2012 Range Rover Evoque Coupe Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Just one look is all it takes for most people to fall for the new Range Rover Evoque, a sporty new entry from a brand as legendary for its four-wheel drive prowess as it is for over-the-top luxury. The Evoque leads Range Rover and its Land Rover parent into a new stage of life, one that at first celebrates an urban lifestyle along with dynamic on-road performance while not entirely forgetting its 4x4 roots.

Where my colleague Simon Hill ventured off-road as part of the official Canadian press launch of Range Rover's newest model, I contented myself with the Evoque's primary purpose, lapping highways and byways and fighting inner city traffic. To that end, it's a welcome new addition to the luxury compact crossover segment, and fully capable of going head to head with anything in the class, from Acura's RDX, Audi's Q5 and BMW's X3, to Infiniti's EX, Mercedes' GLK, and Volvo's XC60. Yes, the Evoque's segment has grown at a ferocious pace over the last few years, with new models seemingly arriving each year and others, like Porsche's upcoming Macan, expected soon. Even Buick is getting in on the entry-level luxury action, albeit a little lower down the feeding chain, where Volkswagen makes a pretty good case for having its nicely finished Tiguan included amongst such premium players. And we'd be fools to think that Lexus will stay out of the market forever, not to mention Cadillac and Lincoln, especially when some of the luxury sector sales leaders are pushing the crossover experience further down market with truly compact models like BMW's X1 and (hopefully) Audi's Q3. In other words, if you're thinking of playing ball in this highly competitive compact premium crossover segment, whatever you bring to market had better by extremely good. No, I take that back. It better be ruddy brilliant, and fortunately for Range Rover, the Evoque is.

After being awed by its long, lean, athletic appearance, ready yourself for something special inside. Range Rover understands the need for a sense of occasion, and the Evoque delivers the same type of experience offered up by its flagship full-size Range Rover, considered by many to be the pinnacle of SUV luxury. But at about half the price, mind you. Compared to the $95,600 Range Rover, destination charges included), the Evoque starts at a surprisingly accessible $48,265, destination in, which is only $2,045 more than the Land Rover branded LR2. Compared to most in this class, the Evoque will have you feeling like you've raised the game to another segment entirely. It's really that nice.

Of course, Range Rover had raised the game entirely by giving me a full-load tester in the sportier two-door Evoque Coupe body style. That model starts out in its "Pure" trim level at $53,865 to begin with, and my "Dynamic" tester is priced at a rather heady $62,865, destination in. Sure, that sounds like a lot for a compact crossover, but believe me it's fairly matched to others in this category. Dynamic features are expectantly rich, with some highlights being proximity sensing entry with pushbutton ignition, an electronic parking brake, parking sensors front and rear plus a 5-way backup surround camera system, a powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring, adaptive xenon HID headlights with automatic high beam assist, an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment display with colour navigation, and an absolutely brilliant sounding 825-watt Meridian surround audio system with two USB ports, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and 17 speakers, plus a 5-inch colour driver display. It's an impressive allotment of top-tier gear that along with the aforementioned fabulous interior design, exemplary materials quality and over-the-top tech touches like its rotary gear selector that rises up out of the centre console upon ignition, sets the Evoque far apart from its contemporaries. I'm willing to bet that once you've sat inside, you won't want to spend time in any other compact SUV, other than maybe Audi's Q5.

My Fuji White Evoque Coupe was done out in the Lunar interior motif that featured two-tone perforated grained leather with Ivory contrast twin needle stitching along with an Ivory roof liner and textured aluminum interior trim, the latter part of the Dynamic package; alternatively you can opt for black or grey interior, or if you're feeling racy a deep lipstick red and black dubbed Pimento. Range Rover added satellite radio to my tester for $450; a contrast panel roof for $730; a rear seat entertainment package with twin 8-inch rear headrest-mounted screens, wireless headphones, an extra USB port, 12-volt power socket and aux ports for $2,800; Adaptive Dynamics, including Dynamic Mode, for $1,400, which detects off-road terrain and then optimizes Land Rover's MagneRide damper settings for improved off-road performance; and 20-inch Sparkle finish alloy rims (Style 6) for $2,150, one of numerous wheel options. In total the price came to $70,395 including destination, so it lives up to its ultra-premium Range Rover image.

Push the start button and a very different Range Rover sound emanates from the engine bay, that of a four-cylinder powerplant. The Evoque mates a 2.0-litre turbocharged mill that cranks out an impressive 240 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque to a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering column-mounted paddles for enthusiastic acceleration off the line and ample passing power. I know most people think of a big robust V8 when Range Rover comes to mind, but before you lament the loss of cylinders consider that the classic model weighs more than 2,500 kilos whereas the Evoque is a comparative featherweight at only 1,640 kilograms in slightly lighter Coupe trim. This is one of the reasons it's so good on fuel, with a claimed 10.7 L/100km city and 7.1 highway. I averaged between 10 and 11 L/100km combined city/highway during my test week, which is extremely good for a fully loaded luxury ride, let alone one with full-time all-wheel drive.

That all-wheel drive system, which primarily powers the front wheels, although will send up to 70-percent of the engine's torque to those in the rear if needed, incorporates Land Rover's acclaimed Terrain Response system with driver-mode settings for every type of road condition, from pavement (General) to all other surfaces (Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand). Simply set it and go. Land Rover uses this system in all of its SUVs, including the range-topping Range Rover, but that's where the similarity in the way these two vehicles tackle the road ends. Where the full-size Range Rover feels stable albeit not particularly athletic on pavement, the Evoque responds like a performance-tuned sport wagon. Bring it up to speed and it'll carve a straight line through the most challenging curves and undulations, perfectly planted and positively predictable. Land Rover has endowed it with all of the expected electronic driver aids to keep it in the correct lane no matter the weather, while it's fully fitted with passive safety devices if push comes ands shoves you off the road.

As fun as it is to drive and beautiful it is to look at, the Evoque also puts up a good argument to pragmatists who will appreciate its roomy rear quarters. A 60/40-split rear seatback stows up to 550 litres behind, which is about the size of the trunk in a large midsize sedan, although with those seats decommissioned you can load up to 1,350 litres of gear across its flat cargo floor. And the more practical 5-door can carry even more. Both body styles are good for a total payload of 500 kilos, while a trailer weighing just under 1,600 kilograms can be towed behind.

Range Rover should consider adding a nice cargo trailer to the Evoque's accessories menu; one that would complement its styling, because anything average simply wouldn't do. Yes, I must admit the Evoque isn't your traditional workhorse 4x4. It's got style. It's the metrosexual of the family. Young, urban and trendsetting, this Range Rover has downtown London written all over it, and I for one think that's absolutely splendiferous.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Land Rover, Range Rover, 2012, Evoque Coupe, $50,000 - $74,999, Compact,

Organizations: Land Rover

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