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Friday 27th July 2012


PH FLEET: RANGE ROVER EVOQUE

Love it or loathe it the Evoque is an interesting car, so we've got one in for a few months


Getting an Evoque onto the PH Fleet divided opinion before even this first report went live. With an office split down the middle between those curious and those appalled, the proponents prevailed off the back of huge interest and debate about the car following our drive story not so very long ago.

The Evoque is everywhere these days
The Evoque is everywhere these days
A truly spicy Evoque is yet to materialise but we've gone for the closest approximation. Which means three doors (sorry, 'coupe') and a petrol engine, in this case the 240hp Ford Ecoboost unit shared with, among others, the Radical SR3 SL. With over two Radical's worth of Range Rover steel to heft it's not quite as exciting as in that car but it's a strong, smooth unit paired with, on 'our' car, a six-speed automatic controlled via paddles or the Jag-style rotary selector.

Fashion victims
More or less the same as the car Dale took to the Nurburgring back in the depths of winter in other words, Dynamic spec meaning ours gets all the toys, including Adaptive Dynamics with Magnaride adjustable dampers. And a price tag well north of 40K.

Dynamic by name, not far off by nature too
Dynamic by name, not far off by nature too
There's an argument that says a car like this could be a next step up the ladder from a posh hot hatch like, picking a totally random example, a VW Golf GTI. That may horrify some PHers of a more militant anti-bling, anti-SUV mindset but, especially with this engine, Range Rover has gone to some trouble to make the Evoque fun to drive as well as good to be seen in. That debate can run and run and we'll be exploring the theme in more depth but, for now, let's take a more objective look at the car we'll be running for the next few months...

The Evoque is shamelessly about style over content. It's not especially practical for its size, you can't really see out of it without the aid of cameras and sensors pointing every which way out of it. But since when did a 4x4 with hot hatch pretensions make any sense to anyone? And yet it carries it off through sheer chutzpah.

Design confidence carries over to cabin too
Design confidence carries over to cabin too
Style over content
As a result it's one of those feel-good cars that, good sense be damned, just seems able to lift your mood. The first drive in a new car should be a joyous voyage of discovery as you fiddle around and satisfy that childlike 'what does that button do?' curiosity. No such luxuries for the Evoque - I was running late, just had to get home and had the nightly bumper-to-bumper trundle along the M25 to look forward to. Get in and go, no airs and graces.

And in this context it impressed immediately. The punchy Merdian stereo with DAB meant I could sit there with 6Music blasting away, the easily paired Bluetooth phone interface was crystal clear and easy to use and, even if I couldn't see anything behind or to the sides, at least the panoramic roof made it feel light and airy and a plane-spotter's delight in the predictable jam alongside Heathrow! And that assured sense of style works as well inside as it does out. This is the opposite of the car as an appliance and justification for its presence here at PH. There's a ton of kit on this car too, some useful, some in the pointless gadget category and mostly controlled via the occasionally fiddly touchscreen interface.

We've bucked the diesel trend, perhaps rashly
We've bucked the diesel trend, perhaps rashly
Does a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol have any place in a car like this though? It does the numbers all right, 240hp and 7.6 seconds to 62mph making it the fastest Evoque on paper and the engine alone is 40kg lighter than the Freelander's 3.2-litre six. And if not fast it feels sprightly, at least on the limited exposure thus far. Is this enough though, especially given the rise of increasingly punchy diesels from German rivals like the 300hp-plus Audi SQ5and BMW X3 xDrive35d? Charisma and charm will only get you so far in the face of firepower like that.

Right fuel, wrong fuel
On the face of it 'old tech' like a torque convertor auto might seem a further compromise but the Range Rover boys have obviously been sharing intel with their colleagues from Jaguar in the canteen and, if not dual-clutch sharp, there's nothing slushy about the way this transmission responds to 'Command Shift' paddle overrides. Which I've been using extensively to keep it from kicking down too much on the motorway in an attempt to save fuel. It would appear very sensitive to the kind of driving you do though. I've been matching the high 20s, low 30s delivered by the Golf. Garlick, however, is barely scraping into the teens on a more urban commute. We'll be watching this closely going forwards.

First impressions good, but will it last?
First impressions good, but will it last?
For now though the honeymoon period continues, an early assignment at a PH photo session resulting in the whizzy snaps you see here. Once surprise and delights fade, will more hard-headed assessment still be so generous? There's enough confidence and swagger about the Evoque to suggest that it might. While perhaps not obviously 'PH', this is an interesting car that everyone seems to have an opinion on. And that, for starters, seems reason enough to spend some extended time with it.



FACT SHEET
Car:
2012 Range Rover Evoque Si4 Coupe
Run by: Dan
On fleet since: July 2012
Mileage: 425
List price new: 46,475 (Basic list of 40,995 plus 550 for Mauritius Blue metallic paint, 200 for leather, 305 for xenon lights and 4,425 for Lux Pack comprising powered tailgate, panoramic roof, Meridian audio, TV, surround camera system, blind spot monitor, keyless entry and Park Assist)
Last month at a glance: Just delivered!

Rig photography by Pete Spinney

Author: Dan Trent