LA SHOW PREVIEW: RANGE ROVER EVOQUE 5-DOOR
Pics and details of the family-friendly baby Range Rover
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.)
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.