Range Rover Evoques New Dimension
2012 Range Rover Evoque Review:
No company has done a better job of building boxes than Range Rover. Since 1948, the company has solidly over-engineered machines to conquer the most rugged off-road challenges, then refined them until they became the vehicles of choice for customers who could afford to display their taste for unexcelled quality and versatility. As their popularity increased, refinement never threatened Range Rover’s distinctive square shape at all four corners.
That shape became the company’s trademark, until a couple of years ago, when a Range Rover concept vehicle named LRX hit auto shows, with a startling new shape for the future. Its chances to advance beyond concept stage seemed remote, until last year, when the production Evoque became an auto show specimen, but it still seemed mostly fantasy. Suddenly, for 2012, the Range Rover Evoque has come to life and is on the road.
From the front, it bears resemblance to the recognizable boxes of Range Rovers past, though it is more streamlined. The rest of the body, however, has left behind the boxy silhouette for a much sportier, sloped-back look. It is light and lean, with unique styling that stands out from all other Range Rovers, and all other SUVs, as well. While is its strong suit, the Evoque’s performance lives up to the racy image.It takes off with surprising swiftness, and you can upshift through six gears by using steering wheel paddles, if you choose to manually override the automatic transmission’s capabilities — impressive as they are. It also cruises effortlessly at freeway speeds. The question is: What’s a nice, sleek, sporty vehicle doing wearing Range Rover badges, emblematic of the world’s proudest purveyors of — shall we say — square SUVs?
So far, what it’s doing, is capturing enough imagination among North American auto writers to select the Evoque as one of three finalists for 2012 North American Truck of the Year honors. The award will be presented at the North American Auto Show in Detroit on January 9, with car and truck candidates whittled down to a final threesome by votes as of December 9, by the 50-person jury of independent journalists. Competition will be stiff, with the Honda CR-V and BMW X3 also voted to the list of finalists, but the Evoque is the only one of the three that is entirely new in design, concept, look, and powertrain. Granted, it joins the BMW X3 on the expensive side. Starting at $41,000, the Evoque’s ingredients, from high-strength steel to high-tech and adaptive suspension, and luxurious interiors, make the price seem reasonable.
My test-drive Evoque was a 4-door in Indus Silver, wearing Prestige trim. The Evoque comes in an extra-sleek 2-door “coupe” design as well, and while it has an even sportier appearance, the tapered rear of the test Evoque pretty effectively hides the fact it has four doors. Evoques come in Pure, Prestige, and Dynamic trim, with Pure being basic — but pretty fully loaded, while Prestige adds special 19-inch or available 20-inch wheels and tires and is filled with opulent creature comforts, and Dynamic is dressed for sporty use, with bolder interior schemes.When I first climbed behind the wheel, I was impressed by the luxury and support of the Evoque interior, definitely more modernized than other Range Rovers. I was even more impressed when I stepped on the gas and launched the beast. I was curious about the engine, because while Range Rover has remained distinctly British, the company also has used a variety of engines, from Buick to Jaguar. For a time, both Range Rover and Jaguar were owned by Ford, which later sold both to Tata Motors of India. The larger Range Rovers use Jaguar’s impressive and high-powered 5.0-liter V8, some of them supercharged, with more power than anyone could need.
With the Evoque, the link with Ford appears to still pay dividends, because Range Rover contracted to obtain Ford’s newest 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. This is the turbocharged engine Ford is putting in its new Escape, and makes available in the Explorer as well, with the power of a V6 or V8, but the fuel economy promised by a 4-cylinder.
That engine, with direct injection, turbocharging, and twin variable valve-timing, putting 240 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque through a 6-speed transmission, into any vehicle would promise great potential, but the Evoque meets all the standards of over-engineered Range Rover siblings. Advanced high-strength steel is used in the monococque unitized capsule, which is then placed on front and rear subframes. Body panels are zinc-coated steel, with aluminum roof panels and hood, and magnesium cross beams.
At first, I was surprised and impressed that so much power and acceleration could come from a 4, and the Evoque has shown the ability to scat from 0-60 in just a tick over 7 seconds. I was more impressed, as we come to grips with more economy and ecology based driving, when I filled up with regular gas and calculated 27.1 miles per gallon in combined driving around Minneapolis and on the 165-mile trip north to Duluth, where an early snowfall did nothing to threaten the Evoque.Through the years, Range Rover vehicles always have had firm but lengthy suspension travel to enhance their ability to astound drivers with how steeply they can ascend, descend, or crawl over walls or rocky obstacles, while remaining flat in attitude. They also have been famous for ultra-civilized road-handling demeanor, which made them perfect for coming out of the California mountains in time to take the family shopping in Beverly Hills or Monterey. The Evoque loses none of that pizzaz or panache, with Magne-Ride suspension control, and the console adjustment settings for whatever type of encounter is at hand.
The Evoque is the latest example of how well Range Rover engineers are able to take so much technical expertise and combine it with rock-solid stability, yet give their vehicles a velvet-smooth ability to be the best at either extreme of capability. To make sure it could do the job off-road, the engineers took the EcoBoost 2.0 and altered its oil system to be able to handle 45 degrees of side-hill operation, refining smoothness with twin balance shafts, making sure it could be fitted so the Evoque could slosh through water as deep as 500 mm., and assuring it had the power to pull trailers.
The permanent “intelligent” all-wheel drive with traction control is coupled through Haldex fittings tuned to specific Land Rover specifications. The terrain response system can be clicked into general, snow, mud or sand setting, and the 6-speed automatic can be set for normal, sport, or manual shift modes for complete control of any terrain and any driving demand or driver mood. The dynamic stability control is reinforced with roll stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control — which actually helps keep your attempted turn in a manageable trajectory — hill-descent control — which relieves the brakes of sole responsibility for harnessing downhill speed — emergency brake assist, trailer stability assist, and hill start assist — which prevents the tendency to roll backwards on startup.
It may sound as though Big Brother is trying to take over operation, but in reality, all those high-tech features only enhance the driver’s ability to make the Evoque perform as if instinctively.
Reality, of course, is that about 95 percent of SUV buyers stays on the road, and may consider off-roading negotiating a gravel trail to a cabin on a Northland lake. Range Rover owners have a higher incidence of off-roading, and while not as high as Jeep Wrangler buyers, for example, the very capability of being able to over-achieve in canyon rock-crawling is part of the allure of any Range Rover or Land Rover. While on the road, the Evoque stays firmly planted for stable, fully controlled driving through tight curves on roads of any quality.
All Range Rover/Land Rover vehicles have that capability, but the difference is, other siblings surprise you with their stability, but the Evoque, with its lower roofline and more aggressive stance, not only looks like it should handle the best, it does. As the smallest and lightest of all Range Rovers, it doesn’t lean or show any other foul manners in twisty curves.Everything from rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, front and rear parking distance alerts, with a rear camera, power tailgate, side impact door beams front and rear, and a cocoon of seven airbags, and a 380-watt,, 11-speaker Meridian audio system with AM, FM, CD, MP3, Bluetooth phone connectivity, with streaming audio plus USB and iPod hookups — come standard on the base Evoque, listed at $41,145.
If scanning those features leaves you breathlessly assuming you couldn’t possibly think of anything more to add, welcome to the Prestige Premium package, which includes special design of the 19-inch wheels, real wood finishes, storage racks for the load space, 8-way driver and 6-way passenger seats of premium leather, with Oxford leather dashboard panel, surround camera system, navigation with voice control, increasing the Meridian audio to 825-watt surround, with 17 speakers, plus Xenon headlights. That package tallies at $10,400.
In addition, cold-climate buyers can add the climate control pack with its heated front seats and windshield, steering wheel and washer jets for another $1,000. Sirius satellite radio and HD radio, plus a rear set entertainment set with dual 8-inch screens, and a DVD player with wireless headphones and remote control, load up the $41,145 sticker to a whopping $56,920. That’s a lot, but it also helps underline the bargain nature of the $41,145 pre-option price. There aren’t many SUVs at any price that accelerate and handle as well as the Evoque, fewer that can rival the almost-futuristic looks, and precious few SUVs that can attain 27 miles per gallon.