2016 Range Rover Evoque HSE Si4
Four years is a bit long to go without any visual updates, and to many the subtle changes made to this mildly refreshed 2016 Evoque won’t be enough to lure them back, a possible reason for the model’s declining sales. It was never going to match the X1’s numbers, however, this made clear after the German model’s first full year of sales when BMW found 26,512 X1 buyers and Land Rover just 11,405 for the Evoque, while even Mini managed to find 21,325 Countryman buyers in 2013.
If it weren’t for the Range Rover, Mini, which hasn’t changed the Countryman’s design one iota since inception, would now be lagging the entire segment with just 9,014 deliveries over the first eight months of 2016, but an entirely new X1 (ironically based on the Countryman) has raced into segment sales leadership with 15,709 units down the road during the same period. And yes, that means the Bimmer is currently ahead (albeit only by 334 units) of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which was introduced in 2014; whereas Audi had 12,525 Q3 deliveries as of August, a model that also arrived in 2014 yet was significantly revised for this 2016 model year; and the new Infiniti QX30 just started trickling into dealerships last month and therefore found just 74 buyers. Only the Buick Encore sells in higher numbers than the X1 (an outrageous 49,187 so far), although it’s more of an entry-level luxury model than a real premium contender. As for the Evoque, its sales grew to 12,440 in 2014 and increased to 14,583 in 2015, but so far this year it’s only managed to attract 7,074 buyers (even Fiat sold more near-premium 500X models).
There are some significant factors working against the Evoque’s sales success, particularly its elevated base price. The Evoque starts life at $41,800 plus freight and fees, which is not only more than all of the subcompact luxury SUVs mentioned (by a long shot), but it’s pricier than all larger compact luxury SUVs including its Land Rover Discovery Sport half-sibling, other than the $42,070 Buick Envision, the Evoque’s kissing cousin $42,390 Jaguar F-Pace, and the $47,500 Porsche Macan. No wonder it sells in lower numbers, but is it worth the extra coin?
There are some that adhere to the bigger is better philosophy, which infers that moving up into a larger segment somehow buys you a more appealing vehicle. I couldn’t agree less. Certainly this is true within most brands, the Range Rover Sport a worthwhile jump up from this Evoque, and the full-size Range Rover about as over-the-top impressive as SUVs get, especially in top-line Supercharged Autobiography trim, but none of its direct peers match the little Evoque for driving dynamics (except the GLA, particularly in 45 AMG trim).
The Evoque starts with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out a zippy 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to a class-leading adaptive shift program enhanced nine-speed automatic, controlled by the coolest knurled metal rotating dial selector ever, that’s much more engaging than the previous six-speed unit, as I mentioned after first testing it last year, and considerably smoother and more refined feeling this year. While fuel efficient at a claimed 21 mpg city, 30 highway and 24 combined, this is the most powerful base engine in the class resulting in a low seven-second sprint from zero to 60 mph and a top speed of 135 mph, and while this doesn’t measure up to the aforementioned GLA 45 AMG’s 375 horsepower and 4.2-second to 60 segment dominator, it’s still a great deal quicker than Mini’s top-line John Cooper Works-tweaked Countryman when mated to its autobox, and only beaten in torque by the X1 (with a mere 8 lb-ft more), albeit a whole second to 60.
The Evoque also comes standard with an advanced all-wheel drive system that’s even capable of serious off-roading. For comparison, every competitor starts off with cheaper front-wheel drive trim, while even when upgraded to AWD none of these cute utes offers anything near the Evoque’s 4×4 prowess. I’m guessing most Evoque owners won’t be trudging through waist deep swampland or mud-slinging their pretty little ride up the side of a mountain during spring runoff, or for that matter rock crawling through dry riverbeds in the heat of summer (search “Evoque off road extreme” for some incredible video footage), but they may find themselves knee high in fluffy white stuff after a weekend on the slopes, at which point they’ll be glad they spent extra for a real off-road capable SUV.
For such situations the 2016 Evoque’s Terrain Response system, which features pushbutton mode selection from normal to grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, or sand, has been upgraded with new All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) that maintains a driver selectable (via cruise control) speed of 1.1 and 19 mph in either forward or reverse. This lets the driver solely focus on steering through difficult obstacles, rather than have to modulate the throttle too. It reminds me of the original Landy’s choke/accelerator linkage that could be used to do likewise, although this is light years more sophisticated.
The most impressive aspect to all this is the juxtaposing brilliance of the Evoque’s on-road manners. You’d think the segment’s best off-roader would be the least capable on a narrow strip of two-lane tarmac, but the opposite is true, it’s the Golf GTI of the lot. I hope the folks at JLR don’t mind me comparing their ritzy subcompact SUV to a lowly mainstream volume compact (ok, the GTI is hardly lowly or mainstream, but VW is), it’s just that the GTI is legendary for its deft handling. The Evoque (not the Tiguan, sorry VW, or the Q3 which is basically the same vehicle) carries the agility torch among subcompact SUVs (Jaguar’s F-Pace shares it with the Porsche Macan for the compact lot, Range Rover Sport for the mid-sizers, although it may be tied with the X5M, Cayenne GTS/Turbo, and we’d have to go head-to-head with a Range Rover and Bentayga for full-size top-tier honors… anybody up for that?)
The Evoque’s adaptive suspension, brake-induced torque vectoring, wide rubber, and generally good mechanical dynamics, not to mention its relatively light 3,682-lb curb weight thanks to prodigious use of high-strength steel throughout, aluminum for the hood and roof panels, plus polymer and composites for the front fenders and tailgate, give it an edge when the road starts to wind, while also providing a superb ride. So the question remains: Does the Evoque’s extreme 4×4 capability, superb handling, and comfortable ride seem like enough to make it so much pricier than its peers?
If you thought the Evoque’s base price was high compared to competitors, which incidentally start at $22,750 for the Countryman, $24,065 for the Encore, $29,950 for the QX30, $31,800 for the Q3, $32,850 for the GLA, and $33,100 for the otherwise priciest X1, consider that a fully loaded Countryman JCW hits above $45k and doesn’t include many more features than a base Evoque.
Range Rover knows its customers wouldn’t want an Evoque without large 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding heatable side mirrors (the Evoque’s even include projected LED puddle lamps that graphically outline its body image on the ground below), LED interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, a color TFT multi-information display, 12-way powered front seats with four-way lumbar, grained leather upholstery, real aluminum inlays, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors with a backup camera (featuring trailer hitching guidance), dual-zone auto HVAC, big screen eight-inch high-resolution color infotainment with the latest smartphone-style pinch and swipe capability and access to popular smartphone apps, navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, carpeted mats with edging, a cargo cover, and the list goes on, so it makes all these features and plenty more standard. Add these items to most competitors and you’ll be right in the same range as the base Range Rover, without the styling, on and off-road performance, and prestigious cachet.
My tester was upgraded to third-rung $51,000 HSE trim, which meant that its standard features included 19-inch 10-spoke alloys, HID headlamps with signature LEDs, auto-leveling and auto high beams, LED fog lamps, keyless access with the benefit of a hands-free Gesture Tailgate that simply needs a wave of the foot under the rear bumper to open, unique chrome treadplates, a garage door opener, memory seats and side mirrors, the latter with reverse tilt, upgraded Oxford leather with perforated inserts, configurable mood lighting, larger 10.2-inch InControl Touch Plus infotainment, 380-watt 11-speaker Meridian surround sound, a panoramic moonroof with a powered blind, blindspot monitoring with closing vehicle sensing and reverse cross-traffic alert, autonomous braking, and more.
My loaner came with some nice options too, the most noticeable being its wonderful Baltoro Ice exterior paint with contrasting Santorini black mirror caps, roof pillars, roof top, and spoiler, plus a light-grayish white Lunar Cirrus interior motif, dark gray oak hardwood veneer (traditional brown hardwood is available), a fabulous 825-watt 17-speaker Meridian audio upgrade, a Cold Climate Convenience package that added a heatable steering wheel, heatable front and rear seats, plus a heated windscreen and washer jets, and lastly a Driver Assistance package featuring traffic sign recognition, a superb surround camera system, 360-degree park distance control, and lane keeping assist, attention assist.
There were still options available, such as new full LED headlights with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, a new head up display unit, cooled front seats, etcetera, plus there are two trim levels above HSE, including HSE Dynamic and Autobiography that increase content further while modifying the Evoque’s styling with a unique front fascia and more.
Now that we’re talking styling, some of the 2016 Evoque’s exterior modifications include a revised grille, larger air intakes, new available “slimline” fogs, redesigned headlights, the coupe model’s hood vents added to the two top-line models (the coupe is reduced to a single SE Premium trim line while a new convertible joins the ranks), a new rooftop spoiler with a new wider CHMSL, and a new rooftop antenna, while the updated interior gets beautifully sculpted, wonderfully comfortable new seat designs, updated door panels, more soft-touch materials, new optional color combinations, the aforementioned upgraded infotainment, new massaging front seats in top-line models, and much more.
As for that interior, it continues to please with impressive style and quality. Unlike some competitors, all roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash top and instrument panel isn’t only soft touch but stitched leather, all of the beautifully detailed aluminum trim is genuine, and the switchgear quality is excellent. A few areas that are done better in one or two of its competitors include the lower dash panels, glove box lid and lower door panels that are finished in harder plastics, although the latter are comprised of a heavier-duty composite that might actually wear well for those engaged in more aggressive off-roading, while the rest of the SUV is more than up to standard.
While it’s a subcompact SUV, it’s quite roomy thanks to considerably more width than its competitors. Even if you’re larger than average you should have no problem fitting into the Evoque, as its headroom, legroom, plus shoulder and hip space is excellent for the class. The rear offers three-abreast seating for adults and ultra-comfortable accommodations for two, enhanced by a flip-down center armrest filled with cupholders.
The cargo compartment is also nicely finished, with carpeting on the floor and sidewalls, mine upgraded with a rubber tray for protecting those carpets from wet things like skis, ski boots and outerwear, while a stainless trunk sill protector plate and chromed tie-down rings improve the look and functionality. The rear seatbacks split 60/40 and fold quite flat, while like the passenger compartment this model provides greater size for more cargo capacity than most of its rivals; the numbers reading 20.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks upright and 51.0 cubic feet when laid flat. A hard tonneau cover is standard, providing visual protection as well as a sturdy parcel shelf for lighter items.
Spend a little time with an Evoque and you’ll quickly appreciate how it managed to notch up more than 165 international awards since inception. This is a superb little SUV that keeps on getting better, even if the changes seem incremental. I recommend it highly.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press