2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Drive Review
With tougher fuel economy standards on the way and the need to grow sales as the automotive industry continues its upward momentum, Land Rover engineers were given a difficult task of building a smaller model with the same level of luxury and off-road prowess expected from this brand. Meeting this seemingly daunting challenge, Land Rover recently started production of its all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque, and we were invited to Vancouver to put the Evoque through its paces in a variety of road conditions ranging everywhere from highway driving to some moderate off-road conditions. While the Range Rover Evoque is the first big change to the Land Rover line-up since the Range Rover Sport in 2005, this definitely won't be the last as the brand promises to introduce 40 new "product actions" (which includes everything from new powertrains to new models) over the next five years.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Halewood, UK, the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque goes on sale this month in the United States with three available "design themes" - Pure, Prestige and Dynamic - and a starting MSRP of $43,995 for the Evoque five-door while the Evoque Coupe starts at $44,995 and is only offered in the Pure and Dynamic packages. In this first drive, we had the chance to drive a Evoque Prestige five-door with an as-tested price of just over $55,000 and a loaded-up Evoque Coupe Dynamic topping out at almost $60,000. Even with this high price tag (for a compact crossover), Land Rover expects the Range Rover Evoque to bring in new customers from other brands, and its initial data isn't disappointing with almost 78 percent of the Evoque pre-orders (buyers putting down a down payment) being new to the Land Rover brand. Even more impressive is that, like the Evoque itself, buyers will be thinking outside the box - as in boxy CUVs - which means competition will go beyond conventional luxury compact crossovers currently on the market.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Competition
Yes, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque will gain most of its sales from buyers browsing the luxury CUV segment which is also where the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volvo XC60 reside, but Land Rover also says that it expects some cross-shopping from sportier cars like the MINI Cooper S and the Audi TT. The combination of the Evoque and the Evoque Coupe gives Land Rover a one-two punch that no other luxury CUV can offer, but it will be interesting to see what kind of sales figures the sporty Evoque can steal away from some of these more mainstream rivals. Through the first nine months of 2011, Land Rover's best-selling model in the U.S. has been the Range Rover Sport, and the new Evoque should help draw in new sales without cannibalizing much from the other models - except maybe the low-volume Land Rover LR2. On a global scale, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque will be an important vehicle for the resurgent Land Rover brand as it will be available in more than 160 markets.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Exterior
Land Rover previewed its 2012 Range Rover Evoque using the 2008 LRX Concept, and it is amazing how much of the concept vehicle can be seen in the production design right down to the wheels. Surprisingly, the biggest change from concept to production was losing most of its Land Rover badges in place of Range Rover badges on the hood, wheels and liftgate; the only Land Rover nameplate on the entire Evoque (inside or out) is a small badge on the liftgate under the large "Range Rover" lettering. As for the styling itself, the Evoque is a bold statement for Land Rover and is like nothing else ever penned by the brand. Land Rover's Design Director, Gerry McGovern, created the Range Rover Evoque with a more athletic and dynamic appearance than the boxy, classic-lines of other current Land Rover and Range Rover models. This starts with narrow, LED-trimmed headlights, a raked windshield and a sloped roofline (the latter of which is more apparent on the Evoque Coupe). To accentuate the Evoque's aggressive look, Dynamic models come with the choice of three roof colors (black, white or silver) depending the particular main exterior color, and be sure to check out the available gloss black 20-inch wheels. Evoque Dynamic also has a more distinct appearance from the Pure or Prestige models including sportier fascias, integrated rear exhaust outlets and functional hood vents.
Despite its modern styling, the Evoque was still designed to do what all Land Rovers do well: drive off road. Aside from the ability to wade through 19.7 inches of water, the Evoque also has impressive approach and departure angles of 25 degrees and 33 degrees, respectively, although the sportier Evoque Dynamic has to come in and depart at much shallower angles of 19 degrees and 30 degrees, respectively. As far as ground clearance is considered, the front axle can clear 8.4 inches and the rear axle 9.5 inches which means that the Evoque can tackle difficult terrain.
“The Range Rover Evoque marks a bold evolution of Range Rover design. With its dramatic rising beltline, a muscular shoulder running the length of the car, and a distinctive taper to the floating roofline, the Range Rover Evoque adopts a very dynamic profile with a powerful and athletic stance,” said McGovern.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Interior
Most of the styling elements of the 2012 Range Rover Evoque are the same as those found on the 2008 concept vehicle, but the addition of the five-door model makes for a more passenger-friendly back seat. Unlike the exterior, the Evoque's interior is more realistic than its conceptual counterpart, but this isn't to say that the cabin is any less extraordinary. The first chance we had to get in the Evoque was a short city drive in the back seat, and the view through the panoramic roof was simply amazing proving that the Evoque can be enjoyable for drivers and passengers alike. Once behind the wheel, the Jaguar-like rotary shift knob rises from the floating center stack when the ignition is turned on for drivers to select gears, but shifts can also be made using the steering wheel paddles. The Terrain Response System is mounted close to the gear selector, and it features an easy mode selection that consists of left and right buttons rather than a rotary dials similar to other LR models (the two dials would have surely created confusion).
As expected from a Range Rover, the design and cabin materials inside the Evoque are impressive. One of the Evoque Pure five-door models we tested had a mix of ivory and dark cherry leather throughout the cabin, while another Evoque Coupe Dynamic had a flashier red interior with black inlays on the seats. Buyers also have plenty of choices of metallic and wood accent trim which means that the Evoque is not lacking in personalization options. Nor is it lacking in interior comfort with Land Rover pointing out that the Evoque offers more rear-seat headroom than the Range Rover Sport, but the sloped roofline of the Evoque Coupe reduces headroom for rear occupants by 1.5 inches. In light of this fact, there is still plenty of space for rear passengers, but getting to the rear seat is a more challenging issue. Compared to its segment rivals, the Evoque's minimum 19.4 cubic feet (Evoque Coupe) of cargo volume is far less than some of the boxier CUVs on the market, but the Evoque five-door does deliver 51 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded out of the way.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Packages and Options
Aside from the three main choices of Pure, Prestige or Dynamic, customers still have plenty of option boxes to check when buying a new 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Some of the more impressive options include a pair of Meridian audio system (choice of 11 or 17 speakers) and an innovative Surround Camera system. This latter feature includes five exterior cameras (one mounted low on each corner of the front fascia, one on each door mirror and one on the liftgate) that helps make parking and challenging off-road maneuvers easier, and they can be altered in a customizable display and used at any speed. Further down the road, the Evoque will also offer race-inspired sport bucket seats for the front passengers, but Land Rover has not given a timeframe or estimated costs for this option.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
When it comes to what's under the hood of the 2012 Range Rover Evoque, it's a familiar story with most European cars. There are diesel engine, front-wheel drive and manual transmission models available for its home-market customers, but U.S.-spec models are limited to the gasoline engine. Fortunately, this consists of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque available at a wide rpm range; this engine produces more power and a flatter torque curve than the LR2's 3.2-liter V-6, and it weighs 86 pounds less, too. All U.S. models also come standard with four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission which helps give the Evoque good fuel economy with EPA estimates of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway which is far better than the similarly sized LR2. Land Rover says that the base 3,902-pound Evoque can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds with a top speed of 135 mph.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Driving Impressions
After driving the Dynamic and Prestige models of the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque in both on- and off-road conditions, the Dynamic is far more superior especially when equipped with the optional Adaptive Dynamics system. This advanced system uses MagneRide dampers which automatically adjust based on the road conditions. On smooth, curvy roads, the MagneRide system will tighten up for a more responsive handling, and on more rugged surfaces - whether it be bumpy roads or off-road trails - the system offers up a little extra cushioning to provide a smoother ride. Not to imply that the base suspension setup isn't comfortable, but the unique computer-controlled MagneRide was noticeably smoother along dirt, washboard roads. This system somehow manages to give the Evoque better cornering control without sacrificing the luxurious ride comfort expected from a Land Rover.
As is the case with all other Land Rovers, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque comes standard with the Terrain Response System allowing drivers to fine tune the vehicles response depending on specific conditions; where icy or muddy terrain is made worse by excessive wheel spin, this is a necessity in soft, loose sand, so the Terrain Response varies the response of the transmission, throttle, center differential and even the electric power steering based on the selected mode. TRS comes standard with four modes - Mud and Ruts, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand and General Driving - but models equipped with Adaptive Dynamics also get a fifth mode - Dynamic mode - for sportier on-road driving. The Evoque's Hill Descent Control is automatically engaged in some TRS modes or can be manually engaged using a button, but, more importantly, it features Gradient Release Control allowing it to gradually build up to its set speed rather than "falling" down the hill until it meets its target speed. Drivers can change the HDC speed quickly on the fly simply by using the speed control buttons. After plenty of time spent driving in mud and some snow, I was even more impressed with the Evoque after learning that this Evoque Dynamic with 20-inch wheels was equipped with summer performance tires but never got stuck.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Safety
Safety ratings for the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque have been released yet by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it is expected to perform quite well in crashes thanks to plenty of safety features and a strong safety cell. All 2012 Range Rover Evoque models come standard with eight airbags, LED daytime running lights (DRL), electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), Roll Stability Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Trailer Stability Assist, traction control, hill start assist, Hill Descent Control and Land Rover's Corner Brake Control (CBC) which helps ensure vehicle stability in fast corners such as exit ramps. The Evoque also uses high-strength Boron steel in the A- and B-pillars to increase occupant safety.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Final Thoughts
Originally, the idea of a smaller, more fuel-efficient model from Land Rover seemed like a good way to water down the brand's image, but the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque actually does a great job of combining old-school Land Rover with a more modern design and purpose. The on-road presence lets Evoque buyers have the cool, chic look of the other Range Rover models while giving it improved handling and better fuel economy, but for those who can't imagine a world with an soft-roading Land Rover, the Evoque is still capable of tackling impressive off-road terrain. After a day spent driving Land Rover's new model on everything from twisty, highway roads to narrow, muddy two tracks, it would be hard to find a better SUV or CUV on the market that can deliver the same level of luxury, performance, styling, fuel economy and ruggedness as the 2012 Range Rover Evoque.
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: Pros and Cons
- impressive off-road abilities
- distinctive exterior styling
- ingenious five-camera system for easier parking and off-roading
- rear seat ingress and egress difficult on Evoque Coupe
- limited cargo volume
- no diesel, manual transmission or FWD for U.S. yet
Land Rover provided travel, lodging and vehicle for this review.
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
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