It’s not often you can use the words efficient, stylish, practical, luxurious and performance in one sentence to describe one vehicle. But you certainly can when talking about Land Rover’s new Range Rover Evoque.

With exterior styling more like a spaceship than a traditional off-roader, the Evoque attracts a great deal of attention. It’s been the star of all recent auto shows, including the top tier event in Detroit and those smaller impromptu meets at local gas stations everywhere. The blocky, muscular proportions with rearward sloping roofline seem to win over most people.

The Evoque comes as either a regular four-door or two-door coupe, with the former being slightly less dramatic with larger rear windows. It’s available in three trim levels: Pure (base), Dynamic (sporting) and Prestige (luxury).

Our test vehicle was a four-door Dynamic with optional magnetic ride suspension. On the outside, Dynamic is distinguished by gloss-black grille and window trim, silver front fascia and exhaust surround, rectangular exhaust tips and 19" wheels.

The Dynamic interior receives perforated leather sports seats and dimpled aluminum trim along with a panoramic sunroof and every optional gadget you could want: Bluetooth, Homelink, 500W Meridian sound system, nav, satellite radio, forward/side/rear cameras, voice-activation, 8" touchscreen, keyless entry, push-button start and proximity sensors.

The fit and finish is superb. So is the aesthetic appeal, with quality soft-touch plastics and rich leather – it’s just like a full-size Range Rover. It even has reasonable cargo space with or without the rear seats folded.

Step up behind the wheel, into the six-way adjustable driver’s seat with a combined seat and mirror memory for up to three drivers. Once settled, there’s a cockpit-feel apart from the large leather steering wheel.

Outward vision is excellent in the four-door for an average-sized person, but the Coupe suffers reduced visibility in the rear. Fortunately, the large mirrors and arsenal of cameras keep the driver informed.

The start button wakes the 2.0L i-4 turbo engine, which is currently sourced from Ford. With 240hp and 251 lb-ft, it’s flexible and has ample grunt to power the svelte 3650 lb Evoque in any situation, on or off-road.

Mated to a six-speed automatic with Jaguar XF-style rotary-knob selector and Haldex AWD system, drivability is smooth and seamless.

The Sport mode sharpens throttle sensitivity and shifts, while gears can also be selected manually with the steering wheels paddles in both “Drive” or “Sport” modes.

Apart from an almost indiscernable rumble at low RPM, and a slight buzz at higher revs, the engine is extremely refined for a four-cylinder. And you’ll be glad it’s small when filling the tank thanks to the admirable EPA ratings of 18/28/22mpg city/highway/combined.

On the road, the optional Magnetic-ride deals with ruts, bumps,and manhole covers easily, with neither a jolt, jar nor shimmy. It gives a supple ride with sports sedan standards when hurried through the twisties.

With the Terrain Response System tuned to the “twisty road” symbol for sports suspension, the ride is noticeably stiffer and cornering is flatter. Not bad for a truck!

In parking maneuvers, the Evoque again has car-like agility thanks to its overall length.

The steering transmits reasonable road feel; it’s perhaps a touch light at low speed, but firms up under cornering and at speed.

Being a Land Rover, of course the Evoque kicks butt off-road. Even without an old-school type of high/low transfer case, it gets the job done.

The Terrain Response system is programmed to deal with any environment, controlling the suspension and Haldex AWD hardware to shift power to any tire that can use it. It makes the Evoque capable of tackling any type of off-road situation with ease. It isn’t just a pretty face.

Wrapped into a stylish package, stacked with modern features, an efficient drivetrain and lightweight construction, the Evoque is undoubtedly the SUV of the year. And if you don’t like attention, you better not buy one.

By Doug Neilson
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