Landrover Evoque

The Range Rover Evoque is a simple concept, yet one so brilliantly executed. Take everything that makes a Range Rover so desirable, and scale it down into a compact yet refined vehicle to meet the changing needs of the SUV owner.

The LRX Concept stunned us when it first made its debut, and Land Rover shocked us once again once the production Evoque made its debut – it still looks very much the futuristic concept SUV that the LRX Concept was. Like something sleek and sexy plucked out of the future, but roaming our roads today.

Landrover Evoque

In an age where customers are demanding better fuel efficiency and easier maneuverability around town, Land Rover has conjured up a bespoke model that at first impression seems very much befitting of being called a Range Rover, as opposed to pulling a fast one like former stablemate Aston Martin with its controversial Cygnet city car.

The Evoque is also aimed at making the Land Rover brand appeal to a younger audience, as well as balance out the gender ratio. A regular Land Rover or Range Rover product normally sees about 80% male buyers – with the Evoque this has become a more balanced ratio of 50% male, 50% female.

So the Evoque is not only more accessible in terms of purchase price and running cost affordability compared to the other Range Rover models, it’s also made the brand more accessible to wealthy ladies, who currently are most likely buyers of SUVs like the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5, BMW X1 or BMW X3.

Land Rover offers two different body styles with the Evoque – a 5-door and a 3-door “coupe”, both of which are available in Malaysia. There are two engine options available at the moment – a diesel and a petrol, both turbocharged 4 cylinder engines. In Malaysia, you can have the petrol engine in either a 3-door or 5-door body while the diesel engine is available only as a 5-door.

The 2.0 liter petrol engine is shared with the Ford EcoBoost family, which is also available in Malaysia in the Ford S-MAX, the facelifted Ford Mondeo, the Volvo S60 and the Volvo XC60. The tuning in the Evoque is the most powerful version available currently – producing 240 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 340Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm. In the Evoque, the engine is rated to consume about 8.7 liters per 100km on a combined cycle.

The 2.2 liter PSA/Ford DW12 turbodiesel is also found in the Land Rover Freelander 2 and globally is used in various Ford, Jaguar and PSA Peugeot Citroen cars as well. In the Evoque, it makes 190 PS at 3,500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 1,750rpm – less horses than the petrol due to the shorter powerband but loads of torque to get the Evoque going.

The Evoque is loosely based on the Freelander platform and even rolls off the Freelander’s production line, but as the Evoque rides lower than the Freelander, parts of the undercarriage design was modified to maintain a level of ground clearance that you would expect from a vehicle with the Land Rover or Range Rover badge. So the new platform is referred to as the LR-MS platform, loosely based on the Freelander’s Ford EuCD platform.

The Evoque also has very minimal overhangs, especially at the rear – this improves approach and departure angles. Quite interestingly, we hear the LR-MS platform can be stretched further about 300mm if necessary to create a larger vehicle to slot in between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, should Land Rover ever decide to explore that segment.

Other than the choice of a 5-door and 3-door, there are also different trim levels which change a few design details on the car. There’s the Prestige, Pure and Dynamic trim – and the Dynamic trim is the sportiest design, which at the same time also reduces the Evoque’s approach and departure angle capabilities as it’s the most “road-going” of the three designs.

In Malaysia, the Dynamic Plus trim is available on the top of the line 2.0 liter petrol 3-door “coupe”, while the 2.0 liter petrol 5-door and the 2.2 liter diesel 5-door has the Prestige trim.

The Evoque may look small from the outside, but it is surprisingly very roomy in the interior. Land Rover engineers have done a brilliant job with the packaging of this car, maximizing every cubic inch of interior space possible within the exterior dimensions of the car. Shoulder room between the front two seats are very good – it actually feels like a larger SUV and it felt more comfier sitting in the Evoque compared to some other same-class SUVs.

The rear seats are able to seat two adults more than comfortably, with good legroom. If you’re going to carry more than one passenger often, I’d suggest you get the 5-door though, because while the 3-door has a proper adult-sized rear cabin, it’s quite of a pain getting into the rear, as the sporty design of the Evoque doesn’t allow for an easy entry and exit. Once you eventually climb in though, the space you have is quite surprisingly comfortably.

Plenty of the interior space went to the passengers, so there’s not much of boot space left. Although the official number is 575 liters (550 with the 3-door), it doesn’t seem all that big. No doubt, golf bags will fit very nicely but if you have something to put in of a particular shape, such as a luggage bag (see picture above), you can only fit one, and that’s it. Think of the Evoque’s boot as more of that of a hatch like a Golf or Focus, instead of the typical roomy SUV boot.

But as a city car, this shouldn’t really pose too much of a problem, and the rear seats can be folded down to make for more luggage space. When folded down, luggage capacity extends to between 1,350 liters to 1,445 liters for the 3-door and 5-door respectively.

Perceived quality is very good – there’s leather everywhere, and as a front passenger you’re basically looking at a massive expanse of leather in front of you, with beautiful stitched accents. The dash layout is recognisable as a Range Rover, but scaled down. The center dash area has a Volvo-like slant to it with a small storage area under the curve, but it’s quite a small compartment so you won’t be able to keep much at all.

Land Rover has resisted overblinging the interior – the choices of materials are classy and mature, with no overuse of chrome. Some interior designers tend to abuse chrome to make the switches and knobs of the interior feel like knock-off jewellery – the Range Rover Evoque stays clear of this. Most of the surfaces are matte or brushed. There’s also ambient lighting scattered about the cabin for a nice effect at night – you can see some of these lights in the image above.

Our test drive session started off at the Sydney Opera House, through the city. Driving through the city in stop and go traffic, our first impressions was that the Evoque has remarkably good NVH insulation. We set off in the diesel model and we could barely hear a clatter from inside the cabin at idle! Push off from a standstill and you get a nice smooth tone – the only thing that’ll remind you that this is not a petrol lump is the fact that the pitch never goes as high as you’d expect it to while gunning it because of the much lower redline.

City maneuverability was good, though as you’d expect from how the car looks like from the outside – rear quarter visibility wasn’t that good. The Evoque’s roof and shoulderline has the angles of a sports car, so expect outward visibility of a sports car as well. Side mirrors were huge though, so that helps.

We took the opportunity to try out the in-car entertainment and navigation system. With competitors using knob-style devices to control the screens in their cars, it’s easy to mistake the rotary gear selector knob (first seen in the Jaguar XF) for what you’d use to control the computer. The Evoque shares its in-car computer with Jaguar models, so what you have here is a nice touch screen interface with relatively large buttons so it’s easy to touch what you intend to select. Ergonomically, the interface is pretty tight.

Other than reading audio CDs, there’s also Bluetooth audio, USB audio as well as an iPod interface so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to audio inputs. The iPod interface not only allows you to browse through your songs but it can also access your iPod’s customised playlists and etc. You can’t do the more advanced stuff like Genius mixes and etc though.

The audio output is pretty rockin’ as well – our test units were equipped with a Meridian sound system which delivered great clarity and punchy bass and remained crisp and clear up to insanely loud volume levels. No signs of rattling from the interior from the heavy bass thumping at this point – but then again we were driving new cars.

There are two different levels of Meridian systems available with the Evoque – a 380 watt 12 channel system with 11 loudspeakers (including a 2 channel subwoofer), or a more powerful 825 watt system with 15 channels driving 17 loudspeakers including a subwoofer, centre and surround loudspeakers.

Anyway, soon we out of the city to enjoy the country roads en route to Hunter Valley, a famous wine-making region near Sydney. We had the opportunity to test drive the marque’s previous smallest car – the Freelander – and found it to be surprisingly a fun drive. The Evoque is even better, thanks to the fact that it’s lower slung (27mm lower) and has both a stiff chassis and a suspension tuning that’s more to the firmer side of things.

But while this may mean loads of fun on the bends, I found that the ride can get slightly fidgety on rough patches. Our Malaysian spec Evoque wears 20 inch wheels with low profile tyres, which contribute to the Evoque’s good looks, but it remains to be seen how the car will ride on Malaysian roads.

The high shoulder line of the doors helps mask the commanding driving position and help convey a “sports car” feel to you when you’re seated in the driver’s seat. Land Rover also did a brilliant job at tuning the Evoque’s electric power steering as it didn’t get into the way of a fun drive – if you don’t notice that a car has an electric power steering system, it’s a mark of a good configuration with a natural feeling weight and ratio at different travel speeds.

The top of the range Dynamic Plus 3-door petrol model in Malaysia has Adaptive Dynamics, which has magnetic dampers that can adjust its settings about a thousand times a second. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to try that out as a car equipped with Adaptive Dynamics didn’t get cycled along into our possession as we swapped cars and drivers at pre-designated points throughout the journey.

In the models we got to try, the Evoque’s seats are very shapely, are amazing to look at and feel nice to the touch, but if you’re not built like a couch potato American, the side bolsters may not feel cosseting enough to support you during corners if you’re into that kind of thing. Not everyone – especially significant others from my experience – are into big side bolsters though.

There’s another variation of the seats (see picture below in red leather) that are available on the Dynamic Plus trim, which means in Malaysia it’s installed in the top of the line 3-door petrol 3-door Evoque. It doesn’t look like it has significantly more side bolstering though.

Being a dieselhead (we have a total of three turbodiesel company cars here at Driven), I was surprised to find myself liking the petrol version more than the diesel. The diesel has gobs of shove when you start off and the engine note is very smooth – very unlike a diesel – but it tapers off very quickly, while the petrol engine starts off slightly weaker but rode its torque curve very well into the high ends of the rev range. It also feels more responsive.

However, neither the petrol or engines are overwhelmingly fast. I came away with the impression that perhaps the Evoque needs to have a higher end model with a more powerful engine, some kind of Evoque Sport if you will. At that price range, I expected to be blown away but the pace ended up feeling a little lacking. The gearbox is also a regular 6-speed automatic, and thus behaves like one – smooth with well thought out ratios, but shifts are not particularly quick and snappy.

Is the Evoque still a fun drive? Yes, but is it going to set your heart racing? It’s more likely to do it with its super good looks than an exciting drive. But then again that was never the Evoque’s promise to a buyer to begin with. It’s still way sportier than a big lumbering Range Rover where you’re more likely to feel like you’re sitting ON a big leather throne rather than IN a sporty cockpit like you would feel in an Evoque.

Our route throughout the country roads of Hunter Valley also took us to a big riding ranch where Land Rover had set up an offroading track for us to try out the Evoque’s off roading capabilities.

As I mentioned earlier, the Pure and Prestige trim has better approach and departure angles of 25 degrees and 33 degrees respectively, while the Dynamic’s sportier bodywork reduces this to 19 degrees and 30 degrees for approach and departure respectively. The Evoque’s maximum wading depth is 500mm. Front axle obstacle clearance is 215mm while rear axle obstacle clearance is 240mm.

The offroad track took us through various different off road situations – from as simple as a grassy dirty track to some very steep and tight inclines, both uphill and downhill! We also drove through a small river – at first just across it but later we got to a point where we snaked along in the middle of the river on the riverbed along the water flow, which was pretty fun – the key is not to stop or the Evoque’s weight will make your wheels will sink too much!

It was on this off roading track that we got to try the two buttons on the small control panel below the gear selector knob that allows you to control the Range Rover Evoque’s Terrain Response system, a highlight of all Land Rover products.

Terrain Response is a feature that Land Rover introduced on the Discovery in 2005. It basically allows the user to select a few modes according to what type of surface you are driving on. Terrain Response will control systems like DSC stability , the electric throttle, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Hill Start Assist and Roll Stability Control to suit the type of surface you are on.

On the Evoque, you’ve got the Dynamic mode (only when Adaptive Dynamics is fitted to the car), the General mode, the Grass/Gravel/Snow mode, the Mud/Ruts mode, and the Sand mode. Land Rover set up signboards indicating what mode we should switch to on different areas of the off-roading track.

Most of the offroad modes actually dampen the throttle input significantly so it’s easier to feather the throttle for the precise inputs you need during tricky situations. Sometimes you also need to dial down the stability control a little as your Evoque’s wheel has to slip to get along on certain surfaces. We used the Sand mode on the riverbed.

As the Evoque doesn’t have a low ratio transfer case, the Rock Crawl mode that’s available on the Terrain Response system of other Land Rovers is missing.

In any case, even though the Range Rover Evoque may not have a low ratio gearbox (neither does the Freelander, BTW), an air suspension system that can raise ride height to comical levels or any other high tech offroading gizmo, it’s still able to do some light offroading, much more than your typical C-segment hatchback is able to do, but of course not as hardcore as a true offroading machine.

All in all, congratulations are in order for Land Rover for successfully doing a small Range Rover right, one with the desirability dial turned on really high. I’m still very curious to see how our Malaysian spec Evoque performs on Malaysian roads with its massive 20 inch wheels, but as there are no media test drive units in Malaysia yet it will have to wait. I’m also curious as to how the car drives and rides with the Adaptive Dynamics suspension system. And who knows, perhaps a shoot-out story next?

As a recap pricing-wise, the Evoque is priced at RM393,888 for the top of the line 2.0L Petrol Coupe Dynamic Plus, while the 2.0L Petrol 5-Door Prestige goes for RM363,888 and the 2.2L Diesel 5-Door Prestige is priced at RM353,888, all on-the-road excluding insurance.

Look after the jump for a mega photo gallery of the Evoque.