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Range Rover Evoque review

S.Muralidhar | Updated on: Nov 02, 2011
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The setting couldn't have been more apt and amazing. I was at the picture postcard RAF Valley in the island of Anglesey in Wales, UK. Part of a group of international journalists, I had just landed at the air force base in a chartered flight from London. The RAF base, which is now used for pilot training, has also been in the news due to one of its famous residents – Flight Lieutenant Wales, also known to many of us as Prince William.

Not too far from the station is Red Wharf Bay, where Maurice Wilks, then Chief Engineer at Rover, sketched the first Land Rover's design on the beach sand. The rest, as they say, is history. Cut back to the day of our landing in RAF Valley and a similar attempt was being made to create history.

Sporting pastel shades and gleaming even under the cloudy sky and the waning English sun, was a lineup of Range Rover's latest baby – the Evoque. Not since the original, has there ever been an attempt at reinventing the brand on a scale that the new Evoque represents. Based very closely on the funky LRX concept, the Evoque is unique and I believe it will make history.

It is the smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever produced. And therein lies the story of Evoque's genesis. Our cars, much like other stuff around us, reflect the pleasures and pressures of the times we live in. Metrosexual design, a compact, city-living size and improved fuel efficiency are typical attributes that most buyers look for today.

Buying SUVs is a dilemma because they have earned a bad ecological reputation, yet we can't seem to help ourselves from being attracted to them. That is why the Evoque fits right in. This is a Range Rover alright, with a lot of the traits and prowess that the brand is famous for. Yet, the Evoque signifies a huge departure from the kind of vehicles we have seen from this marqué. There will be purists who might feel that the Evoque represents a dilution of the brand's core values. But, it will be capable of attracting a whole new breed of buyers into the fold – people who were earlier intimidated by the price and the size of a Range Rover.

Design details

The Evoque's design is an attempt at reinterpreting the classic Range Rover cues, to remain instantly recognisable and yet, be a modern icon. It is honestly a tribute to the versatility of the characteristic Range Rover design. The clamshell bonnet, the all-time favourite grille and the floating roof are all classics. The ‘wheel at each corner' stance, the tapering roofline and the rising dynamic beltline underline the design DNA that is so unique to this brand, even though the Evoque's is a cross-coupé design.

It is a midget with a butch stance in the RR family. There is more to the Evoque's design that will appeal to nuclear moms and automotive designers alike. The pronounced, wide wheel arches, for one, instantly catch the eye, also because of the way they elegantly merge into the body. To make the Evoque appear more stylish, luxurious and powerful, additional touches like bonnet vents and side vents have been added.

Though the India-spec Evoque is likely to be only the five-door, other markets also get the coupé version. The design of the Evoque five-door was closely derived from the coupé model and the two versions have identical overall length and width. However, to provide additional interior space, the angle of the rear roofline has been subtly revised, and the five-door measures 30mm higher than the coupé body style. The Range Rover Evoque is available with xenon headlamps providing a jewel-like quality to the slim front and making it instantly recognisable at night. The rear lamps with their circular LED signature lighting and tapering blade indicator clusters are also a unique design cue.

The Evoque is also deceptively small from the outside compared to the space available inside. Surely, it is smaller than the big siblings in the Range Rover family, but there is enough legroom and shoulder room in there for four people to travel in comfort. Three adults at the rear will be a bit of a squeeze, but the five-door coming to India will have at least 50mm more shoulder room and 30mm more head room (thanks to the raised roofline) than the coupé.

Unlike the other bigger and taller Range Rovers, in the Evoque you'll also be sitting a little lower below the shoulder line, but that doesn't make the interior of the Evoque any less airy and spacious. The large glass area and the fixed panoramic sunroof (which will be offered as part of standard fitment in the India-spec versions) heighten the feeling of space. The rear glass is the one that might be found restricting visibility at the rear.

Just to be sure that the Evoque is built to handle the rough and tumble of the outdoors and stays true to the brand's core values, the clearances, approach and departure angles are better than many other luxury SUVs. If storage space is what you want, you can also fold the rear seats to get up to 1,445 litres of space.

For the Evoque's interior too, Range Rover designers have drawn inspiration from the past. The clean, strong intersecting vertical and horizontal lines that are the brand's characteristic can be traced on the Evoque's dashboard and the centre console. Step in and the aroma of warm leather engulfs you. Double-stitched leather seats and dash trim immediately push up the luxury quotient of the Evoque's interior. The quality of materials is top-notch and lives up to every expectation you might have of the Range Rover product.

Revving up

Push the start button and the rotary gear selector knob rise from its flat position on the centre console, even as the engine wakes up – a very neat touch and in keeping with the Evoque's youthful image.

Housed under a compact curved binnacle, the instrument cluster enhances the sporting, premium feel of the interior. The twin dials have an expressive three-dimensional form with chunky illuminated chaplets and needles, and are set deep in sporty circular housings finished with bright chrome rims.

There are a number of personalisation options that are offered. Though there will be some changes to the options offered in the India-spec version, it can be safely assumed that many features will be part of standard fitment. Like the options for the body colours, there are a number of options to choose from for the interior colour theme too.

Taking off from the RAF station, I drove the Evoque through some of the most scenic English countryside. I had chosen the SD4, diesel engine version and got to experience it over a combination of natural hilly roads, some bits of the highway, prepared off-road tracks and impromptu off-road sections leading up to Liverpool from Anglesey. The rolling hills along the way provided a spectacular backdrop for testing the real strengths of the Evoque.

The Evoque turned out to be quite a surprise, managing to handle some pretty tough off-road challenges with panache. It has impressive water fording capabilities, the kind that the marqué is so famous for. Range Rover wants to position the Evoque as essentially an urban driving vehicle and we got to experience some pre-prepared off-road and water fording tests that Range Rover officials had set up in Liverpool to prove the point. Though most of the buyers here may not exactly get to put it through an organised route like that, the fact that the Evoque has the prowess was comforting to know. Who knows what challenges the Indian monsoon can throw up!

Performance options

The Evoque is offered with the choice of two engines (one diesel with two power ratings and one petrol) and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes (for the diesel), though my guess is that it will be offered with only the automatic in India. The Evoque is also offered with all-wheel drive (4X4) or front wheel drive (4X2) only variants, though here too, I think the India-spec will be the 4X4.

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine in the Evoque SD4, which I drove and the one most likely to make it here, is a completely updated mill, though it takes from an existing configuration. It is offered with two power ratings – a 150PS and a 190PS derivatives, though Indian buyers will get the latter.

The engine features a high-pressure common-rail fuel injection system with piezoelectric injectors, a variable turbine (VNT) turbocharger, a variable swirl system and a new uprated engine management system for optimum combustion efficiency. Noise levels have been impressively suppressed and overall refinement levels are very close to that of luxury sedans.

The other engine option, which will also be offered in India, is the new downsized 240PS 2.0-litre Si4 petrol engine. This engine offers smooth and responsive power, delivering 0-100 kmph in about 7.1 seconds, blending four-cylinder efficiency with six-cylinder performance.

The latest powertrain technologies in the engine – including advanced turbocharging, high-pressure direct fuel-injection and twin variable valve timing etc., which are combined to provide outstanding driveability, with very strong bottom-end performance and an extremely broad, torquey power band.

Both the powertrains feel very refined and capable, offering the Evoque a sporty performance. The automatic transmission at times did feel a bit slow to react, but more often than not that was only when I had forgotten that I was essentially driving a crossover UV.

Tech perks

The Evoque has been loaded with other proprietary technologies that take its driving dynamics and ride quality to the level that buyers have by now come to expect from a Range Rover. The Land Rover Terrain Response system that enables it to quickly respond to changes in the external conditions, with the controls just a click button away on the centre console is still as efficient as any other Land Rover. The ride quality was particularly satisfying. With almost no body roll and yet offering a supple, pliant ride, the Evoque will find a lot of fans amongst buyers here. The optional Adaptive Dynamics system – using MagneRide dampers – manages to give the Evoque a good combination of nimble handling and a yielding suspension feel.

Bottomline

When launched in the first week of November, the Evoque will offer many Indian buyers a chance to buy into the legendary British brand at a lower price point. The Range Rover Evoque is likely to be priced in the range of Rs 45-50 lakh. The diesel engined Evoque will be offered in three trim variants or design themes as Range Rover calls them – the contemporary ‘Pure', the luxurious ‘Prestige' and the sporting ‘Dynamic'.

The Evoque will compete with the likes of the BMW X3 and will also create a niche of itself, even as more competition is set to roll.

Of course, the response that the Evoque evokes here will also show how homogenous buyer expectations are becoming worldwide.

muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 27, 2011
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