Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque delivers luxury, utility and reasonable fuel economy in a stylish, compact package. Evoque brings Land Rover off-road capability to a subcompact SUV. Its wide cabin means plenty of space for those in front with space in the rear for two more. Its turbocharged engine delivers a good balance between responsiveness and fuel economy, enhanced by a new 9-speed automatic.
Evoque plays in the same league as the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the impending Audi Q3. These subcompact sport-utility vehicles are smaller than compact SUVs such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, Infiniti EX35, Acura RDX, Volvo XC60 and Lexus NX.
Evoque is wider than most of the compact and subcompact SUVs, however, resulting in a broad cabin and appearance: Evoque's width and low roofline contributes 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, giving the Range Rover Evoque 6-percent more cargo room than a BMW X1. Their small size makes the subcompact SUVs easy to park.
Interior appointments in the little Range Rover are luxurious, comparable to those from Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, and Audi, though more stylish. Evoque's interior manages room for four passengers. All 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 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 more practical and less expensive and for those reasons 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 it 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 performance. Expect 0 to 60 mph in the low-7-second range.
Evoque's small size, low mass and small, sophisticated powerplant add up to a decent power-to-weight ratio and respectable EPA fuel-economy ratings: 21/30 mpg City/Highway, up slightly from last year.
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 of the others in this class have no off-road pretensions whatsoever, though they can handle primitive roads. Evoque's off-road capability follows Land Rover's tradition of go-anywhere proficiency and broad capability, an area of performance its competitors lack.
Evoque was launched as a 2012 model. For 2013, a new base model called Pure was added. 2014 Range Rover Evoque models offer a new Park Exit feature to get you out of parallel parking spots, adaptive cruise control with forward warning and collision mitigation braking, a 9-speed automatic, and an active driveline that does not use all-wheel drive at speeds above 22 mph unless needed.
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. 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 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, 77.4 inches versus 75.1.
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.
Evoque is handsomely appointed and attractively designed. The materials are quite nice, but 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 ($85,000), and everything from the glovebox down is hard plastic. The interior quality is about what we expect for this class, but it's not appreciably better than the competition and it doesn't quite live up to the high prices Land Rover asks for the Evoque.
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. 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 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.
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 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.
Land Rover's 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'll 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 22/33 mpg and Mercedes-Benz GLA250 should split the Evoque and X1.
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 the 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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, and, its trump card, head-turning good looks.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tony Swan reported from Detroit, with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.