First Drive : Range Rover Evoque ED4 Pure Coupe

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The Range Rover Evoque is a great looking car, and that's led to sales success - but is the quality more than skin deep?
The Range Rover Evoque is a great looking car, and that's led to sales success - but is the quality more than skin deep?

The Evoque has been a massive hit for Land Rover – as soon as it was launched, demand for the stylish mini-SUV-crossover with concept car looks outstripped supply, and a waiting list has built up. But despite that, it seems that we’re seeing Evoques everywhere – and good British design on our roads is back in fashion. It’s a premium-priced product though, but thankfully, the £28K entry level model looks as good as its fully-optioned £50K counterpart, and potential buyers won’t feel shortchanged at the kerbside.

Certainly, the Evoque turns heads, which is quite an achievement considering it’s been around a while now. But the arresting style that’s created by exquisite detailing and that daring roofline and windscreen rake has yet to be copied by the opposition, meaning it’s quite literally a car without rivals. And that makes conventional road tests a little bit difficult to formulate – does one compare it with style rivals such as the Audi TT, or function contemporaries like the Audi Q3 or Nissan Qashqai? In the end, it’s best not to think about it, and get on with the business of actually living with the Evoque – attention from passers-by and all.

Our test car certainly doesn’t look like an entry-level model, and perhaps it shouldn’t be considered in that way at £28,950 plus for the £1900 Tech pack (which includes the Meridian media system), £300 rear view camera and £790 panoramic roof. And that makes it far from being a value proposition. But at least it feels like  you’re buying something special for your money – it sits on 19in alloys and has LED running lights, which give it that ‘premium’ feel without looking flash or pretentious. And that’s what good design is all about.

Luckily the interior more than lives up to the high standards the exterior sets out. Jump in, and you’re greeted with a wonderful mix of almond and nutmeg seat and dash shading, contrasted by brushed aluminium trim. The dashboard plastics and nicely textured, while the seat fabric – redolent of Alcantara – is tough and feels nice to touch. Being so light, it’s hard to imagine it staying clean for very long, but as it’s more likely to be ploughing boutique alley than the farmyard, this is unlikely to be too much of an issue. Finally, the design and architecture of the interior is fantastic – from the reclined car-like driving position to the way the centre console swoops through the main dash structure, it’s clear that the Evoque has been styled thoroughly inside as well as out.

Ergonomically, it’s good, but not perfect. The electronic parking brake and start/stop button are oddly positioned (which you would get used to), but the access to the rear seat is hampered by the laughably slow electric motor that pushes the seat forward into tilting position (but if you need regular access to the rear, you’ll be buying the five-door). And as for visibility, the lofty driving position means a nice view forward. But the view behind is poor, especially at the rear three-quarters. The huge door mirrors also do a fair bit of view-blocking on corners, so take care out there… and buy the rearward facing camera for parking.

Other equipment, such as the 8in touchscreen and Meridian sound system, add to the sense of occasion, and make the driver feel just ‘special’.

Once underway, the 148bhp turbodiesel just gets on with the job quietly and disappears into the background. And offers far more usability than than the bare figures would have you believe. The 0-60mph time of 10 seconds is more than adequate, even if you’ll not be bragging about the 112mph top speed, but in reality, it feels punchy in cut and thrust driving and has a nice, wide power band. The gearchange is light and accurate, if not especially direct feeling, and he steering is quick and well-weighted, although it can feel sticky and oddly-weighted around the centre.

Push harder and the Evoque reveals its off-road roots: it rolls more than a similarly priced executive saloon might, and if you’re really cracking on, the back end can start feel a little bit light in quicker bends. But overall, it’s mechanically hushed, long legged, and rides reasonably well, with just a little jitter on broken road surfaces. There is some wind and tyre noise at motorway speed, but that’s probably exacerbated by the quietness of the engine once in its long-striding sixth gear.

And that’s the thing with the Evoque. If you judge it dispassionately on its merits, you could come away feeling a little unmoved by it. It’s not ballistic-fast, nor does it boast sporting handling. It’s not that roomy either, and those with narrow garages will find it a tight fit. It’s also more expensive than the roomier car it’s based on. And yet, just like the original 1970 Range Rover – but for very different reasons – the Evoque is brilliant. Brilliant in its desirability.

It excels in cossetting the driver, and is also a wonderful lesson in good design. You’ll either love or hate the Evoque, but you’ll not be able to ignore it. And that’s why it’s a worthy AROnline reader Car of The Year and one that proves that Britain is still more than capable of making the most desirable (relatively) affordable new cars in the world.

If you want practical or value for money, shop elsewhere. If you want to feel and look good, buy an Evoque. And right now, it looks like rather a lot of you are.

 

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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11 Comments

  1. I really wanted one when I saw it at the Melbourne motor show. But then I kept being drawn to a Defender 90. And then read the price list. Which brought me back to the 90…which was also jolly dear.

    So I bought a Jeep Wrangler with thousands spent. But would still love a 90. As for the Evoque, I think they’re lovely, but have now been tarnished with the fashionista tag.

    Methinks I will have to wait until the price comes way down when they are no longer flavour of the month. By then, the marketing image will have been forgotten as well. I should be over real 4×4’s by then anyway!

  2. These things are all over the place here in Harrogate and they are good looking and solid.

    Would I buy one – no, I would look to having a freelander or RR Sport (it so nearly happened) but that is my taste and not a comment on the car.

    Yet again – well done JLR – can’t wait to see the new Rangie later this year.

  3. AndrewP – My sentiments exactly. Just because the car isnt to my taste doesnt mean it shouldnt exist. I am pleased it does and delighted to see the British Motor industry on a roll producing such innovative products. Pity your average weird beard doesnt see the world this way.

  4. A great vehicle that shows Britain can still design, engineer and build world-class cars that customers instantly want to go out and buy. And at a ‘slightly more affordable’ end of the market too (£28,000+ rather than £128,000).

    This is a great success story for Land Rover Ltd and Jaguar Land Rover. Long may it continue!

  5. The best of the new small Range are the engines which were not designed in GB!
    Britain has lost it´s leadership in building small cars and medium cars many years ago and today there were no companies in GB which will build or construct/engeneer cars.
    It is a shame!
    Big cars were developed in Germany and with their help assembled in GB!
    I will wish LRJ good luck for the next years but I drove german SUV´s and that is the stete of the art.
    LR has lost it leadership in Africa when Toyota sold their Land Cruiser and in Europe they lost their leadership as they were sold from BMW to Ford.
    Now BMW knows how to build SUV´s, Mercedes leard it from Steyr-Puch and Audi were one of the first with building 4×4´s in the early 1950´s.
    Now in Germany you will see 5 Companuies which will make SUS´s which were better and more reliable than Land Rovers!
    Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche and these companies were all more upper class than LR!
    Sorry!

  6. I didn’t know that JLR products were developed in Germany and then built here. Then again somebody who thinks that VW is upper class and that BMW know how to build 4×4 cars……..

  7. Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are the most uelsee 4×4’s by far.. all are utterly hopless when it comes to off roading, where the landrover was and still is king, the germans aren’t even close

  8. Nobody who’s tested the Evoque has said that the ‘engines were the best bit’. They’ve mentioned the stunning styling (inside and out) and the surprisingly good off road capability though.

    Anyway, the diesel engines come from the joint venture between Ford and PSA, and Ford’s European diesel expertise is in the UK, so the engine is if anything Anglo/French.

    The latest state of the art 3 cylinder Ford engine was designed in the UK in Dunton…

  9. This looks so much better in 3 door form- even though a 3 door of that size doesn’t make real sense, this isn’t a car that you buy with your head, you just want to own one, as indeed I do…

    Just not in white.

    I’d suggest that possibly the nearest comparable car would be the Subaru Forester. I once drove one back from Heathrow for a mate (a non turbo’d S reg) and wasn’t too impressed with the handling (compared to the Focus I then owned) nor the ridiculous fuel consumption…

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