Liverpool, England—A few lads from the Land Rover crew tore the cover from an abandoned subterranean rail line and thought it would be “smashing good fun” to bring their stylish new Evoque down there.
I really hate them right now, as this place is a genuine horror show, complete with slime-covered walls and crumbling masonry. The only light is from the sealed xenon headlamps that appear to blink on and off as we plow through black, crotch-deep water.
“Just keep up with the bow wave, lads,” chirps an all-too-happy Land Rover engineer.
I’m going to punch him as we pass. If this car conks out I will scream so loud they will hear me at their factory 20 miles away at Halewood in Merseyside.
I should have had more faith in the product. Land Rover builds cars to do what other cars cannot… should not. The Evoque is no exception.
Virtually every European automaker has tossed its hat into the small/midsize/crossover SUV segment. A few are pretty good too, capable of actually leaving the pavement for modest off-road shenanigans. I ponder this while deep beneath the streets of Liverpool. Would I risk this passage in another brand? No freaking way.
“We build our vehicles to perform off-road as well as on-road.”
I must have heard that a dozen times from the Land Rover crew. I think they get a perverse pleasure in seeing their cars romping through ghastly muck. Never mind the fact few Evoques will ever see such abuse. It’s still nice to know they can do it.
Although first renditions of Land Rover’s LRX concept vehicle appeared to be designer fantasy fodder, the production version has remained faithful to the concept. Measuring 171 inches in length and 77.4 inches in beam, the Evoque is officially the smallest car in Land Rover’s fleet, but by no means lacking in content. Virtually every gizmo and gadget within Land Rover’s tool chest (including a few new ones like a multi-POV camera system and Meridian sound system) has been included within its boron steel-enhanced monocoque.
Powered by Ford’s global 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the Evoque rides on a fully independent suspension featuring large-diameter gas struts and stiff, isolated subframes. The 240-hp powerplant has been weatherproofed and features uprated oil circulation for extreme angle performance. An optional MagneRide suspension is based on magnetorheological damper technology that leaves it instantaneously responsive over any type of terrain. The Evoque will be augmented with a Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system.
While classic, larger Range Rover models tend to be stocky, buttoned-down affairs, the Evoque is clearly pointed in a brave, new direction. If the Range Rover Sport is a linebacker, the Evoque is a gymnast, both lithe and sinuous. The Range Rover Evoque exterior features new interpretations of classic Range Rover design cues, including the clamshell bonnet, floating roof and solid “wheel-at-each-corner” stance. Unlike any previous Range Rover, the Evoque adopts a very dynamic profile with its rising beltline, a muscular shoulder running the length of the car, and a distinctive taper to the floating roofline. The sculpted corners reduce the car’s visual overhangs front and rear. There’s an aircraft phrase: looks good, flies good. The Evoque manages to fulfill both.
Its street manners are impeccable where it behaves like a standard, European-bred sport sedan. Steering is direct and well weighted, and the Evoque’s powerband leaves it more than capable of squirting through traffic. The Evoque’s cabin is beautifully designed, both ergonomically effective and handsome. A sizable glass panoramic roof fills the Evoque with natural light while concealed LED lighting provides ambient nighttime illumination, leaving the interior with an ethereal glow. An especially nifty touch is the dual-view eight-inch LCD screen that allows both driver and passenger their own display. Not really sure how it works so we will just assume it’s some sort of English magic.
These factory-fresh Evoques were British-spec right-hand-drive models. It was something of a double whammy for drivers trained to drive on the opposite side of the road. I must have hit 50 curbs and did a great job of unintentionally terrorizing my passenger. Despite the abuse, the 19-inch wheels remained true with nary a nick or scrape on their handsome faces.
The base Evoque (Pure) starts at $43,995; the two-door costs $44,995. The Prestige package adds 19-inch alloys and leather while the Dynamic model adds more aggressive aerodynamics. A full-tilt Dynamic Evoque goes for $52,895 so Range Rover has retained a fairly tight pricing structure.
Reaching down-market is a thing luxury car builders do at substantial risk. Though the Evoque is the most attainable of the Range Rover line, it comes off as a rich, technically savvy piece that will no doubt appeal to a broad group, folks that might not have considered a Range Rover product. Chances are this group won’t go traipsing about the mud in subterranean caves, but Evoque owners can take pride in knowing their Range Rover could do it anyway.
2012 Range Rover Evoque
Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
2.0-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve, turbocharged
MacPherson struts with lower control arm and anti-roll bar (f), strut assembly with lateral and longitudinal links and anti-roll bar (r)
Four-wheel disc, ABS, EBD (electronic brake distribution), EBA (emergency brake assist), CBC (corner brake control)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 171.9/77.4/64.4
Wheelbase: 104.8 in.
Curb Weight: 3,680 lb
MSRP: $43,995 ($52,895 as tested)
Peak Power: 240 hp @ 6200 rpm
Peak Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
0-62 mph: 7.1 sec.
Top Speed: 135 mph