Thursday 24th November 2011


Yummy mummy must-have or a PH-worthy baby Range Rover? Time to find out

4x4s are not, fair to say, a PH staple. Especially ones that reek more of Chanel and posh shopping districts than mud and manure. But the Range Rover Evoque deserves your closer attention, whether you'd ever actually be seen dead in one or not. This is an important car for Jaguar-Land Rover, for the industry - for British design and manufacturing.

Disused railway tunnel reopened for Evoque launch
Disused railway tunnel reopened for Evoque launch
So it's satisfying to hear that it's actually pretty damned good. You'll likely have already made your mind up whether or not such cars - or maybe the stereotypical driver thereof - are a good thing or not, but if there's one thing the Evoque will succeed at regardless it's grabbing your attention.

This is a stand-out car and, excitement of the new or not, really sets itself apart as something different. Too much car design is about clinging onto past glories but the Evoque manages to, er, evoke the traditions of Land Rover and Range Rover while distilling them into a thoroughly forward-looking design.

For a supposed crossover it even feels more off-roader like to drive than you might expect. It feels tall, if not top heavy, and it's clear there's a fair amount of suspension travel even if the springs aren't especially enthusiastic about offering it up. Visibility is appalling, the slit-like windows making it feel more like an armoured vehicle than a trendy crossover. But, slipping back into stereotypes, that's probably the way the target audience likes it. Junctions are especially bad - two-wheelers beware the Evoque SMIDSY - but at least the glass roof of our test car (£44,315 with Lux pack upgrade) prevented it from feeling too claustrophobic.

Interior can be made as lairy as you like
Interior can be made as lairy as you like
The interior is great too. Like the exterior it's modern, brimming with confidence and feels solid in all the right places. It's clearly built to a tighter budget than, say, an Audi (plucking a not entirely random benchmark by which all interiors must be compared, by law) but disguises the fact well and has a pleasing chunkiness. Indeed, confidence is a vibe that pervades the Evoque from front to back and it's a delight to experience.

You just get the feeling the design team really knew what they wanted and the production guys were on-side in making it a reality in a way that kept the bean counters happy. Which is a rare event. Little touches like the projected Evoque outline from the wing mirror puddle lights show a sense of fun and 'for the hell of it' creativity too. And the famed Victoria Beckham input? We can only assume rear-seat access was based on someone of her build, not pie-eating PHers. Get the five-door if you've any interest in carrying full-size passengers.

There are short cuts and there are short cuts
There are short cuts and there are short cuts
Our 190hp SD4 test car (there's a 150hp TD4 too) was gruff and workmanlike but impressively frugal, recording mid 40s on the commute to PH Towers according to the trip. Whether or not there's the room under the bonnet for something more feisty or the inclination to fit it remains to be seen but the 240hp petrol Si4 is perhaps the more PH-worthy choice. A theory we look forward to putting to the test soon.

For now though Range Rover is going the other way, with two-wheel drive and reduced emissions to suit the inevitably suburban lifestyle most will probably lead. Ours included an impressive selection of symbols implying suitably Range Rovery off-road abilities via the (optional) Terrain Response but none were troubled on our tenure with the car.

You don't have to like what the Evoque stands for. But you can be proud that British design and engineering have themselves such an exciting platform. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, it's compromised practically. But you just know they'll sell 'em by the truckload here and abroad. And that's something we can be proud of.



Author: Dan Trent