My eyes widen at the sight of Range Rover’s newest addition cruising down a traffic laden path in Cape Town’s city centre. Adderley’s peripheral traffic is a blur to me, paling in significance to the Evoque’s mesmerizing presence. Sure, I had seen it in pictures, even under show lights, but seeing the newcomer cruising down the busy road was like locking eyes with Olga Kurylenko as she steps into a crowded room. You try not stare, try to remain composed, but you find yourself rubbernecking and walking into the kerb in front of you.
The Evoque’s price tag belies its value though and while it may be similar to BMW’s X3 and Audi Q5 in proportion, it’s arguably more desirable and comparatively better value. At just under R600000, you may be wondering what socks I’ve been smoking, but delve into the Evoque’s standard list of features and do the sums. You soon realise it wants for nothing. Unlike its competitors which you have to spec to the hilt – adding a whack to their price tags – the Evoque comes standard with almost every creature comfort one could ask for. The German options also count for zip come resale. But that’s not the only area we feel the Evoque has them beat.
While the New X3 is a vast improvement over its predecessor, the Audi’s Q5 and the forthcoming Q3 look to be nothing more than jacked up versions of their sedan models, neither of which we feel can hold a match to the presence of the Evoque. Styling is subjective, but if one measures the Evoque’s appeal by onlooker interest alone, it attracts more attention than the last chicken wing at parliamentary lunch.
We’ve said a lot about the significance of the Evoque’s design, its origins and evolution in past issues, but having spent time with a test unit and examined its metal curves and chiseled creases up close, the most striking aspects (at night or during the day) are its xenon headlamps (standard fitment.) They feature a powerful signature graphic in the front running lights, using LED light-blade technology. A similar graphic is repeated in the LED rear lights, with a jewel-like 3D petal design appearing like a diamond or ruby encrusted broach on a velvet evening dress.
Even when approaching the car after hours, you notice the bold Range Rover graphic along the front doors, illuminating the ‘puddle lights’ that shine from the mirrors. It’s this attention to detail that sets the Evoque apart from its rivals and highlights, like the full-sized fixed glass panoramic roof, enhance the sensation of space and comfort while flooding the interior with natural light.
Its overall design is both evolutionary and revolutionary, retaining a strong Range Rover DNA, yet raising the design bar for SUVs to date.
This doesn’t stop when you step inside the Evoque and ease into its double stitched leather seats, feeling the steering wheel leather’s luxurious grain pushing against your finger pads and palms. Depress the start button and the interior displays come to life with a choreographed animated start-up sequence that sees the rotary transmission shifter rise like a pop-up greeting on birthday card.
LED ambient lighting again illuminates the accents of the dashboard design and creates a piano lounge-like ambience throughout the cabin. Switching from the more sombre Drive mode to the Sport or Dynamic mode on the rotary dial, sees the cabin irradiate a red hue from the instrument dials and cluster display, as if peering through a visor that had just swiveled shut before a race.
Interior refinement, visibility and comfort are excellent on the open road with a commanding view of the road ahead. What separates the Evoque from its more utilitarian sibling, the Freelander 2, is that, as a Range Rover, it enjoys the same features technologies as the vehicles Thabo and the Queen get transported in. This means technologies like: an eight -inch, HD touch-screen display, Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity and audio streaming, as well as USB and auxiliary inputs for iPods and other portable devices all of which are standard fare.
The packaging of the interior of the Evoque provides 575 to 1445litres of luggage space. This is slightly more than the X3 (550 to 1600litres) and Q5 (540 to 1560litres) with the rear seats up and less when folded down.
Against the clock, the turbo 2.0-litre power plant returned a sub 9 sec zero to 100kph time and a 16.3sec quarter mile. This is a long way off the BMW’s sub 6 sec 0 to100 time, but still not bad when one considers that it is comparable to most C segment hatchbacks. Despite offering lower engine outputs, the Range Rover’s force fed four cylinder provides a smooth, linear power delivery for its capacity, with a healthy 177kW and 340Nm of torque. While we didn’t come close to achieving its claimed combined fuel consumption, the Evoque’s comparatively low kerb weight (1670kg) benefits its fuel consumption, dynamics and performance. In comparison to its rivals, the newcomer weighs in over 100kg less than the Q5 and 200kg less than the Bavarian. This sees its 105.9kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio far more competitive to that of the Q5 (110.8kW/tonne) and the powerful X3 (119.6kw/tonne). Behind the wheel, one never feels starved for power and there is sufficient surge under foot up inclines or swift overtaking.
The Evoque’s weight advantage is mostly felt dynamically, where it exhibits a nimble agility when changing direction, without any excessive body roll, pitch or dive under acceleration or braking. The whole chassis feels steadfast, composed and flat through every corner from entry to apex and exit.
Although our test unit was not fitted with optional MagneRide adaptive Dampers (R13500 option) or Dynamic Plus option (costing an extra R45000,) we were still impressed by the Evoque’s on and off road performance. Despite featuring standard 19-inch alloys (with an 18-inch full-size spare) over its 18-inch rivals, the ride offers a delicate, well balanced compromise between taut response and cosseting comfort. This all-weather, all-surface capability naturally stretches off the beaten path as well, thanks to high ground clearance of 215mm up front and 240mm at the rear.
While the X3 boasts the same 500mm wading depth and a ground clearance of 212mm (front), the Evoque’s 25deg approach, 22deg breakover and 33 departure angles are significantly better than BMWs (25.7deg approach, 19.4 breakover and 22.6deg departure). It’s unlikely that the Evoque’s off road attributes will be the main reason for its sales success, but with its Terrain response system and features like Hill Decent Control in its arsenal, buyers will be confident that it still allows the same sense of adventure and freedom the brand is synonymous for.
All in all, the Evoque succeeds in providing not only a competent and classy compact SUV, but a vehicle with the visual allure and dynamic appeal to rival most luxury sedans. Its strength of design, quality and comprehensive specification, set the benchmark in its respective vehicle class and are likely to draw interest from customers in range of markets. Ultimately, the Evoque proves that off roaders are not just about practicality and go anywhere ability, but also about desirability, dynamics and design.