Range Rover Evoque: the sensible choice

Photo credits: Francesco Carlo for Lovecars © 2020

The Range Rover Evoque is Land Rover’s most popular model since its launch back in 2011, contributing to JLR’s 8% revenues’ rise year-on-year. After a mid-cycle refresh in 2015,  the car has recently been completely updated inside, outside and under the bonnet. Is it enough to compete in the ever challenging SUV segment?

Exterior

The tested model is a P250 AWD, finished in Soul Pearl Silver, with copper accent pack and 21-inch wheels. The exterior is rather sporty and pronounced given this is a R-Dynamic trim; the extremely thin full LED matrix headlights resemble those found on the big brother Velar, just like the rear ones. Overall, the new Evoque takes a lot of inspiration from its bigger siblings, featuring retractive door-handles, smooth and levigated surfaces broken by the power lines that flow over the side of the vehicle.

The old model was one if not coolest looking mid-sized SUV on the market, the new one just got even better. Looking sleek and smart while maintaining the classic imposing presence of a Range Rover, the car sticks out among many of the modern messy sport utilities.

Interior

Inside the key-word is evolution, again taking many design clues from the Velar – waterfall center console – or the cousin Jaguar F-Type – vertical gear selector instead of the old pop-up rotating wheel.

Everything is cladded in fine navy blue and black leather, piano black veneer and aluminium details. The center console features two big screen: the upper one measures 10-inch in diagonal and pivots at the start-up, controls the main infotainment and settings of the vehicle as well as projecting the 360° camera view and many other useful informations. Through the fixed lower screen driver and passengers can select the suitable driving mode, operate the climate controls – aided by two semi-digital knobs that change function according to the displayed setting – choose the heater/massage function for the seats and control the media player if the upper screen is set to show something else.

Speaking of infotainment, it’s the last iteration of Jaguar-Land Rover InControl Touch Pro: easy to navigate through tiles and full of functions and data like the digital compass or car’s external dimensions. It isn’t the most responsive system on the market, falling behind the likes of MB UX and Audi Connect, but the much appreciated addition of Android Auto and Apple Carplay makes life much easier with the integration of apps such as Spotify or Waze; you’ll easily forget and forgive the downsides.

The beautiful steering wheel is lifted straight from the Velar, for good reasons. It boasts touch-sensitive buttons for main functions controls and – much appreciated due to the freezing temperatures of the test – is heated too. It’s righfully sized in diameter and thickness however, the plastic paddles are a bit of a let down. Both the left and right stokes offer good feedback and feel premium to the touch.

Instrument cluster is fully-digital and clear to read, offers plenty of infos and is customizable to the driver’s liking. The vertical shifter has been borrowed from the sporty F-Type, not only it does look cool but also allows for a more intuitive gear selection and frees up space in center tunnel.
One option that has to be ticked is definitely the massive panoramic sunroof, this allows a ton of light to come into the cabin making it more airy and pleasant.

The coolest feature has to be the Clear Sight rear view mirror: at first you’d be forgiven to think it’s just a mirrore, but at the flick of a switch it becomes a display that projects what the camera mounted in the top fin sees at the back, a crystal clear picture of what happens behind whatever the weather or lighting conditions may be.

All in all, the interior of the Evoque feels extremely premium and is full of comforts for all its occupants. Front seats are immensely plush, and even at the rear there’s plenty of room for two or even three people; you’d be surprised of how much room there’s inside despite the compact look and high belt line.

Specs

The model tested is the P250 AWD, meaning under the bonnet there’s a petrol 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder Ingenium engine putting out 250hp and 365 N/m of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels thanks to the renowned 9-speed ZF gearbox, delivering smooth and seamless shifts. 0 to 100Km/h is covered in 7,5 seconds and top speed is clocked at 230Km/h.

The overall size has hardly changed. This is not what usually happens, as we’ve seen many other – even iconic – cars swelling up with each generation. The lengthened wheelbase though is a clue that this isn’t just a re-skin of the old car, but an all-new platform. cargo space ranges from 472 to 11156 liters, enough for anybody’s needs.

The Evoque is now a mild-hybrid thanks to the introduction of a 48 Volt battery system that helps sparking the inline-four after the car has come to a stop; it also powers the electronics when the engines is off, offers slightly additional power during acceleration and gathers kinetic energy when the car is coasting. All of these features help improve the fuel economy, aided by the fact that the engines shuts itself when decelerating below 20Km/h. Pros of the mild-hybrid system are its low weight compared to full-hybrids and rather simple implementation.

There are many ADAS, as expected, but my car didn’t have the head-up display or adaptive cruise control, only the standard one.

Driving Impressions

It’s a Range Rover, so there’s no pretence of being sporty. But there’s quite a satisfaction to be had from the way it responds to your demands with enough precision.

Around town it’s pretty silent and willing. The mild hybrid system can shut the engine early as you move to a stop, and then re-start instantly. It does help fill in the brief troughs of turbo lag, but with 250hp on tap the car isn’t slow by any means.

Out on the open road, performance is effective enough, bearing in mind with this car’s equipment you’re stopping the scale close to 1,900kg plus driver.

The nine-speed automatic gearbox is far better calibrated than when it first turned up in the last Evoque. Even so, it still isn’t as refined as some other double-clutch units. It’ll hold on to a gear too long when you gently open the throttle, then bang down through several gears. When you use the paddleshifters though it’s always on point.

In corners there’s some roll, but that helps you gauge what’s going on in the near-complete absence of steering feel. The good view out due to the elevated seating position – I don’t know why, but it feels to be sitting higher than comparable SUV’s, not that I’m complaining – and comparatively narrow body are blessings in cities and narrow streets.

The ride isn’t soft like a big Range Rover, but it’s quite compliant despite the 21-inch rims and takes away most of the harshness. Switching between damper modes makes only a subtle difference, and in fact auto mode is the best calibrated. Comfort mode doesn’t help much because it loses wheel feedback even more. The suspension is quiet and tyre noise is properly smothered away too.

Land Rover’s always provides decent clearance and articulation compared to their competitors, and some handy off-road traction electronics to keep you trucking along even in challenging conditions or tricky surfaces.. However, I doubt any Evoque will ever have to tackle anything more extreme than a puddle.

Verdict

I think the new Range Rover Evoque is a big step up from the old model, both in terms of styling and technology; to me, this is the coolest mid-size SUV. Sure, it’s expensive – the car you see photographed here was more than €70K –  but the quality, refinement and comfort are certainly on par with the price tag.

My only complaint is with the fuel consumption: I manage to average close to 11 liter of petrol per 100Km which translates to a smidge more than 9Km/l; I guess that didn’t come by surprise since I mainly used the car around town. I hope to be able to try a diesel variant soon, which definitely seems a more appropriate choice regarding the size and type of vehicle.

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Francesco Carlo

Automotive photographer based in Florence. If he's not behind the camera, you'll find him on a roadtrip at the wheel of a supercar or reviewing the newest one.