Land Rover’s sales figures have never been very high, which is not surprising when you consider the starting price of their Range Rover models. Let’s face it, these are some pretty pricey vehicles. But their latest entry-level model, the Range Rover Evoque, was introduced last year to help the brand sneak into the luxury compact SUV segment, which seems to only grow in popularity, year after year.
Today, with sales up by more than 61% in the first quarter of 2012, Land Rover can officially say “mission accomplished.” The little Evoque has not only nearly doubled its sales, but it has also proven to be a boon to the company’s other products by drawing buyers into showrooms.
Hidden weapon = style
When people buy luxury SUVs, they want more than just a brand’s prestige; they want style and Land Rovers have always been known for their unique character, setting them distinctly apart from the rest of the market. Refusing to be an exception to this rule, the Evoque is a real head-turner. Inspired by the LRX concept vehicle unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show, the Evoque’s appearance is very dynamic, thanks most notably to its roofline that plunges dramatically toward the hatch and its beltline that rises so sharply toward the back that the rear windows are greatly reduced. Not to mention its wider mudguards, contrasting two-tone air intakes and the 20-inch wheels available on some trims. Add this all together, and you’ve got a fierce SUV that looks ready to pounce.
But what really sets the Evoque apart from its competitors (Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Volvo XC60) is the fact that it is available in two different configurations: a coupe and a five-door. The coupe is 30 mm shorter and thus is a touch more sporty. It looks something like a race car on stilts. That said, the coupe is a lot less practical, especially if you’ve got kids, as the rear seats can be hard to access. This explains why the coupe only represents about 15% of all Evoque sales. But for those of you who succumb to it, you’ll certainly own a unique vehicle.
The Range Rover name is often associated with major engine displacement – and this is certainly true for the family’s two crowning models. In the case of the Evoque, however, they showed a little restraint, mostly to keep its fuel economy within reason. The Range Rover Evoque comes equipped with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine (new at Land Rover), which leverages a turbocharger and direct injection to produce 240 horsepower and 251 lbs.-ft. of torque. This engine is monogamously mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine is a little less powerful than those offered by most competitors, but they all feature a V6 (except Audi’s Q5, which comes with a four-cylinder).
It goes without saying that no Land Rover comes with FWD. The Evoque comes factory-standard with AWD and, like all vehicles under this label, it demonstrates some outstanding off-road capabilities. Ok, so few drivers are likely to actually take this vehicle for a trek through the woods, but the Evoque is ready for action, regardless of the conditions. Speaking of which, a pair of switches, complete with pictograms, allows you to select different driving modes (Snow, Sand, Off-road).
The fact that it bears the Range Rover name is enough to elevate the Evoque to Land Rover nobility. And as such, this vehicle offers superior luxury in its passenger compartment. In fact, the Evoque’s interior is on par with the rest of the line – you certainly don’t get the impression that you’re in a sparser model. The dashboard is both modern and efficient, as is the touch screen used to control a number of different functions. Given the close ties between Land Rover and Jaguar, it comes as no surprise that certain Jaguar features have been included in the Evoque, such as the turn-dial gear selector that emerges from the console when you start the vehicle. However, the smaller windows and high beltline translate into limited visibility. That’s something your kids will complain about since they don’t get much of a view.
On the road
Driving the Evoque, you get a full appreciation of the little turbocharged four-cylinder engine and its surprisingly good performance. Sure, it doesn’t pack as much punch as a V6, but its power is both consistent and linear. Put your foot into the accelerator pedal and the Evoque will charge from 0-100 km/hr in about 7.6 seconds. Thanks to its all-aluminum chassis, the Evoque boasts an outstanding weight/power ratio, which helps compensate for the lack of a V6.
The six-speed automatic transmission does a good delivering the engine’s power, despite the fact that several competitors offer one or two additional gears. It shifts gently and without hesitation, and the sixth gear manages to keep engine revs relatively low, which can be hard to achieve with low-displacement engines. Switch into Sport mode for more dynamic handling and use the paddles behind the wheel to shift whenever you see fit.
Thanks to its compact size and light construction, the Evoque is a pleasure to drive. It’s agile and easy to manoeuvre. It leans into corners with confidence and calm. Plus, it’s the brand’s first vehicle to come with electrically assisted power steering. Some trims also come with a magnetic suspension, which adjusts the firmness of the dampers in accordance with road conditions for optimum comfort and performance.
Affordable? Not necessarily. The Range Evoque’s starting price is higher than that of many competitors, while prices for the more extravagant trim levels climb quickly. But . . . it’s a Range Rover! It’s up to you to decide whether the name is worth the price!
|Test model||2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque|
|Trim level||Coupe Dynamic|
|Price range||$46,995 - $61,195|
|Price as tested||$65,145|
|Warranty (basic)||4 years / 80,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||4 years / 80,000 km|
|Options||20-inch wheels ($2,150), Panoramic roof ($1,400)|
|Competitive models||Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz Classe GLK, Volvo XC60|
|Value for price|