Much more substantial than we first imagined, the Evoque will be a sure-fire hit.
In the metal 5/5
The Evoque has stayed remarkably faithful to the LRX concept car from a few years back and it is an undoubtedly handsome car. It looks like it has come straight from a motorway stand with muscular futuristic lines and while the 3-door Coupé model is undoubtedly the more dramatic in terms of styling, but for us the 5-door is a better proportioned car and perhaps a little prettier. Land Rover’s Irish importers reckon that the overwhelming majority of buyers will have the 5-door model over the 3-door, and given that the 3-door is more expensive, we’d be inclined to agree. But given that customers are likely to be new to the brand when they buy Evoque, then it remains to be seen exactly which body style they will choose.
We didn’t see any cars on the 17” wheels that will sit on the entry-level ‘Pure’ grade, but we’d reckon most people will plump for the middle grade Dynamic model, which pops you straight onto 19” wheels and much better equipment levels. Parked beside a Freelander 2, the Evoque looks so much more modern. It is a huge head turner and the fact that it has quite masculine styling it won’t become a gender-specific car. It is a stunning piece of design.
The cabin is a great place to be too, feeling a little bit like a larger Range Rover with some Jaguar touches too. It is much bigger inside that you would first expect it to be and that is particularly true of the 3-door Coupé version, which has properly decent back seats thank to some clever seat sculpting. The quality of the interior is really first rate. It is very modern, yet not one bit tacky. Depending on how much you want to spend on your Evoque you can have an amazing array of equipment, which are really the best items you will find across the Jaguar/Land Rover range; everything from multiple cameras, hard disk satellite navigation, a television, to various grades of leather upholstery. Bring your chequebook if you want to get really creative.
Driving it 4/5
We knew already from the Range Rover Sport that this lot could make an SUV handle well. The Evoque is a much smaller and lower vehicle so it was always going to be an easier task, but they have achieved a good blend of comfort, dynamics and off-road ability. On our launch, which took in Wales and England there was the usual variety of spectacular tasks set by Land Rover, which included driving though disused railway tunnels through water and wading across the Albert Dock in Liverpool.
As you all know, few people really attempt anything too adventurous in their SUVs, but as last winter showed in Ireland we are capable of getting some pretty rotten weather and by choosing the 4wd version you really won’t have much to worry about. But the Evoque is also being pitched as something of a hot hatch, especially in Coupé form and it does have very impressive driving dynamics, which we were told happened through months of flat-out driving on Germany’s Nurburgring.
It does have superb handling, but is quite a wide vehicle so this can be a little disconcerting on narrow roads. It won’t replace a hot hatch. You could have a Golf GTi and plenty of change if you wanted that. But compared to some of its peers, such as the Mini Countryman or BMW X1 or X3 it would probably better them in this regard. We did try the petrol engine, which was peppy, but nobody in Ireland is likely to choose this. Instead they will buy the diesel. We tried just the 190hp SD4 2.2-litre, but there will be a 150hp 2.2-litre TD4 available too. Both have the same emissions and very little between them in terms of price. It will only really be when the eD4 becomes available that we might see a major move to this. This will be a 2wd Evoque, with emissions placing it in Band B. We don’t know the price of that yet, but it could come in around €35,000 starting off and in that case it will become the most popular model in Ireland. Fit it with winter tyres and you would cope with most of what the new bad Irish winter could throw at you.
What you get for your money 3/5
There are three trim grades for the Evoque – Pure, Dynamic and Prestige. The Pure grade isn’t bad – you get half leather, Climate Control, Cruise Control and 17” alloy wheels all thrown-in and there is also Bluetooth as standard for your phone. This grade starts at €40,975 for the 4wd Pure TD4 5-door model and €42,540 for the Coupé model. In the 5-door model you are jumping around €9,000 to get into the next grade, the Dynamic and while you are leaping a significant wedge in terms of pricing you do get a lot for this, including 19” wheels, Xenon and LED lights, a 380 Watt Meridian Sound System, steering wheel mounted controls, 8” high resolution screen and leather upholstery. This would be the grade to go for, but it means the car then starts at €50,295 for the 5-door and €51,865 for the Coupé. There is only a very small price walk from here into the top spec Prestige model, which include diamond turned 19” alloys, Windsor leather and a few other styling differences.
The car goes on sale in September and the 2wd versions are likely to arrive into Ireland in time for sale in January 2012.
The new Evoque is a great entry-point into the Range Rover range and will be a sure-fire hit when it goes on sale. If you want value, then you will probably be best waiting for the 2wd eD4 version, but for off-road ability then the SD4 Dynamic grade makes the best buy for us.