Wednesday 10th November 2010


Pics and details of the family-friendly baby Range Rover

The 5-door Range Rover Evoque makes its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week, and JLR has issued a full set of piccies ahead of the big day.

PH was treated to a sneak preview of the crucial family-friendly version at Gaydon a couple of weeks back, when Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern and vehicle line director Murray Dietsch talked us through some of the highlights. We saw it in Dynamic trim, which is visually distinguishable from the Pure and Prestige models by an extra roof spoiler, body coloured door bottoms and aggressive front bumper treatment.

Resplendent in red with a white roof, the 5-door definitely looked the part tearing round the design studio car park on its 20ins alloys. No surprise then that we keep hearing Land Rover dealers expect 2011 to be a bumper year, with deposits being taken left, right and centre even though deliveries don't start until the summer.

Although the Evoque was revealed in coupe/3-door form as a faithful reproduction of the LRX concept, it has been confirmed that the car was conceived as a 5-door from the off. "The opportunity was spotted for a luxurious, aspirational SUV with Range Rover values back in 2007, and the 5-door and Coupe were developed together," says Murray. Roughly 2000 engineers and Gaydon and the same again at Whitley have been employed developing the vehicle he says, and the spec suggests they've been kept pretty busy.

Conceived to create its own new marketplace, like the Range Rover Sport before it, both 3- and 5-door Evoques are 425mm shorter and 190mm lower than the RRS. However with its (clamshell) aluminium bonnet and roof and composite tailgate, the 5-door Evoque weighs in at 120kgs less than a Freelander. (The weight isn't officially quoted yet, but we think it's comfortably over 1800kgs.) It's thought the sales split will be something like 30/70 in favour of the 5-door.

Although the car is based on the Freelander platform, we're told 70 percent of its architecture has been modified in search of improved dynamics and refinement. Eco-focused features include stop-start technology, electric PAS and regenerative charging.

Amazingly, this means that if you're a cheapskate and opt for the 2.2 litre 150PS turbodiesel with front wheel drive you can expect to scrape 58mpg out of it on the combined EU cycle. Combine that with the expected (TBC) sub-135g/km CO2 figure, and the numbers are a) impressive and b) not necessarily what you expect from a flashy-looking motor with a Range Rover badge.

There's a 190PS diesel version too, but PH's mainly pragmatic approach to factors affecting our planet's climatic disposition means we're pretty sure we'd take a petrol Evoque - the car features a new 240PS, 2.0-litre Si4 (nee Ford EcoBoost) unit that combines direct fuel injection, turbocharging and twin variable valve timing.

The really big philosophical question, of course, is not about the environment but whether it's socially acceptable to choose your baby Range Rover with (shock, horror!) the front wheel drive-only option. According to Murray, the difference between 2- and 4-wheel drive versions is not greatly marked - on the road at least.

"We spent a lot of time working on the dynamics, so the slip control is different between the two. They're almost a match on the road, but 2wd feels a little more sprightly if anything. The handling balance is very neutral too, as we've worked hard to dial out understeer," he reckons.

The Evoque is also interesting also for being the first (compact) SUV to get MagneRide adaptive damping - as fitted to the likes of Ferrari's 599 and the Audi R8 - so it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Off road, JLR claims better breakover and departure angles than its compact SUV rivals, and with the latest version of Terrain Response the car shouldn't be out of its depth at the pony club, at least. Is it ready for the Darien Gap? Well, as nobody's likely to try and find out, only the purists may care.

Frankly, we're kidding ourselves by thinking about the driving experience too much at all, even if it turns out to be really rather good. Because in the metal the Evoque simply drips with showroom appeal, not least thanks to what Gerry McGovern called "a little bit of intransigence on my part" when it came to transferring the LRX from concept to production reality.

"The 5-Door Range Rover Evoque has the same strong emotional appeal as the coupé, while offering the superior versatility of a family vehicle," he says. "The key lines remain intact - the dramatic rising beltline, muscular shoulder running the length of the car, and the distinctive taper to the floating roofline - but with a slightly higher rear roof." (The overall length and width are identical for both models.)

Inside, the 5-door has 30mm more headroom than the coupé model, and rear seat passengers benefit from over 50mm more shoulder room. There's a full-sized glass panoramic roof, and obvious stuff like 60/40 folding seat squabs with ISOFIX child seat mounts. When required, luggage capacity can be expanded to a substantial 1445 litres, JLR says.

Like the coupé model, the 5-Door Evoque benefits from the same premium gizmos as the larger Range Rovers, including dual-view technology, so that driver and passenger can look at different stuff on the dashboard. Other features on the options list include Park Assist for automated parallel parking, Blind Spot Monitoring system, Surround Camera System with five digital cameras, including a reversing system, Dual-zone automatic climate control, Hard drive navigation system and... well, you get the picture. Let's just say you'll likely be able to spend well over the indicated £30k start price.

It's nice though. And when you hear that cars like the VW Scirocco were included on the JLR team's benchmarking list, it serves only to illustrate the Evoque's breadth of appeal. The littlest Range Rover really does look like the start of something big.

Author: Chris-R