Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Evoque - range
Land Rover models
Supple and quiet ride, willing turbo engines, slick nine-speed automatic transmission, nicely padded seats, fun gadgets such as the ‘invisible bonnet’, off-road ability
Room for improvement
Steering and handling could be sharper, tight cabin, bewildering choice of variants, packs and options
Range Rover takes new-generation Evoque up a step while keeping old strengths
30 May 2019
FOR a vehicle that looks rather evolutionary, the new-generation Range Rover Evoque is a surprisingly dramatic change, if not in the overall concept then in structure, technology and detail.
Only the door hinges are carried over from the previous first-generation Evoque – codenamed L538 – that helped to carve out the luxury mid-sized SUV market alongside the BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Audi Q5 eight years ago.
The new L551 Evoque gets a healthy injection of refinement, courtesy of a lighter but stiffer new platform that Land Rover calls Premium Transverse Architecture that will, over time, spawn more new models in the Land Rover family.
Electrification has arrived in Evoque-land with mild-hybrid assistance on four of the six engines available in the extensive range that still encompasses diesel and petrol units.
A three-cylinder plug-in hybrid variant is also on the way, but not until next year.
The interior now bristles with gadgets, including four screens, one of which is – wait for it – the rear-view mirror that can be switched from a conventional reflecting mirror to a video image beamed from a rear camera.
And then there is the optional ‘vegan’ interior trim that dispenses with the traditional British leather for upholstery made from recycled plastic bottles and wool.
Sounds like the Evoque has gone soft, right? Not so fast ...
It was not lost on GoAuto that the media drive program for the new-generation Range Rover Evoque started in Sydney’s posh Double Bay – the harbourside suburb that is the natural habitat of Range Rover.
But it was where it ended that was of more interest to us: on tracks with knee-deep mud and water and sharp rock-studded inclines that most Evoque drivers would not dream of tackling.
It was Jaguar Land Rover Australia’s way of saying: doesn’t matter where you drive it, it does it confidently and comfortably.
By and large, the company is right. The new Evoque’s ground-up makeover has not messed with its predecessor’s strengths – comfortable ride, classy styling, relaxing interior ambience and authentic off-road ability – but it has raised the bar on the level of those qualities and the way they are delivered.
Mechanically, the arrival of new powertrains with mild-hybrid assistance on four of the six diesel and petrol engines – all 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder units – lifts performance and fuel economy, while the latest architecture delivers gains in both ride quality and noise suppression.
Cruising the highways and byways north from Sydney, we were well impressed with the low levels of noise intrusion, both road and wind, even though a gusty breeze was blowing outside and the road surface was choppy at times.
Equally impressive is the supple ride that has become a hallmark of Range Rovers since day one back in the early 1970s.
A ‘magic carpet ride’ comes with drawbacks, though, and we felt that the vehicle moved around on its tippy toes a bit more than its European rivals, inducing some understeer and wandering around in the road lane. The steering turn-in was also not as sharp as some of the others that are tied down a little more firmly.
It is when the going gets tough that the soft ride really pays dividends, taking much of the bang and crash out of rough tracks. Long suspension travel and adaptive dampers turn spine-compressing thumps into mere speed bumps while keeping all four wheels planted so the four-wheel-drive system can keep the show moving forward.
The well-padded, comfortably contoured British seats also help to make a day out in the bush a less wearing experience than that of more run-of-the-mill all-wheel-drive SUVs.
On our test drive, we sampled only three of the multitude of Evoque variants now available in Australia – a mid-range SE powered by the mid-range D240 diesel engine that puts out 134kW of power and 430Nm of torque, then another SE with the top-shelf D240 diesel with 177kW/500Nm, and finally the top-of the range HSE with the best petrol engine putting out a hefty 221kW/400Nm.
All of these engines are turbocharged, which in many vehicles means a sluggish launch from the traffic lights until the turbine catches up with the demands of the engine.
To counter what Land Rover calls this torque gap, a belt-driven starter-generator has been added to provide a little extra oomph off the line.
The idea is not new – Chevrolet used it on a version of it on the Malibu in the United States years ago – but it is a relatively cheap way of introducing electrification to lift acceleration while also saving a little juice.
The starter/generator charges a small-ish lithium-ion battery under deceleration, ready for the next foray.
In practice, it was hard to tell how much this system added, as we did not drive any cars without it, but the urge off the line was willing, so we will take their word for it.
Once a few revs are induced, the powerful P300 petrol engine is a wonderful performer, pushing the relatively hefty Evoque along at a rate of knots. While the engine is largely inaudible under normal driving, it comes alive with a throaty burble from about 4000rpm.
A new range-wide nine-speed automatic transmission is the unsung hero of the powertrain, not only shifting smoothly and quickly through gears nicely matched with the various engines but also providing a wide spread of ratios to help make up for the lack of a low-ratio transfer case in tough going.
An array of off-road driving modes for mud, sand, snow and so on also help in this regard, although we are not sure that just leaving the Terrain Response 2 system in its automatic setting is not just as effective.
Inside, the Evoque is on the cosy side of cramped, with not a lot of room to spread your wings. The wide centre console soaks up a lot of room for front seat occupants. Incidentally, that console now houses a conventional transmission selection lever, replacing the rotary knob of the previous generation. Good move.
Rear legroom is said to be improved 20mm thanks to the longer wheelbase of the new architecture, but it is still only so-so for tall occupants who also find rear headroom only adequate due to the low-ish roofline – an Evoque styling signature.
The split-fold rear seat provides cargo flexibility, but the 1383L load space in this configuration is less than before because the seats do not fold flat.
A full-size spare wheel – a necessity in the Australian bush – soaks up a bit of space in the boot, but at least it is now wide enough to take a set of golf clubs, mainly because of the compact nature of the new multi-link rear suspension that frees up room.
For existing Evoque owners, one of the biggest revelations of the new model will be the dash and all of its associated gadgets and goodies, starting with an array of electronic screens for many of the functions.
In the middle of the dash we have a 10.1-inch touchscreen that pops up electrically on the SE and HSE variants (the S screen is fixed) for your infotainment that now includes smartphone mirroring via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This screen also displays the sat-nav, although route instructions also are shown in the middle of the driver’s instrument panel that now is also wholly electronic.
Another even bigger screen lurks between the console and the dash, handling things such as climate control, driving mode settings and the controls for Evoque’s new party trick – the invisible bonnet.
The latter system has a forward vision camera that provides a 180-degree view of the terrain immediately under the nose of the vehicle to help drivers pick-out obstacles in tough territory such as mountain trails or upmarket shopping mall parking lots with high kerbs.
If that doesn’t impress your neighbours and jaundiced kids, try flicking on the electronic rear-view mirror that turns the conventional reflecting mirror into a video feed from a camera facing rearwards. This will be gold when carrying tall cargo that blocks the rear window, or if you just don’t want to see the kids fighting in the back seat.
Like Volvo, Land Rover has joined the push to satisfy those among us who shun products drawn from animals – like leather – by introducing what it calls a vegan interior as a no-cost option.
A leather-look material made from recycled plastic bottles covers most of the surfaces such as the dash and door trims, while a mix of this wonder product and wool blend provides seat upholstery.
A five-star ANCAP safety rating provides assurance for would-be owners, but we are not sure why Land Rover did not include features included in an extra cost ‘drive’ pack – including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot assist and high-speed autonomous braking – in the standard set-up rather than charge $1340 for it.
Speaking of extras, the Evoque options and extras list runs to pages, and it would be so easy to turn a $70,000 car into a $100,000 purchase. But if you want personalisation ...
Every variant in the Evoque range can be upgraded with the R-Dynamic sports pack that is mainly cosmetic, for a few thousand dollars.
And for the first 12 months, a special launch variant, called First Edition, is available with a choice of diesel or petrol engines. Based on the mid-range SE, the special variant gets an array of the more popular extras, such a R-Dynamic styling.
In all, the new Evoque is everything the old Evoque was, except better, brighter and smarter. Just be prepared to spare several hours sorting through the model and extras list for the variant for you.
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Model release date: 1 May 2019
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