If you’re like many, when you think ‘Land Rover’ or ‘Range Rover’ you have visions of the Queen (typically she’s Helen Mirren playing the Queen) navigating the Royal Acreage at the wheel of an oh-so-green Defender. If your mood is brighter it might be Princess Di or Kate placed within a Range Rover Sport. The 2012 Range Rover Evoque, an all-new combination of sleek sheetmetal, on-road composure and credible off-road capability, sits in striking contrast to any and all Rovers coming before it; it’s rather like comparing the younger Pippa Middleton to Camilla Parker Bowles.
Created as a more urban take on Range Rover’s traditional virtues, the Evoque garnered massive attention at its initial reveal, and that attention has only grown as it arrives in Land Rover showrooms. Numerous awards, including the North American Truck of the Year (‘tho it’s not a truck…), have followed, and if a service writer at a North Dallas dealership can be believed, dealers have delivered “a bunch.”
Its proportions, from Land Rover’s design studios, suggest a hot hatch mated to a Range Rover Sport. Despite all-wheel drive emanating from a transversely mounted inline four, the Evoque sits back on the chassis almost as if it had a rear-wheel drive platform. The front fascia is accented by a mesh-like grille, while headlamps seemingly ‘squint’ from their inset position between bumper and hood.
In profile the Evoque’s windshield angles aggressively, all-the-better to achieve a low coefficient of drag – a benefit not typical of Land Rover/Range Rover design. The greenhouse, topped by a roofline that tapers to the rear hatch, doesn’t rise to the ‘greenhouse’ descriptive; in both front and rear the side glass is barely a slit when compared to those Range Rovers dominating the showroom. And your rearview via the backlight is only slightly larger than the rearview mirror itself. To its credit the Evoque provides a relatively clear field of vision, with little in the way of a blind spot between the ‘C’ and ‘D’ pillars, but you won’t see much of what’s back there; you’ll only know that something is back there.
Our test 5-door (an even more rakish 3-door is also available), finished in Baltic Blue, topped by a contrasting white roof ($650) and anchored by optional 20-inch alloys ($2,000) proved to be quite the looker on the side streets and freeways of our Dallas suburb. While Land Rovers and Range Rovers aren’t as ubiquitous in the Southwest as they may be in Boston, the brand is well represented in the garages of Dallas’ movers and shakers. But nothing previously seen on a Land Rover showroom will prepare you for the dynamically visceral visage the Evoque delivers. It’s edgier than the Edge, and more exploratory than the Explorer, but elements of the (previous) Ford stewardship can be seen in the overall design. Or, more accurately, elements of the Evoque can now be seen in today’s Ford showroom.
Inside, the Evoque provides what Range Rover marketing types describe as the Sports command driving position. Relative to the brand’s other models the driver sits lower, more ‘in’ the vehicle than atop the vehicle. Although providing easy access, the front buckets are appropriately supportive and – on the driver’s side – offer full adjustability. In front of the driver is an informative menu of information, while above the centerstack is a control interface combining audio, video, rear camera and navigation. As these installations go the mechanism is fairly intuitive, but if you grew up on Rick Nelson rather than Prince you’ll continue to wish for a simpler regimen, along with the age-old reliance on a rearview mirror.
While providing seating for five the Evoque is more realistically a 4-passenger cocoon. But that shouldn’t infer a degree of claustrophia; the Evoque will prove very accommodating for a young family or four reasonably-sized adults. And while a low step-in height (relative to more traditional SUVs) eases ingress, the lowish roofline works, at least to a small degree, against it. Once inside we liked the almost-perfect diameter and texture of the steering wheel, the soft-touch material covering the dash and the textured aluminum trim. Were Posh Spice traveling with us, we’d still be staring at the trim…