A Small SUV That’s Truly a Range Rover
The second-generation Evoque balances style and substance.
One of the hottest new vehicle categories is the compact SUV. These little tall wagons are also referred to as “crossovers” from the origin of sports utilities like Honda’s CRV model based on the automaker’s passenger car platform. Honda’s rivals were quick to realize that an overwhelming number of buyers considered “off-road” a gravel driveway, so why build expensive capability that few would use or apricate.
In the early 1990s, Land Rover executives were eager to produce a small SUV to participate in this rapidly growing market and approached then-partner Honda to help develop a model. Honda demurred since its own entrant was under development and in 1997, Land Rover introduced the Freelander. The British company’s newest offering quickly became the top four-wheel-drive model in Europe.
Although the Freelander launched well, Land Rover struggled through ownership changes from BMW Group and Ford before its rescue by Tata Group. When the Freelander, then LR2 compact models finished their run, they were followed by the Evoque, a stylish, premium SUV that has properly carried the Land Rover luxury image.
No More Box
With the myriad of compact SUVs that have populated the marketplace, Land Rover’s gifted designer Gerry McGovern determined that the new Evoque had to make a statement. He did just that, creating a coupe-like silhouette with a fast roofline plunging to nearly greet a raising beltline. Add simple front sculpturing that captures Range Rover’s aesthetics and shoulders over larger wheel arches, a perfect match with our test vehicle’s 21-inch wheels, and the Evoque is truly set apart.
Luxury is carried inside this new second generation Evoque with new material choices that are premium alternatives to traditional leather, including Kvadrat wool blend and Dinamica® suedecloth, as well as a Eucalyptus Textile and Ultrafabrics that combine recycled plastics and natural materials. An all new infotainment system with dual screens is reasonably quick and easy to learn. There’s even reasonable room in the second row for adults and the visibility, while not as grand as the big Range Rover, is adequate. A nice feature is the interior rearview mirror that can switch from conventional to camera view.
On or Off Road
This is after all a Land Rover machine and it’s expected to deliver near military grade capability while still cosseting the occupants. In that perspective, from rock crawling to stream fording, the Evoque is fully capable. Climbing a dirt trail outside of Athens, Greece, I herded a flock of sheep back to their pasture with an amused Border Collie looking on. He was pleased that I wasn’t bidding for his job.
The new Evoque is available in a wide range of trim levels with the basic S starting at a reasonable $42,650 and climbing to the top line R-Dynamic HSE at $55,800, although our First Edition at $56,850was a tad more. And then you can add a few factory and dealer installed options. Two engines are offered, both 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinders mated to nine-speed automatic transmissions. My preference is the “Mild Hybrid” version that while it doesn’t improve fuel economy, it boosts the horsepower from 246 to 296 with a similar gain in torque. Towing is close a reasonable 3,968-pounds.