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BMW X6s and Infiniti FXes of the present, AMC Eagles of the past--the coupe-like crossover vehicle is a trend that's been in gestation a long, long time. And man, has it produced some ugly offspring.
Now it's spawned the 2012 Range Rover Evoque, and finally, at long last, it makes hot sexy sense.
The Evoque may be the first truly sensuous SUV in history. It's a captivating stiletto heel in a closet full of Land Rover earth shoes. Some loose family features are appliqued on its taut, angular body--one that, you won't be surprised to hear, has a fan in the form of taut, angular hominid Victoria Beckham. But those are mostly for show, little geocaching leftovers of Range Rover's past. This soft-roader is all about tomorrow, and it lives to be seen with every hair in place, not covered in muck.
Erase some of the Rover-bred notions you've applied to the Evoque's performance, the ones that imply trucky handling and rustic V-8 torque. There's even less Landie here. Derived from the LR2, the Evoque throws down an entirely fascinating new gauntlet with its 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder. It's coarse on the go, with plenty of drivetrain noise and noticeable turbo lag, but the smallville drivetrain gives up nothing to the heavier, less strong LR2 and it sets the Evoque apart from the bigger Rovers that luxuriate in eight-cylinder streams of torque. It's an urgent, attention-craving piece, as whizzy as an Acura RDX, with similar fuel economy of 19/28 mpg.
All-weather traction is a forte, given its Terrain Response dial-a-mode all-wheel-drive system, and the Evoque's steering does a great imitation of the units in compact Volvos and Fords. The light touch follows through to the most dynamic model, with its magnetically-controlled suspension and muted, supple ride. And it still has more than eight inches of ground clearance, should you get high-centered on some of the last-season stuff stacked on the curb at Saks.
If you expect to give up a lot, other than extra cash, to fit into the Evoque lifestyle, you may want to try one on for size first. There's less room than the LR2, but the Evoque is wider, so overall interior volume isn't intolerable. Up front it's quite comfortable for adults, a little less so in the back seat but not objectionably so, so long as you've bought into the coupe-like premise. What's not easy to swallow is a big adult gut, if you have to clamber into the back seat of three-door Evoques. Meanwhile, the car itself can tote almost a couple dozen cubic feet of luggage, no matter which body you choose.
Land Rover's tackling the brand-stretching Evoque launch with three models and those two body styles. The five-door comes in Pure, Prestige and Dynamic models; the two-door skips Prestige trim. All versions have the standard-issue power features, entertainment features like Bluetooth, USB, and an LCD touchscreen to drive the Meridian audio system as well as phone and optional hard-drive navigation systems. Opt for Pure or Dynamic versions if you want splashy colors with twists of Alexander McQueen; get into a Prestige if your turn-ons include libraries, mahogany paneling, and anything by Laura Bennett. By any means possible, spend up for the panoramic roof, and let it light up the cocoon-like cockpit.It's toyed with hybrid concepts, but now Land Rover can lay claim to the greening of SUVs, since the Range Rover Evoque's slimmed-down body and downsized drivetrain pay it forward with better gas mileage and, by extension, a happy planet. But the Evoque does something even more historic: it shifts the whole Range Rover brand out of the SUV muck, and pitches it into the future on a savvy, fashion-forward bias.