ROAD TEST: Range Rover's Evoque has grown-up style
The Range Rover Evoque was one of the cars that helped turn around Jaguar Land Rover’s fortunes.
Its 2011 launch drew huge publicity and the car won acclaim for its stellar looks and being the first relatively affordable Range Rover.
More than 770,000 of the first-generation models were sold, 150,000 of them in the UK.
Eventually time dulled the once show-stopping looks and flaws such as cramped rear seats and poorer refinement than its rivals made themselves felt.
The second-generation Evoque was launched last year and I ventured to Greece in advance of it going on sale. Driving under blue skies in 25 degree heat is not the same as making your way through a gloomy Scottish winter, though, so I was happy to get a week with the Evoque on my home territory.
The looks have been updated and the car is now less showy but arguably more handsome than the original. There are lots of smart touches, such as door handles that sit flush to the body and pop out when you need to open the car.
The wheelbase has been extended, resulting in much more passenger and luggage space. Adults up to 6ft tall can now sit comfortably in the rear and there’s a 475-litre boot – not quite as large as an Audi Q3’s but bigger than the Volvo XC40.
Despite its flyboy good looks, the Evoque is a Land Rover and cuts the mustard when it comes to the muddy stuff.
I’ve driven it quite extensively off road and, while not as capable as a Discovery or Defender, it’s light years ahead of its opposition, and has an impressive 600mm wading depth.
Prices start at a little over £31,000, but that gets you a front-wheel drive car with manual gearbox and 150hp engine.
Go up a notch and you get a smooth, nine-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. My D180 S model cost £39,000, excluding extras.
The new Evoque is good to drive, with sharp handling and fine road manners.
The interior looks terrific, with a smart twin-screen centre console and an (optional) screen in the rear view mirror that shows the outlook behind even if it’s blocked by kids or luggage. My car came with eucalyptus-sourced upholstery that’s an eco-friendly alternative to leather.
While the touchscreens look great, they’re slow to respond to inputs and can’t match the speed and quality of BMW or Audi’s switchgear.
That bugbear aside, the new Evoque is very impressive indeed.