Range Rover Evoque Si4
Land Rover techs up the SUV
First Look By the time the Range Rover Evoque is launched in September, Land Rover expects to be producing one every seven seconds from its Halewood factory, which should leave you in no doubt as to how important Range Rover views its first step into true mainstream motoring.
Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque Si4: bit on the gorgeous side
There are two body styles available: a more conservative five-door and a flash three-door Coupé. There’s no doubt which looks better, although the five-door is the more practical option, besides having a more airy-feeling cabin.
The Evoque Coupé destroys the Freelander for looks: the squat, muscular front end, paired with aggressively rising shoulder and the raking windscreen combine to produce a sharp, purposeful front-end that encourages other drivers to move over as you approach.
And approach it does. I drove both the Coupé and five-door versions of the Si4, which has a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine nestled under the clamshell bonnet, producing 240bhp and capable of dispatching 0-60 in a shade over seven seconds.
Push the accelerator into the carpet and you’re rewarded with a sharp growl from the engine and a feeling of very swift, if not quite biblical, acceleration. Give it a merely medium amount of welly and the Evoque powers onto motorways effortlessly, enough to take you to license-endangering speeds with an absolute minimum of fanfare.
Welsh hillsides? No worries
The drawback of such capable performance is merely middling economy: a claimed 23.7mpg around town, and just over 40mpg on motorways.
Manual models are available - there’s even a front-wheel drive only diesel - but the Si4 I drove has a six-speed automatic gearbox. The drive selector knob slides up out of the centre console when you start the car; turn it to S and the instrument panel glows red.
Give the gear paddles behind the steering wheel a flick and (nominal) control of the gears is handed over, although you’ll still get a down-shift if revs drop too low.
The wheel thing
Given a decent road, the Evoque doesn’t handle like an SUV: turn-in is sharp and precise, and while any car this big will suffer from a degree of body-roll, there isn’t a feeling of wallowing as you attack corners. With the 20in wheels placed at the four corners of the car it’s easy to be precise.
Still, while using the paddles to change gear is initially fun, controlling things manually ultimately results in rather abrupt gear changes, and the Evoque’s refinement becomes its own enemy. You can’t hear the engine pitch clearly enough to know when to shift up. Driving using the automatic gearbox is a far smoother, if less engaging, experience.
Dial up your auto gearbox setting
Leave the tarmac and the Evoque handles just as well. Purists will lament the omission of a low-range gearbox, but a few hours off the beaten track hinted at a very capable performer nonetheless. The Evoque decides how much braking and power to deliver to each wheel individually, and it picked its way confidently over slippery mud and rocks.
Its ground clearance of 21.5cm at the front axle is actually slightly higher than the Freelander’s, and there are plenty of technological tricks at hand as well: hill descent control allows you to pre-set a desired speed before releasing the brake, allowing you to make descents without risking the accelerator.
Different viewing angles, different views: sat nav for the driver, telly for the passenger
Splash out and you can turn the cabin - already a good-looking, well-appointed space - into a veritable Aladdin’s cave. The Lux pack, available on Prestige and Dynamic versions of the car - it’s not available on bog-standard Pure versions - will set you back £4325, but adds various treats such as the stunning 8in touchscreen nestled in the centre console. Not only does this show the navigation system, but can also make use of the hybrid TV tuner, which only occasionally struggled to maintain a signal despite being in the wilds of north Wales.
Tech to the road
Passengers can also perform the impressive trick of watching TV or a DVD while the driver keeps an eye on the sat nav, thanks to the screen’s prismatic dual-view technology, which presents a different image depending on your viewing angle. It works fantastically well, though the vagaries of state-to-state legislation means American customers are robbed of it.
Packed with tech, in and out
Another complaint is the sat nav’s insistence on saying “Bear left” instead of “take the exit” on motorways. Confusing.
There are tech treats outside the car. A reversing camera on the off-side rear bumper provides you with a view of what you’re about to back into, complete with augmented-reality style traces overlaid on the display showing what your path will be based on the angle of the front wheels.
You also get kerb view cameras underneath both wing mirrors, plus another two camera on the front corners of the car, handy for planting the wheels precisely off-road.
It also makes parking easier, although while we’re on the subject, the Coupé and the five-door Evoque share exactly the same length and wheelbase. Other classic Land Rover niceties, such as the huge wing mirrors tilting down when you select reverse to allow more precise manoeuvring are present and correct on all versions. All versions of the car come with a pair of USB ports and Bluetooth.
All of which will, of course, set you back substantially. The Coupé version of the Si4, complete with all the trimmings such as the dual-view display and cameras dotted around the body, will cost £44,320, while the five-door version comes in at £43,320. For those already minded to buy a Range/Land Rover, that's mid-range Discovery money. Cut back on the extras, and the front-wheel-only, diesel eD4 starts at £27,995.
Doesn't come cheap
Still, it’s substantially better-looking than just about anything in its class - compare it to the more expensive BMW X5, for instance - handles beautifully and gives those hesitant about committing to an SUV a car which feels much smaller and lighter than it really is. ®
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