Range Rover Evoque: Compact Off-Roader

By Frank A. Aukofer, April 25th, 2015

strong>Practically everyone knows the old adage: Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. The adage applies to vehicles as well, as demonstrated by the 2015 Range Rover Evoque. In this case, however, it wasn't the world that trod the path, it was other auto manufacturers.

Manufacturer photo: The compact Range Rover Evoque stays true to the core brand values by providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and multi-terrain capability
Manufacturer photo: The compact Range Rover Evoque stays true to the core brand values by providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and multi-terrain capability

Back in the 2012 model year, Great Britain's Land Rover departed from its roots as a manufacturer of boxy four-wheel-drive trucks capable of traversing almost any rugged territory and introduced the Evoque as a relatively small crossover utility vehicle, more at home in fashionable suburbs than back country.

Like any Land Rover, it had off-road credentials, though it was not as capable as most of its siblings (at the introduction, the front bumper was removed so it could attack some steep terrain).

It was a gamble that paid off handsomely. Evoque sales exceeded expectations, placing it among the vanguard of small crossover utility vehicles. In the Evoque's class, other choices are the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and X4, Porsche Macan, Volvo XC60, Acura RDX, Lincoln MKC, and Lexus NX. They are characterized by luxury appointments and available all-wheel drive, but most concentrate on paved-road performance.

Only the Evoque makes a point of establishing serious off-road credentials despite its shortcomings against other Land Rover vehicles. The tested Evoque came with a starting price of $42,025, which includes full safety equipment, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear camera with park distance control, push-button starting, and such fundamental off-road equipment as Land Rover's adjustable terrain response system, hill descent control, and hill start assist.

Manufacturer photo: The compact Range Rover Evoque stays true to the core brand values by providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and multi-terrain capability

Terrain response enables the driver to choose from different drive settings depending on the environment. The settings alter the traction and stability control as well as the transmission shifting and throttle response.

But the basic Evoque lacks other features most buyers would prefer. There are no inside assist handles and the visors do not slide to fully block sun from the side.

strong>Premium equipment comes from option packages: The test vehicle had Pure Plus and Pure Premium packages, along with other extras that included leather upholstery with lumbar support and memory settings up front, panoramic glass roof (it does not open), powered tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, reverse traffic detection, heated windshield and front seats, headlight washers, Around View camera system, navigation, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, satellite radio, blind spot monitoring, and roof rails. All of that lifted the tested price to $52,277.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission with unobtrusive shiftpoints sends the power to all four wheels. (The nine-speed replaces the original Evoque's six-speed automatic.) Despite its curb weight of 4,117 pounds, the Evoque accelerates to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds, according to tests by Car and Driver magazine. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is 21/30/24 mpg.

Even with its off-road enhancements, the Evoque is no slouch on the highway. The suspension system and tires were obviously engineered for precise handling. The Evoque grips high-speed corners with little fuss and tracks steadily in a straight line. But because of that orientation, the ride borders on punishing, with hard jolts over the rough pavement that seems to be everywhere now.

Manufacturer photo: The compact Range Rover Evoque stays true to the core brand values by providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and multi-terrain capability

Inside, the Evoque offers decent comfort for four, although the outboard back seats are short on knee room. The center rear position is compromised by a rock-hard cushion and the intrusion of a center floor hump, so should be reserved for compliant children.

Visibility to the rear is limited by a slit-type window that would have protected a World War II machine gunner in a bunker. Also, the rear pillars are wide, so adjusting the outside mirrors properly is essential to eliminate blind spots -- notwithstanding the blind spot warning system.

At 20 cubic feet, the cargo area, though it comes with adjustable tie downs, is not particularly large. Rear seatbacks divide one-third and two-thirds and fold to expand the area to 51 cubic feet but do not fold flat.

Everything considered, and despite its compromises, the Evoque works well for anyone who seeks an upscale sporting crossover with more capability off road than just the all-wheel drive found among its competitors.

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