The Range Rover Evoque isn't a full-scale Land Rover, despite the name, but it's impressively capable off-road for what it is--a catlike Land Rover crossover. Just don't go fording any fast-moving rivers or trekking the Rubicon.
Lower in height, and also lower in power and displacement than the other Land Rovers, the Evoque is nonetheless peppy and fun in its own right, with a 240-horsepower direct-injection 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder driving it along. A six-speed transmission handles gear changes--rising out of the dash like the one in the Jaguar XF, a cool and futuristic feature--playing well with the engine for an engaging driving experience. A bit of turbo lag does rear its head, a trait that isn't ideal on the trail or in the mud, but which doesn't really get in the way in typical use on the road.
The term "carlike" is thrown around a bit too lightly at times with other crossovers; here, it's perfect. Electric power steering makes steering light and crisp, while the independent suspension gives it a nimbleness and balance completely unlike an SUV or larger crossover. Step up to the Dynamic model and magnetically-controlled dampers replace the standard units for even more ride quality and body control. A few miles behind the wheel of the Evoque makes it clear: this is not just a new breed of Land Rover, but a new breed of crossover.
Still, it's the promise of true off-road strength that brings buyers back to the brand when an Audi Q5 or a Volvo XC60 might do just as well. A reinforced, high-strength steel body is underpinned by Land Rover's four-mode, all-conditions Terrain Response system. It puts a Haldex all-wheel-drive system together with electronic software that splits drivetrain behavior into normal, Snow, Mud and Ruts, and Sand modes, which are selected by tapping buttons on the console--no levers to shift.
The Evoque has short overhangs, and even a bit more ground clearance than the LR2, and in our trail-riding time in prototype three-doors, the system showed off as much all-weather talent as the Explorers we've driven this year. It'll clamber up or roll haltingly down fairly steep hills, anti-lock sensors dictating bursts of torque and braking to modulate the trip up or down. It's pretty amazing how electronics have changed the art of off-road driving to a few switches, but make no mistake--the Evoque's hardware does a lot of things, but it's not intended to be, and not capable of being, the off-road equal of a "real" Range Rover.