Range Rover's Evoque has demolished all sales records for SUVs in this class. Jonathan Crouch reports on how the latest MK2 model aims to stay in the top spot.
Ten Second Review
How do you right a best seller? That was Land Rover's problem when it came to creating the second generation version of its runaway success story, the Range Rover Evoque, a car that now accounts for a third of the brand's total sales. It's a fashionable, yet capable proposition that has fundamentally changed the premium mid-sized SUV market and rivals now have to contend with an evolved version that features a more efficient range of diesel and petrol engines, including electrified and mild hybrid technology. Plus there's smarter styling, more interior space, extra off road ability and sharper handling thanks to an all-new 'PTA' platform. As a result, if you want an SUV of this kind, this is still the one to beat.
It's getting on for half a century since all-wheel driving was revolutionised by the Range Rover, a car now a class apart in the luxury 4x4 sector. But what would that model look like re-invented in smaller form for very different Millennial times, an age in which fashion and frugality are as important as toughness and traction? Something like this we think, the Range Rover Evoque, here rejuvenated in second generation form.
As before, it sets out to meet a daunting set of challenges, aiming to provide luxurious room for four in a shape shorter than a Ford Focus. Along with handling as satisfying as a sports coupe. And economy that might allow green-minded versions to rival the returns of a citycar. All to be delivered with class-leading off road expertise. In a car right for its times. Quite a build-up. Quite a car? Let's find out.
The Evoque range is primarily focused on Ingenium four-cylinder units. All automatic versions of this model, regardless of whether they're diesel or petrol, will have a 48-volt mild hybrid system equipped with an 8Ah lithium-ion battery. The petrol derivatives produce 197bhp, 247bhp and 296bhp, while the diesels develop 148bhp, 178bhp and 237bhp. Your dealer can offer you a manual gearbox available on the entry-level front-driven diesel, but the remainder of the models in the range will come with the brand's latest nine-speed automatic. A less powerful three-cylinder turbo petrol powerplant has also been developed for this MK2 model, an engine you'll be able to order either as a standalone unit or as part of a plug-in hybrid configuration.
As before, all but the most basic Evoques will come with 4WD but their transmission features a 'driveline disconnect' feature which will see the car default to a front-driven configuration unless a loss of traction dictates otherwise. An 'Active Driveline' system will be optionally available, which uses a rear-mounted double-clutch which offers torque vectoring on the rear axle to aid corner turn-in. Off-road ability is enhanced with the fitment of 'Terrain Response 2' tech from the larger range Rover that analyses the road surface and adjusts the transmission to suit. Wading depth is up 100mm to 600mm too.
Design and Build
Land Rover needed to keep the Evoque looking contemporary without diluting its inherent appeal. This time round, the range is focused on the five-door body style that the majority of buyers of the earlier MK1 model chose. The Evoque's highly desirable design is a hallmark of this luxurious mid-sized SUV. For that reason, certain key elements, like the way that the clamshell bonnet is interrupted by bulging front wheel arches, and the ultra-slim rear glass area, have been retained. From the side though, there's a much cleaner look, with flush door handles borrowed from the Velar and smoother surfacing on the doors. Of course, what's more important is the stuff you can't see: Land Rover says that 90% of the body components are new, partly because this second generation Evoque is the first Jaguar land Rover group model to be based upon the company's completely new 'Premium Transverse Architecture'.
Inside, the cabin has been influenced by the brand's larger Velar, hence the introduction of a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and, on plusher versions, the option of a pair of centre-dash 10-inch 'Touch Pro Duo' screens. The new 'PTA' platform has extended the Evoque's wheelbase, so though the new model is actually a few millimetres shorter than its predecessor, it has better cabin packaging. You should notice this on the rear seat. Plus in the boot, where capacity has risen 10% to 591-litres - enough, Land Rover reckons, for a full set of golf clubs or a folded pram. With the second row folded down, there's 1,383-litres on offer.
Market and Model
Pricing isn't much different, starting from just over £32,000. There are four main trim levels - standard Evoque, 'S', 'SE' and 'HSE', all with sportier 'R-Dynamic' sub-derivatives available for an extra £1,500. It all means that it's now possible to pay up to £50,000 for an Evoque. You can specify a Head-up display. Plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring at last make an appearance.
All variants get LED auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels, ambient cabin lighting, dual-zone climate control, and a heated windscreen. Upgrade yourself from standard 'Evoque' trim to 'S'-spec and you get perforated leather, electrically adjustable front seats, an improved infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, auto dimming on the side mirrors and rear-view mirror, and traffic sign recognition with an adaptive speed limiter.
If you can move further up the range, 'SE'-spec gives you high-beam assist headlights and 'sweeping' LED indicators, plus 20in alloys, extra power adjustment and heating for the front seats, an interactive driver display, an electrically powered tailgate and a parking pack that includes a rear traffic monitor. Finally, 'HSE' trim upgrades the leather upholstery and brings a 380W Meridian sound system, the ClearSight rear-view mirror camera, gesture control for the powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control and a different finish of 20-inch alloys.
Cost of Ownership
This MK2 Evoque's new 'Premium Transverse Architecture' platform allows Jaguar land Rover's smaller models to become more technologically sophisticated, particularly in terms of powertrain electrification. We'll see the fruit of that when the plug-in three-cylinder turbo petrol powerplant is introduced to the range. For the time being, Land Rover reckons that a front-driven 150PS diesel manual model will put out 143g/km of CO2 and that the cleanest mild-hybrid auto diesel will put out 149g/km and deliver 50.4mpg on the combined cycle. All these figures are compiled from the stricter WLTP cycle.
A three-year, unlimited mileage warranty comes with this model, with further extensions available if you want them. There's also an 'InControl Protect' service that allows you to monitor vital stats on your car from your smartphone and will guide the breakdown services to your Evoque should it ever have a problem. Also included is European cover and a promise to get you on your way as soon as possible in your own car or in a loan vehicle if the required repair will take longer than four hours.
Land Rover has spent its money wisely with this second generation Evoque. This car's just become significantly more economical and capable, both on road and off. Just about the only thing that can really sink this model is for it to go horribly out of fashion. That doesn't look like happening any time soon, but just in case, Land Rover has concentrated on substance over style with this MK2 model. In doing so, the brand has future-proofed its biggest money-spinner.
In summary then, the Evoque is now even easier to recommend than it was before. It's the only car in the premium compact SUV segment with a conceivable appeal to lifestyle buyers not necessarily searching for a premium mid-sized SUV - and that says a lot. If you are in the market for something of this kind, can stretch to the asking price and can afford not to place too much of a premium on practicality, then you won't be disappointed. This is, quite simply, the class of the field.
By Jonathan Crouch
Finding the right mix of ingredients in the right proportions to make a convincing baby Range Rover was never going to be an easy task, but with this Evoque, the British brand completed it in style. This is more than a fashion statement too, thanks to Freelander underpinnings and tough Land Rover know-how forged in the world's toughest environments. With low running costs, cutting edge design and on-road driving dynamics previously unknown in the SUV sector, this car proved to be a sensation when it was new - and deservedly so. But does it stack up as a used buy?
3dr/5dr compact 4x4 (2.2-litre diesel [Pure, Pure TECH, Dynamic, Dynamic LUX, Dynamic Plus, Prestige, Prestige LUX, Autbiography] / 2.0 Turbo petrol Si4)
It's getting on for half a century since all-wheel driving was revolutionised by the Range Rover, a car now a class apart in the luxury 4x4 sector. But what would that car look like re-invented in smaller form for very different Millennial times, an age in which fashion and frugality are as important as toughness and traction? Something like this we think, the Range Rover Evoque.
At its launch in 2011, this car provided a watershed moment for the Land Rover brand every bit as important as the arrival of the original Range Rover in 1970, the Discovery in 1989 and the Freelander in 1997. To survive, the marque realised that it must reach new customers by radically changing brand perceptions dating all the way back to the Forties when company founder Maurice Wilks first sketched the original model in the sand at Red Wharf Bay in Angelsey. They did with this Evoque.
Land Rover's founders would have relished the challenge presented by the concept behind this car. Luxurious room for four in a shape shorter than a Ford Focus. Handling as satisfying as a sports coupe. And economy to rival a 1.2-litre Fiat 500 citycar. All to be delivered with class-leading off road expertise.. In a car right for its times. Quite a build-up. Quite a car? Let's find out. Here, we'll look at the 2011 to 2015 era models sold before the new-era Ingenium engines were introduced in 2015.
What You Get
Not many cars make it from concept Motorshow prototype to production reality without being significantly watered down - but this is one of them. We first saw what was then called the LRX in 2008 and it's as arresting to look at now as it was back then. You know from a glance that it's a Land Rover, though to begin with, it's hard to pin down exactly why. Here's the kind of fantasy distortion you might see in a kids' comic, all big wheels, bloated wheelarches and impossibly shallow side window work. Boxiness is banished, as is the kind of bluff front end that gives a conventional Range Rover the aerodynamic efficiency of your average garden shed.
Under the skin, around 30% of the underpinnings are Freelander-based, a car that's 100kgs heavier partly because it's slightly longer. At 4.35m, this Evoque is intentionally compact, only slightly longer than a Volkswagen Golf. But it just looks right, with a shape that works wherever - on paper, in the showroom - on the Kings Road.
Where it can't possibly work, you think before opening the door, is on the inside. With such a narrow glasshouse, claustrophobia must surely reign across the cabin. And anyway, how will you reverse the thing peering back through that letterbox-sized rear window? And what will roundabouts be like with those huge mirrors obstructing front three-quarter vision? All very good questions. For which, as it turns out, Gerry McGovern and his design team have styled some surprisingly effective answers.
Sitting at the wheel, it isn't that your fears are groundless. You do, after all, really need the standard reverse parking sensors. The high flanks can make this car tricky to place in a tight spot. And the large mirrors do slightly impede your vision at junctions. But none of it's enough to really affect day-to-day usability. You work around it because you want to. Because going back to boxiness after owning one of these would be almost unthinkable.
Even at the rear, the space is surprising - not only given the rakish roofline but also the fact that this car is shorter than a Ford Focus. True, in the three-door 'Coupe' version, the back seats aren't that easy to get at and once you're in them, headroom's at a premium. But it's still a different world from the cramped rear conditions of the kind of GT or sports coupe that many customers will be graduating from. Anyway, those likely to be religiously using the rear seats have a perfect excuse to buy the five-door version which stands some 30mm taller. Here, especially with the optional full-length panoramic glass roof fitted, a couple of back seat adults will be very comfortable on all but the longest journeys.
But not, as you'd expect, as comfortable as those up-front. If this is indeed an SUV, it's the most car-like one yet devised in terms of driving position. No one will struggle to get comfortable here and all will be impressed by the tactile quality of the fixtures and fittings that surround them - which is just as well at the high prices being asked. Glistening switches and dials from pricier Range Rover models are surveyed from beautifully upholstered sports seats. Top models use no less than 10sqm of leather to trim their cabins and there are lovely design touches like the way that the rotary gear selector on automatic models glides up into your palm from start-up and the Volvo-style empty space behind the rising centre console. Most importantly perhaps, it all appears to have been beautifully screwed together in the Merseyside factory.
As for luggage room, well it's a pity the styling wouldn't permit the fitment of that signature Range Rover feature, the two-piece tailgate, but lift the composite plastic rear door and you'll find that there's 550-litres of space on offer in the Coupe version, a figure that rises marginally to 575-litres in the five-door model. Enough to take a set of golf clubs without long clubs having to be removed from the bag. These are larger dimensions than you might expect the compact dimensions to deliver, though it's a pity that they've been achieved at the expense of providing a proper spare wheel. If you need more room, you can of course push forward the split-folding rear seats and these figures rise to 1350 and 1445-litres respectively.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Few problems have been reported so far. The only issues we have found amongst owners have been minor things - warning lights coming on, smart keys not working and so on - issues which have been quickly dealt with by dealers.
Although the Evoque is pretty capable in the rough stuff, it's nowhere near as sturdy as a bigger Land Rover model. For a start, it lacks a low-range transfer case, so it is possible to get yourself a bit stuck if you get too keen with your off-roading ambitions, so check the car over for signs of underbody damage. The SD4 diesel engine is a tried and tested piece of kit, its lineage being traced right back to the Peugeot/Citroen DW engine series that was used by Ford and marketed as a Duratorq in 2008. If you're test driving the car on a cold day, don't be afraid if the Stop/Start system fails to kick in. The engine is programmed to keep running at temperatures below three degrees Celsius.
(based on 2014 Evoque SD4 - approx excl. VAT) An air filter will be around £45 and an auxiliary drive belt is £15. An oil filter elements is £7 and tyres are around £145 a corner.
On the Road
You normally know pretty much what you're going to get at the wheel of a Land Rover product. Not here you don't. The rakish roofline suggests you'll be driving a sporting, coupe-like car - in contrast to the way that the high waistline and huge wheels promise the commanding driving position of a tough 4x4. In the event, you find behind the wheel that it's a kind of combination between the two, with the seat set high but the driving position angled and purposeful. But can that same mix of SUV and sportscar be achieved out on the road?
First impressions are good. This Evoque may be based on Freelander underpinnings, but it feels very different to drive. How different? Well, Land Rover's engineers wanted hot hatch and coupe drivers to be able to jump into this car and feel at home. They will - though to what extent will depend on two factors. It might, after all, be a little hard to feel too sporty in a 1.6-tonne car powered by a 2.2-litre turbodiesel with just 150bhp, though to be fair, such an entry-level Evoque does manage sixty from rest in 10.3s on the way to 115mph. That's with 4WD: there's also an eco-conscious eD4 2WD model on offer that's fractionally slower.
Equally critical for road raciness is the need to spend an extra £1,100 on the magnetorheological adaptive damping system able to adjust the car's demeanour to the road you're on and the mood you're in. Even in the 'Normal' setting, body roll is well controlled through tight corners, but switch to 'Sport' and things are noticeably flatter with firmer steering response too. Opt for either of the pokier mainstream engines on offer and you can make the most of it too. 4WD is the only option here whether, as most customers will, you choose the SD4 model which uses the 2.2-litre diesel in 190bhp tune via manual or auto transmission. Or you take the bold step of choosing the automatic Si4 petrol model, which uses the rousing 240bhp 2.0-litre Ecoboost turbo unit you'll find in a Ford Focus ST hot hatch, an engine that here will fire you from rest to sixty in just over seven seconds if you're quick with the standard steering wheel gearshift paddles.
Use all of that performance and yes, on a twisting country road driving at the limit, there are differences between this Evoque and a really good GTi or sports coupe. The surprise here though is in how marginal these differences are - and how little you notice them in ordinary motoring. In contrast, the benefits of this Range Rover over other trendy choices - a pokier MINI, an Audi TT or a racier VW Scirocco for instance - in extra style and space will be appreciated every day. And of course, cars like these that are merely sporting will have no chance of getting you off the beaten track.
Can an Evoque do that? Fears that this Land Rover might prioritise style over substance vanish the first time you hit the dirt. Lacking the ground clearance and air suspension of larger Range Rovers, there are limitations of course, but you'd have to be doing something quite extreme to find them thanks to the fitment of Land Rover's much admired Terrain Response System. You simply set the dial in front of the gearstick to suit the ground you're on and let the car do the rest. As a result, there's almost nothing a Freelander could do that would defeat this Evoque, so it'll take four foot-high water and 45-degree slopes in its stride. Which consequently puts this car as far ahead of conventional compact 4x4 rivals like BMW's X3 and Audi's Q5 off road as it is on tarmac. Not that you'll ever see this car off road. Spattering all that glamorous panelwork with mud looks rather incongruous - which is why we couldn't wait to do it.
In years to come, the Evoque will be seen as a turning point for Land Rover. Other SUVs have pioneered more car-like handling but ultimately, they've still been SUVs, both to drive and to look at. This model is different. In all the ways that matter - space, off road ability, that commanding driving position - it's a 4x4. Just as in all the ways that also matter - efficiency, cutting edge style and driving pleasure - it very definitely isn't. Contradictory qualities we've been waiting for all too long from a car of this kind.
That Land Rover has delivered them in a machine so fashionable, relevant and clever marks this Evoque out as a very desirable thing indeed, even at the expensive prices being asked. If you can afford one and you can afford not to be too sensible in your choice of car, you won't be disappointed.