First Drive: Range Rover Evoque Prestige
We finally get our hands on the 2012 SUV of the year Text and photos by Karl Peskett – Teamspeed.com Contributing Editor What is it?
The production version of the LRX concept car Why do I care?
It’s one of the most unique looking cars on the road – but there’s more substance than style How much is it?
$52,395 MSRP, five-door, 188-240hp, six-speed auto, all-wheel-drive
“It looks like it’s been squashed. But, you know, in a good way…”
Well, of course. What other way would I take it? It’s the most common response from observers who try to encapsulate the Range Rover Evoque’s unique design, as they fumble through their vocabulary. It gets an overwhelmingly positive response, though putting it into words can be quite difficult.
Is it good looking? Yes. Is it contemporary? Undoubtedly. Is it unusual? For sure.
Okay, so the design is a winner – Gerry McGovern deserves a big pat on the back for this one. Only in the metal does its concept-car-came-to-life styling really fully make an impact, but how is it as a vehicle?
Well, it’s safe to say it could have had a better start. It’s based on the Land Rover LR2 (the two vehicles share engines, gearboxes and underpinnings, even sharing the same wheelbase), which is not the greatest car in terms of ride, or interior fit and finish – the LR2’s tacked on satnav is the greatest evidence of this. The Evoque, then, has a fair way to go to become impressive.
Let’s start with the engines. Depending on your country, there are three available – a turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, and two levels of turbocharged diesel four-cylinder. Our Prestige model had the SD4, the higher powered 2.2-litre turbodiesel, which makes a healthy 188hp and a chunky 310 lb ft of torque, running through the ubiquitous ZF six-speed auto to all four wheels. There are paddle shifters behind the wheel, and it has normal and sports modes to hold the gears a little longer before shifting. Though it’s not the quickest SUV on the block, 0-60mph is done in a little over eight seconds, so it’s not exactly slow, either.
The same engine is used (albeit with minor modifications) in the 2012 Jaguar XF we drove recently, and as far as diesels go, we’re a fan – it’s economical, smooth and punchy. So, the engine and gearbox are fine; what about the rest of it?
Let’s look at practicality. It has a trunk that will hold more than a few golf bags if need be. The back seats will house two six-foot adults and a child in between with no complaints; in fact headroom is excellent, despite the chopped roofline. The front seats are immensely comfortable and there are enough cupholders to cover all passengers. The air-con works brilliantly, even on days over 100 deg F, and it’s easy to get in and out of. Things are getting better and better. And that’s before we’ve got to the drive experience.
The thing is, SUVs shouldn’t handle this well, unless they’ve got an M or AMG badge on them. But haul the Evoque into a corner and you’re greeted with grip, more grip and even more grip. If it wasn’t for the bodyroll, you’d swear you were being held to the road with strontium magnets. It has a level of dynamic ability that leaves the LR2 in the shade. But here’s the best thing: it doesn’t come at the expense of the ride.
Ride comfort in the Evoque is simply outstanding. It’s possibly the best riding SUV on sale today, and should be used as a benchmark for forthcoming SUVs. Forget the lumpy, crashy ride of other faux-four-wheelies, the Evoque has it sorted. It puts me in mind of the Golf GTI on 17s, or even the E92 M3 on 18s – there’s a level of damping that takes the big jolts out of the road yet returns handling that would put cars with less ground clearance to shame.
The steering is also quite good, with a satisfying feel and no vagueness that plagues other SUVs. It can and will go off-road, too. Sure, keep it to beach or dune work, as it doesn’t have the articulation of a dedicated four-wheel-drive, but it’s still a Range Rover which means terrain response is standard (different drive modes for different conditions) and there’s enough ground clearance to be more than just a curb-hopper. Yes, this is shaping up to be a cracking car.
Then you get to the interior. With its gorgeous laid-back centre stack bordered by linished aluminium, coupled with soft leather for the dashpad and door trims, with beautiful contrast stitching – it lives up to the ultra-luxurious Range Rover name. There are neat little details, too, like the diamond-like notches for the speedo and tacho, and ambient lighting that can change from blue to red, or anywhere in between. At night, the puddle lights project an outline of the car onto the ground – a gimmick, yes, but a nice touch nonetheless. You can also option it with a myriad of colours and finishes – personalization is a big feature, so expect to spend a bit of time at the dealership.
Okay, so negatives? Well, the rearward visibility isn’t the greatest, and neither is the front-side visibility, with those ginormous mirrors positioned right at the front edge of the window. Couple that with the tweeter of the stereo in the base of the A-pillar and you’ve got a huge blindspot that blocks out the edges of islands when you’re cornering. Aaaaand, that’s about it, really. I mean, move your head a little more when you’re driving, and the visibility isn’t so much of an issue any more. Oh, yeah, the other negative? Victoria Beckham is involved somehow…
The Evoque is a stunning, brilliantly driving, practical, economical and fun car to experience. That it keeps the hallmarks of the Range Rover name at an affordable price without diluting the brand is an achievement in itself. Based on looks alone it deserves to sell, but the fact that it has character and substance is a very rare combination these days.
Range Rover had better ramp up its production – these things will “Evoque” a very positive response, indeed.