Friday, 3 August 2012

2012 Range Rover Evoque ROAD TEST (Josh Ross)

Over the last five years the off road vehicle sector has experienced the most significant development since the mass introduction of elevated, four wheel driven Sports Utility Vehicles 5-15 years earlier.

In this time the class has spawned a subsection of ‘crossover’ vehicles. Barely larger than a typical 5 door hatch, crossovers like the Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi ASX and Peugeot 3008 offer the option of all wheel drive but are not designed for arduous off road use. Like the first RAV4 and Honda CRV these models use the same unibody construction as road cars.

And it’s into the higher priced end of this hotly contested sector that Evoque lands, its unique blend of qualities already securing the vehicle considerable market share. Unlike its competitors the smallest Range Rover promises both remarkable off road ability and superior on road credentials. It’s as likely to tempt buyers from their BMW 3 series or Audi A4 Avant as it is to be chosen over an Audi Q5 or BMW X3.

Traditionally four wheel drive vehicles used a separate body mounted on a ladder chassis, hence the term body-on-frame. Then, towards the turn of the millenium there was a paradigm shift in the larger 4×4 class. BMW was first to use an integrated, one piece construction for its luxurious 1999 X5 and for their 2003 launched XC90 Volvo employed a similar chassis.

Designed primarily for on road use these vehicles were lavishly equipped, had premium pricing and felt more sophisticated to drive than traditionally constructed 4x4s like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi’s heavy duty Shogun. With successive iterations the on road manners of these traditional off roaders has vastly improved but they have persevered with the body-on-frame construction.
The catch with this new breed of four wheel drive vehicle of course, was that they couldn’t match the massive axle articulation and considerable ground clearance of the original 4x4s.

Until that is Land Rover gave us the unibody constructed Range Rover in 2002. This vehicle was as unstoppable off road as Defender yet gave driver’s refinement and composure that humbled a Mercedes S Class. Its piece de resistance was a beautiful, finely constructed interior. Designed with remarkable foresight and attention to detail, it has required only minor updates to maintain its freshness. Like the car it perfectly combines both form and function.

Ensconced in the tastefully decorated Evoque cabin I find that it imparts a similar sense of well-being to Range Rover. Despite generous space in the rear of the vehicle, the cockpit is more contained with styling that closely mirrors the Range Rover Sport interior. They share a broad, elevated transmission tunnel which contains the climate control functions and sweeps up into the angled centre console. Material quality is exemplary and all the controls move smoothly with an expensive feeling resistance.

Exterior styling is no less attractive – a profusion of creases, that high waistline, squeezed headlights and a pert, compressed rear are features of a design that was only marginally altered from concept hall to showroom.

During a brief drive to the off road facility I discovered a chassis as able as many a sporting saloons. Body roll is unexpectedly well contained for a tall vehicle with off road tyres, which combined with feelsome steering and an absorbent ride encouraged spirited driving.

The Evoque shares the Jaguar XF’s 2.2 diesel engine which is equally refined and well calibrated with the gearbox in this application. I barely notice the box juggle seamlessly between its six ratios and when called upon to drop a gear under harder acceleration, there is no hesitation. Progress was naturally more urgent than in the 163 bhp variant I sampled in XF but I also noticed fewer flat spots.

Nothing though could have prepared me for how this sporting crossover brushed off the mud and gravel strewn off road course. After they’ve driven Evoque both on and off road, one quickly re-adjusts their sense of what’s possible from a vehicle designed to fulfil disparate briefs. Despite large off road tyres the chassis was agile and feel through the helm transparent. This allowed me to make small adjustments to the steering and controls as I manoeuvred through the course.

At times I sat in amazement as the hill descent control accelerated and slowed the vehicle with such effectiveness through the rocky and muddy terrain. This patented system gives owners a choice of adjusting the chassis electronics for gravel/grass, muddy ruts and sand surfaces. In each setting the ESP, all-wheel drive, throttle and automatic box are optimised for the specific conditions.

Words and Photos by Josh Ross (www.

Technical Data

Price as tested: £39,995
Engine: 2.2 16v 190bhp - 0-62mph: 8 secs - Maximum Speed: 121mph -
Economy: 35mpg (urban) –49.6mpg (extra-urban), 43.5mpg (combined) -Emissions: 174g/km (Band I) - VED (12 months): £215
Dimensions: Length: 4355mm - Width: 1965mm - Height: 1635mm - Wheelbase: 2660mm
*Data from Land Rover UK


Land Rover’s vehicles have arguably the most challenging engineering briefs of any on sale. Customer expectations and the standard of rival vehicles dictate impeccable road manners while their off road heritage – on which the brand is built – could be compromised if the vehicles no longer excel in this area. In its quest for perfection Land Rover has again created a product so accomplished that it has few rivals – the Evoque is a sparkling example of British engineering at its best. With Tata’s help Land Rover has been able to create a range of world class products, and like its two brothers Evoque is a worthy recipient of the iconic, Range Rover badge.

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