- A profile cut from sheets of awesome
- More cockpit room than you might think
- Whizzy turbocharged power
- Plenty of all-weather talents
- Comes in spicy, trendy, prestigious flavors
- Sporty SUV still a logic trap
- Pricey, even for a Euro ute
- Turbo four's gristly noises
- Three-door back seats aren't easy to reach
The era of truly coupe-like SUVs dawns, finally, and the 2012 Range Rover Evoque nails it with turbo thrust and carlike handling.
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.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
A sexy fusion of its own LRX concept vehicle and--of course--the MINI Cooper, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque is the first coupe-like SUV to really work. It's an aesthetic home run from the outside, and pretty successful inside as well.
Land Rover's draped all sorts of fashion bits and pieces, like Victoria Beckham, all over the Evoque as it launches, to convince us that it's fashion-forward. There wasn't really any need to insist: the Evoque is a stunning SUV, or crossover. The bull bar's perfect for visual chin-ups; the slimmed-down Land Rover grille fits the chopped, channeled Evoque silhouette like Ray-Bans, down to cutlines that act like earpieces as they curve over the front wheel arches. The angular drop of the roofline and the reverse wedge of glass are the things instant classics are made of. Smartly, Land Rover amps up the effect by offering contrasting roof colors, a MINI trick that's also worked wonders on the Ford Flex. Box-section taillamps and a thin strip of rearview glass come off as stylized military pieces, Swiss Army swatches of design.
Whether it's trimmed out with cool metallics or warm woods, the Evoque's cabin is just as suggestive of bigger Range Rovers, without aping their formal construction. Big, round gauges are topped by a twin-stitched dash cap, a loving, couture touch. Cut-corner rectangles frame the console, the LCD touchscreen, the gear selector, the door panel inserts. Pay your way into "Dynamic" Evoques, and some electrifying color and trim combinations won't remind you of anything British, except maybe Wham!, or go with "Prestige" combinations to be coddled and swaddled in the usual walnuts and leathers. Where there's metal inside the Evoque, it's real--and pleasantly cold to the touch. Land Rover's also paid special attention to interior lighting: ambient LED casts a driver-selectable set of colors, which turn to red on Dynamic models when sport driving mode is engaged.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
According to the legalese, the Range Rover Evoque is still a Land Rover--which implies all sorts of things about low-end torque, extreme fording capability, short overhangs and rock-crawling capability second only to reptiles.
You don't have to scotch all those preconceived notions, but it helps if you picture the Evoque as something closer to a pint-sized Range Rover car, one with sizable off-road prowess. The Evoque not only lowers its profile for more carlike handling, it cuts down its displacement and fashions something quick and nimble around a turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain.
The 2.0-liter "Si4" engine is, in fact, essentially the same one Ford installs in the latest EcoBoost editions of the 2012 Edge and 2012 Explorer. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct injection and turbocharging, the engine spins out 240 horsepower--more than the Ford-derived in-line six fitted to the Land Rover LR2. As it's doing across the Ford lineup, the turbo four provides a little jet-fuel jolt to the Rover identity, trading brawny strength for something more raucous, and surely less refined, but just as quick. There's plenty of whistle and thrum in the Evoque's cabin when the turbo hits full boil, and a measurable bit of lag until it does--fine for on-road merging, not so ideal for delicate off-pavement mudding--and it can launch the Evoque to 60 mph in about 7.0 seconds, Land Rover says, without much doubt.
The six-speed automatic controller rises out of the dash, a la the Jaguar XF or 2001: A Space Odyssey, and does everything to amplify the turbo's joy through its sport mode and paddle shifting. In all, the powertrain's more a positive in the Evoque's column--and Ford's, if you know the backstory.
The carlike feel goes deep into the Evoque's bones, as its electric power steering and independent suspension take it a step further away from mud-plugger than even the LR2 dared to. Light responses are built into the steering, with a fair amount of road feedback translated to the wheel, but almost none of the heft you might want--you know, for street cred. The suspension's a combination of coils and struts on base versions; on the Dynamic models we drove, a magnetically-controlled set of shocks dials up a very well controlled ride that dispels any poor-handling SUV recovered memories you might have. Within a few miles of mixed driving, the Evoque gels, and starts to make sense as a Range Rover, not a Land Rover.
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.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Comfort & Quality
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque draws on some of the genes of today's Land Rover LR2, which itself is kin to the Volvo XC60. But the Evoque's been lowered, shortened and widened into a distinct package that's consciously smaller outside and less spacious inside than its sibling--all in the name of fashion.
It sounds damning, but the Evoque's cabin doesn't suffer much for the downsizing. It's still quite comfortable for the front passengers, who ride on power-adjustable seats with coolly-styled, cut-down bolsters and on some versions, bold stitching. Head room isn't as lavish as you'll get in the usual Land Rover package, but even with the panoramic sunroof fitted--it's standard on many models--the Evoque still allows for a higher seating position and enough vertical space for six-foot occupants. Elbow room isn't an issue, since the Evoque is a few inches wider than the LR2.
It's a bit tighter in back in the five-door Evoque. The low ride height will cue tall passengers to duck on their way into the back seat, and once they're there, the well-shaped seats will provide enough support against their backs. The seat bottom is shorter, to carve out more leg room on the spec sheet, but in practical use, those mythical six-footers will be rubbing knees against the front seat backs and their heads against part of the glass roof's frame. It's less permissible for a traditional SUV to be short on interior space, but the whole idea of the Evoque is to sacrifice some space for style, and it does it in a fairly inoffensive way.
The three-door Evoque has the same wheelbase as the five-door, so it's less a shock that its seats are almost as comfortable as the ones on the five-door. It's the entry and exit that could tax an older passenger; kids will love clambering in past the front buckets into the back nacelle, but geezers will use those gymnastics as one more reason to condemn the Evoque. The three-door gives buyers the option of a three-seat bench or a pair of buckets; while you're going impractical, why not pick the pair?
Storage space is still quite good, and despite its cut and creased body, it has more cargo room than some taller luxury crossovers. The three-door Evoque sports 19.4 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats, and 47.6 cubic feet when those seats are folded down. The five-door has marginally more space, at 20.3 cubic feet with the seats up, and 51.0 cubic feet with them down.
The cabin has a big center console bin with cupholders hidden under a tambor, and a fairly deep bin under the armrest. A nicely sized glovebox and decent door-panel pockets give drivers some places to stash stuff out of sight.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
As a brand-new vehicle, the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque hasn't yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
We base our score here on the Evoque's available safety features, which include standard front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and user-selectable all-wheel drive with hill-descent control and trailer-stability assist, both of which use anti-lock braking to stabilize the Evoque in more extreme driving or towing situations.
Bluetooth is also standard on the Evoque, as are a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. Among its options are a surround-view rear camera and blind-spot detectors, both useful features we'd recommend for almost all drivers, given the Evoque's high-rise rear end.
Even though it is a tall vehicle with stylishly tapered glass, visibility is surprisingly good in the Evoque, though the rear headrests and rear pillars create medium-sized blind spots.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
With base prices starting at just under $44,000 for the five-door and $45,000 for the three-door, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque avoids comparisons with compact crossovers like the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Cadillac SRX entirely. And since it's pitched as a pricier design statement, it's stuffed with features that naturally are offered in "themes," instead of more plebeian packages.
The basic Evoque is sold as the Pure. These versions sport neutral colors and soft-touch plastics on the dash, dabbed with real aluminum trim. Standard features on the five-door include the usual power features; cruise control; Bluetooth connectivity; an AM/FM/CD player with 380 watts of speaker power and a USB port for media players; automatic headlights; automatic climate control; front and rear parking sensors; and a rearview camera. Options include a hard-drive navigation system; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; satellite and HD radio; a surround-view rear camera; and a panoramic roof that's among the biggest panels we've ever seen in such a small vehicle--and a feature that greatly enhances the Evoque's cozy cockpit. It's added to the three-door as standard equipment.
The mid-grade Evoque is the Prestige model. Figured as the younger cousin to the Range Rover Sport, this version wears its own leather-wrapped interior with beautiful stitching and wood trim; 19-inch wheels, with an option for 20-inchers; and two-tone color schemes. To the Pure's equipment, it adds a power tailgate; fog lamps; the surround-view camera; a rear-seat armrest; power front seats with memory; keyless entry; and the navigation system. Optional equipment includes HD and satellite radio and the DVD entertainment system. The Prestige isn't offered in a three-door version.
Finally, there's the Dynamic model, which has its own choices among 19- and 20-inch wheels, to go with distinctive fascias and tailpipes for a more aggressive look. Its sporty interior gets perforated leather seats and contrast stitching, with some wild colors like lime green and chili orange and an option for a contrasting roof color. This version adds on steering-wheel controls for audio and navigation and phone; blind-spot monitors; and the surround-view camera, with options for the DVD entertainment system, satellite and HD radio, and the Adaptive Dynamics package, which adds magnetically-controlled shocks to the Evoque's suspension. Three-door Evoques in this trim level have a choice of a three-seat bench in back, or of twin bucket seats.
The Evoque's touchscreen controls for audio and navigation are familiar to anyone who's driven a recent Jaguar or Land Rover vehicle. The Evoque version has a larger eight-inch screen and some interaction with Bluetooth controls--and Bluetooth can also stream audio to the Evoque's audio system, which itself can be upgraded to a concert-quality Meridian system with 825 watts of power and 17 speakers.
A winter package bundles a heated windshield with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Normally, a sport-utility vehicle or crossover has to do something fairly extraordinary to receive a good green score. Like some other crossovers new for 2012, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque rates highly not because it's a hybrid or a diesel, but because it's smaller than the typical offering from Land Rover, and has a suitably downsized engine to boot.
The Evoque's 2.0-liter, direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder is something we've seen before in other crossovers. In fact, it's closely related to the EcoBoost engines in the 2012 Ford Explorer and Ford Edge--a legacy of Ford's ownership of Land Rover until a few years ago. The Evoque's output is similar, at 240 horsepower, and its fuel economy ends up comparable to that of the EcoBoost Explorer--an EPA-estimated 19/28 mpg.
By shrinking the size of the vehicle, Land Rover argues, it's also been able to go with the four-cylinder and to cut weight all over the vehicle. The Evoque's curb weight checks in at just about 3600 pounds, without the kind of exotic aluminum construction that gets the Jaguar XJ sedan in the same weight class.
Land Rover also says each Evoque contains about 35 pounds of recycled plastics.
A diesel version of the Evoque is offered in European and other world markets, but it hasn't been confirmed for a spot in American showrooms.