Range Rover Evoque review
Land Rover has updated its trendiest car with a new nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe
Pics by Shane O' Donoghue

Published on October 16, 2014

Good: clever new gearbox, styling still looks fresh, cabin quality and comfort, inherent ruggedness.

Not so good: still looks and feels a bit fey to be a proper Land Rover, getting pricey, stiff competition, stiffer ride.

I'm not a trendy twenty-something with a pad in the city and a pony in the country. I don't buy my clothes in BT and my food in M&S. I'm not female. I'm a fat, grumpy 38-year old who thinks no Land Rover is a proper Land Rover unless it has a winch. Which means I'm chronically unlikely to like the Evoque.

This is the pretend Range Rover, surely? The one that's made for urbanites and those who see wellies as a fashion accessory rather than a rainy necessity. It's been designed both by and for Victoria Beckham and while I have more respect and affection for the former Posh Spice than is perhaps appropriate for a man my age, I should surely shun the Evoque.

And yet, I don't.

Part of that is because I've tried one off-road in the past and in spite of all the urbanite trendiness it displays, the Evoque is at its heart a proper, pukka Land Rover. If it can't plug mud and bash rocks quite so capably as a Defender then that is merely down to such technicalities as approach angles and ride height. As long as you don't get either too cocky or too adventurous, an Evoque will get you through some astonishingly tough terrain, and I've left the plastic bash panel from under the bumper atop a Welsh hillside as proof.

For 2014, Land Rover has updated the Evoque and if you're struggling to tell that from the outside, that's because it hasn't changed much on the outside. Hasn't changed at all come to that.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine, familiar from its installation in the Jaguar XF, has received some mild tweaks and now produces up to 150hp. Those thinking that 150hp doesn't sound like much in a chunky off-roader would be right, but then look at the torque figure - it has swollen out of all proportion to the power output to a whopping 400Nm and that's enough to keep the Evoque feeling especially fleet of foot.

The drivetrain is where you'll find the biggest changes. The four-wheel drive system can now, optionally, be an intelligent one, that keeps the car in front-drive at speeds above 30km/h, but can direct torque where it's needed by massaging the brakes to slow down a spinning wheel. The standard system (fitted to our test car) makes do with a more conventional split and a locking centre differential, but in use it feels every bit as effective as the ritzy system.

More significantly is the adoption of a new nine-speed gearbox, made for Land Rover by ZF, which the company claims knocks 11.4 per cent off the fuel consumption and 9.5 per cent off the CO2 emissions. Certainly, the Evoque has always been a touch thirstier than you'd like to it be in everyday driving, and the new transmission does seem to help - consumption in real-world conditions has now fallen to more like 6.0 litres per 100km, rather than the 8s and 9s it was doing before. You'll still struggle to match Land Rover's official 5.0 litres/100km figure though.

The new gearbox is also eerily smooth. ZF claims that its shift times are "below the limit of human perception." Well, they're not quite that good - occasionally you can catch it out hunting for the right ratio in the lower gears, but aside from that it's another impressive ZF unit and is as good as seamless when cruising. The whole system isn't perfect though. The rotary gear selector seems to take an age to spool up from the centre console when you start the engine (no quick getaways here) and it's a little slow too when shunting between D and R while manoeuvring. The plastic paddles for the manual shift, mounted behind the steering wheel, also feel rather cheap for such a prestigious car.

Thankfully, the rest of the interior lives up to the Range Rover billing. There are a few hard plastics, but the buttons, dials and switches all look and feel suitably classy and the front seats are amongst the best we've ever sat on - every bit as comfy as the pews in a full-fat Range Rover. There's also the novelty of being able to get the driving position nice and low, with the shoulder line of the car up above your own. Very sporty.

Space in the back is surprisingly excellent and the boot is a very useful 575 litres. In spite of the swoopy styling, this is a truly practical car.

With that in mind though, it's still hard to see why Land Rover gave it such an aggressively tapered rear end. Yes, it looks nice but that sharply angled window line drastically reduces the light and view available to back-seaters and smacks of pointless "coupé-like-window-line" styling that has no place on a Land Rover product in my view. I can't help but wish that the Evoque had been styled by LR's former chief pencil-man, Geoff Upex (who did the 2003 Discovery and 2002 Range Rover) rather than the too-keen-on-bling-by-half Gerry McGovern.

Another un-Land-Rover aspect to the Evoque is the ride quality, which can mostly be described as knobbly and occasionally as downright harsh. Surely a Range Rover should be able to glide about a bit better than this?

Still, the trade-off is in the handling - the Evoque has superbly balanced and feelsome steering and agility that belies its parenthood. Certainly no Defender ever drove like this, and it seems that the only hold on the Evoque's dynamic performance is its width, which can make it feel sometimes unwieldy on tighter roads (and indeed in car parks). Still, it is a sparkling car to drive, and actually at times feels more Jaguar than Land Rover - praise comes no higher.

Which only leaves its price - which has crept up rather a lot lately. When the Evoque was launched, you could buy one for €35k, a price which the Range Rover badge made look a bargain. Now though, you can't get one for under €40k and rivals such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 are starting to offer better bang-for-buck.

I'd love to see a more practical, upright Evoque and in a sense I will when the new Discovery Sport is launched later this year. I suspect I'm rather more in the target customer wheelhouse for that car, but I still like the Evoque more than I think I should. It's terrific to drive, more economical than it was and still looking and feeling fresh. If they fitted it with a winch, it'd be damned near perfect.


Tech Specs

Model testedRange Rover Evoque TD4 Auto 4WD Pure
Price as tested€45,045 (Evoque pricing starts at €41,395)
Engine2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmissionnine-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Body stylecompact SUV
CO2 emissions149g/km (Band C, €390 per annum)
Combined economy50mpg (5.7 litres/100km)
Top speed182km/h
0-100km/h9.6 seconds
Power150hp at 4,000rpm
Torque400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm
Rivals to the Range Rover Evoque