First Look: Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

First Look

Land Rover has come to accept that most of the people who buy their vehicles never take them off road. Throughout most of their range, it is far more important to the buying public that the vehicles look capable than for them to actually posses any off road capability. It would therefore be unsurprising to discover that the Evoque was nothing more than a high-riding sedan, an exercise in form before function, but it turns out that it isn't.

The Evoque is based on the same platform as the LR2, but it has been heavily altered, and has little in common with the LR2. The Evoque has all-wheel-drive and is fully capable of handling 45-degree inclines or moving through 50cm (19.6 inches) deep water. It is still a unibody platform though, and the Evoque isn't quite up to all of the same tasks as its big brothers. When considering the Evoque, it would be best to think of it as a vehicle that will surprise you with how competently it deals with on-road adverse weather conditions, rather than one which will disappoint on the trail.

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The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is borrowed from the Ford Mondeo and produces a perfectly adequate 240 horsepower. It is on its way through the 6-speed automatic transmission that this power becomes noticeably peaky and difficult to use. This can be corrected through the use of the paddle shifters, but for many drivers this power delivery will feel very unnatural. European buyers will have the option of a 2.2-liter diesel. This will produce only 190 horsepower, but the application of torque is far smoother and the result is a vehicle which is much easier to drive.

The Evoque manages to be lighter than its platform-mate the LR2, and the gasoline-powered Evoque can match the 7.1 second 0-60 time of the 5.0-liter Range Rover Sport, no small feat. This lightness doesn't come at a sacrifice of the solid feel to the vehicle, and together with the extremely well-sorted suspension setup, the Evoque feels well-planted and handles like a car. I can't say I'm crazy about the styling, especially in three-door form. The high waistline and small greenhouse make for the kind of odd proportions which have also made the BMW X6 controversial.

I do acknowledge, however, that not everybody will feel this way, and the Evoque does look sufficiently different from its rivals from Audi and BMW to make an impression. The five-door has quite a bit of Ford Explorer in the looks, and this will hurt a vehicle with a $45,000 price tag. The interior is much better suited to both the price and the Range Rover badge, both in space and materials used. The Evoque might not look the tough-guy part, but for those who don't take their vehicles off-road, it will be more than able to handle the rigors of everyday use, even for those who live in areas which don't have perfect weather year 'round.