width and low roofline, the lowest in the class, contributes to its athletic look and aggressive stance.
Though relatively small, Evoque delivers cargo versatility with a hatchback design. Fold the rear seatbacks forward and cargo capacity expands to a useful 51 cubic feet, allowing the Range Rover Evoque to carry more cargo than can be put in a BMW X1.
Interior appointments are luxurious, comparable to those from Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. Evoque's interior measures up well in terms of roominess for four passengers. All the compact and subcompact SUVs are rated for five passengers, but none of them provide anything approaching comfort for a center rear seat occupant and the Evoque is no exception.
The Range Rover Evoque comes in two body styles, a five-door and a three-door coupe. The original show car was the coupe, a body style not offered by any competitor. The four-door is the more practical and for that reason much more popular model, though both are essentially the same size. Evoque employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine allied with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is rated for 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. We found it works very well. It pulls smoothly and has very little throttle lag. The 6-speed automatic, which includes paddle shifters for manual operation, kicks down quickly for passing, and it delivers respectable acceleration performance. Land Rover quotes a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.1 seconds.
Evoque's small size and light weight (by class standards) adds up to a decent power-to-weight ratio and respectable fuel economy ratings: 20/28 mpg City/Highway.
Evoque stands out in its class for its off-road capability. With a sophisticated Terrain Response system, a full-time four-wheel drive system, good ground clearance, and a short wheelbase, the Evoque can tackle some pretty tough off-road terrain. Most of the others in this class have no off-road pretensions whatsoever, though they can handle primitive roads. Evoque's off-road capability sustains Land Rover's tradition of exceptional go-anywhere proficiency, an area of performance that its competitors lack.
Evoque was launched as a 2012 model. For 2013, Evoque adds a new base model called Pure. 2013 Range Rover Evoque models also offer a new Park Assist automated parking feature, off-road navigation information, and a new black Land Rover logo in the grille. The contrasting roof color can also be selected as a stand-alone option on 2013 Evoque models.
The Evoque Pure five-door ($41,145) comes standard with leather and synthetic suede upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, rearview camera, configurable ambient lighting, Bluetooth cell phone link and streaming audio, 11-speaker Meridian AM/FM/CD audio system, two USB ports, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The Evoque Pure Plus five-door ($43,145) and Pure Plus coupe ($44,145) upgrade to leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, front LED fog lights, high-pressure headlight power washers, universal garage door opener, power adjustable lumbar support, memory for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors, and a rear center armrest with cupholders.
The Evoque Pure Premium five-door ($47,345) and Pure Premium coupe ($48,745) get adaptive xenon headlamps with LED signature lighting, automatic headlamp leveling and automatic high beam assist, Surround Camera System, 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound System with 17 speakers, navigation system with off-road maps, hard-drive audio file storage and playback, keyless access and starting, and cargo area luggage rails.
The Evoque Dynamic five-door ($50,845) and Dynamic coupe ($52,245) come with unique 19-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.
The Evoque Prestige five-door ($51,745) features 8-way power driver and 6-way power passenger 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. (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.)
Options include the Vision Assist Package ($1,900) with Blind Spot Monitoring, Surround Camera System, and adaptive xenon headlamps with LED signature lighting, automatic headlamp leveling and automatic high beam assist. A Climate Package ($1,000) adds heated windshield with heated windshield washer jets, heated steering wheel, and heated front seats. The MagneRide automatic damping system costs $1,250, and the Advanced Park Assist self-parking system runs $600. Other options include satellite and HD radio ($750), rear DVD entertainment ($2,500), ebony headliner ($275), and two types of 20-inch wheels ($2,000 or $2,500).
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 Evoque coupe and five-door bodies are nearly identical in dimensions. They ride on the same 104.8-inch wheelbase. They are the same overall length, 171.5 inches. They are the same width: 77.4 inches. Measuring 64.4 inches tall, the five-door models are 1.2 inches taller than the coupes.
Evoque's sassy exterior design began with the LRX, a 2-door concept unveiled at the 2008 North American International Automobile Show in Detroit. It was intended primarily as a statement by the company's new design chief, Gerry McGovern. With its back-slanting roofline, rising beltline, and short overhangs, the LRX looked a little like a large scale Mini Cooper, an impression fortified by the option of contrasting roof colors, a design distinction the Mini has used effectively. Uniformly enthusiastic response by show-goers quickly moved the LRX out of the dream car category into production reality. And the production Evoque held very much to the LRX concept.
Launched as a 2012 model, the Evoque is leading a redesign of the entire Land Rover lineup. An all-new Range Rover followed as a 2013 model and the Range Rover Sport is following as a 2014.
The Evoque has the same 108.4-inch wheelbase as the Land Rover LR2. At 171.5 inches long, however, the Evoque is shorter than the LR2, its sloping roofline is some four to five inches lower, and it is distinctly wider, 77.4 inches versus 75.1.
With its relatively low roofline, wide stance, not much vehicle extending beyond the axles at either end, the Evoque has an eager, sporty look that's unique in this class.
The minimum ground clearance, 8.5 inches, is at the front axle; rear axle clearance adds an inch, and the Evoque can safely ford 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 control layout is effective and fairly easy to use. Land Rover provides a couple of five-way controllers on the steering wheel to control 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. For 2013, Land Rover adds off-road information to this screen on models equipped with navigation. It provides such information as topographic contour lines, latitude, longitude, altitude, trace, waypoint, and compass functions, all of which will be appreciated by experienced off-roaders.
Interior roominess is surprising given the stylish, sloping roof. There's good rear-seat headroom, even in the three-door coupe. 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 plentiful and the brawny width creates plenty of room, front and rear, to squirm around on longish trips. Evoque is comfortable for four. It seats five and has seat belts for five, but its rear center seat is a spot you'd reserve for people you didn't like. It's comfortable for four, not five.
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 is 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. These subcompact SUVs offer less cargo capacity than that of the larger, compact SUVs. The Mercedes GLK-Class, the next size up, offers 23 cubic feet behind the rear seats, 55 cubic feet with the seats folded down, two more boxes measuring one foot in all dimensions. The Evoque Coupe has less space, with 19.4 cubic feet with the seats up and 47.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded.
Acceleration performance is neither lethargic nor particularly quick. Land Rover quotes a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, which is respectable and certainly enough to keep up with urban traffic. By comparison, the BMW X1 xDrive28i can perform this feat in 6.3 seconds with its 240-hp 2.0-liter turbo four.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg City/Highway. The BMW X1 xDrive28i is rated 22/30 mpg.
Evoque's turbocharger builds boost 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 6-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, its 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 the looks. The four-wheel-drive system employs a Haldex center differential that automatically apportions torque front or rear according to grip. It's totally transparent and very effective. 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 transmissions 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 other Land Rovers due to a relatively low (for Land Rover) ground clearance, no low-range gearing, and a lack of locking differentials.
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 give 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 MagnaRide 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 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.
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