Auto Review

Review: 2012 Range Rover Evoque


Editor's Rating: Stars_8

The award-winning Evoque blends brains with brawn—not to mention luxury and style—for a stunning debut in the premium SUV category

The Good: Distinctive looks, fuel economy, off-road capability, personalization possibilities
The Bad: High price, smallish luggage space
The Bottom Line: A stylish little luxury SUV that challenges the BMW X3 and Audi Q5

Make: Land Rover
Model: Range Rover Evoque
Model Year: 2012
Body Type: Two- or four-door SUV
Price Class: Premium

Up Front

The new Range Rover Evoque, arguably the most stylish vehicle Land Rover has ever made, has won rave reviews and a raft of awards, including just being named Truck of the Year by a panel of 50 auto writers at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as well as being named 2012 Sport Utility of the Year by Motor Trend magazine. That’s quite a coup for Tata Motors (TTM), the Indian parent company of both Land Rover and Jaguar.

Is the Evoque really that good? My short answer: If you like the way it looks. I’m being only half-facetious when I say that. The Evoque, an all-new model that hit the U.S. market in October, is a great-handling little SUV with a stylish interior, plenty of zip, and class-leading fuel economy. But the Evoque also faces stiff competition from some excellent but less expensive and more traditional rivals, notably the BMW (BMWA)X3 (whose sales more than quadrupled last year) and the Q5 compact SUV made by Volkswagen (VOW)’s Audi division.

What sets the Evoque apart is its hip appearance and multiple ways it can be personalized. Aimed at consumers who are younger and more tech savvy than the traditional Land Rover shopper, the Evoque looks the part. The exterior closely resembles Land Rover’s LRX concept vehicle, first shown at Detroit’s 2008 Auto Show, and repackages traditional Land Rover design elements—the clamshell hood, the “floating” roof, and the solid, Mini-Cooper-like wheels-at-the-corners-of-the-body stance—into a compact, urban vehicle that people tend either to love or to hate.

Either way, the Evoque turns heads wherever you drive it. Unusually, the new model is offered as either a four-door or a two-door coupe. The roofline tapers down toward the back of the vehicle (more dramatically in the coupe than in the four-door) and is available in three colors that contrast with the 12 available body colors. You can choose among five different alloy wheels. The interior is offered in 12 distinct packages, available with stitched leather upholstery and wood or metal trim.

Another of the Evoque’s appeals is fuel economy. That results partly from extensive use of lightweight materials, such as an aluminum hood and roof panels and composite and polymer front fenders and tailgate. At 3,902 pounds, the Evoque is the lightest Range Rover yet. Under the hood is a highly efficient turbocharged 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower, four-cylinder engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s essentially a Ford EcoBoost engine adapted to a Range Rover, which is a good thing, because EcoBoost engines not only are peppy but also use direct-fuel injection to improve mileage.

As a result, the Evoque is rated to get 18 miles per gallon in the city and an impressive 28 on the highway, for an average of 22. The Audi Q5 2.0T (20/27/22), which also has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, does about as well. Other rivals, including the X3 xDrive28i (19/25/21), Mercedes (DAI:G) GLK350 4Matic (16/21/18), and Honda (HMC)’s Acura ZDX (16/23/19), can’t match the Range Rover’s fuel economy.

Not surprisingly, the Evoque carries a premium price. Starting sticker is $43,995 for the four-door Pure Plus model and $44,995 for the coupe, which is well above the Audi Q5 2.0T (starting price: $36,475), BMW X3 xDrive28i ($37,995), and Mercedes GLK350 4Matic ($38,775), though less than Acura’s ZDX ($46,905). By the time you start adding options, the Evoque easily tops 50 grand (my test car cost $58,000).

Pricey or not, the Evoque is off to a strong start. Land Rover sold a total of 2,244 Evoques in the model’s first three months on the U.S. market: 821 in October, 669 in November, and 754 in December. Nonetheless, the Evoque trails well behind its main rivals for now. BMW sold an average of more than 2,200 X3s and Audi more than 1,900 Q5s per month last year.

Behind the Wheel

Typically for a Land Rover, the Evoque has better off-road capabilities than rival small luxury SUVs. Minimum ground clearance is a substantial 8.4 inches, and pronounced breakover and departure angles mean you won’t get hung up on steep inclines. The suspension is fully independent and features long-travel coil-sprung struts that can handle deep ruts and rocky hillsides, while the intelligent all-wheel-drive system continuously shifts power among the wheels to maximize grip. The Evoque can wade through up to 19.7 inches of water.

Of course, all that’s irrelevant to the vast majority of owners who never take the vehicle off road. But it does mean the Evoque handles winter driving conditions extremely well.

What’s surprising is how well the Evoque does in normal, day-to-day driving. There’s a bit of turbo lag when you punch the gas, but the Evoque nonetheless accelerates from zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds, which is plenty quick for most drivers. It’s the same time as the Audi Q5 2.0T and quicker than the Acura ZDX (7.3 seconds, according to Edmunds.com), though a bit slower than the BMW xDrive28i (6.7 seconds) and Mercedes GLK350 (6.5 seconds).

Once underway, the Evoque is extremely responsive. I love how quickly this vehicle picks up speed when you give it gas at 50 or 60 mph. There’s a Sport mode that quickens accelerator response, as well as steering-wheel-mounted paddles that allow the driver to shift manually. The ride remains smooth and quiet on bumpy back roads, especially if you opt for magnetic ride control ($1,250). The turning radius is a tight 37 feet, making the Evoque easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

The cabin is stylish and surprisingly roomy, at least in the four-door version of the vehicle I test drove. A panoramic sunroof provides natural light to both front and rear seats. I expected the rear seat to be cramped given the radically sloping roofline, but there’s more than enough headroom for most adults, as well as adequate foot, shoulder, and knee space. The Evoque coupe, however, stands 1.2 inches lower to the ground and has less head and leg space.

At a modest 20.3 cu. ft. with the rear seats up and 51.0 cu. ft. with the seats down, cargo space is tight in the four-door Evoque (and even tighter in the coupe). The Audi Q5 (29.1/57.3), Acura ZDX (26.3/55.8), Mercedes GLK350 (23.3/54.7), and the BMW X3 (27.6/63.6) all have more cargo capacity.

You pay other prices for the Evoque’s stylish appearance. The windshield and rear and side windows are narrow, limiting the driver’s ability to see out. Designers compensated by giving the Evoque extra-large side mirrors, but the tradeoff is that the driver’s side mirror is so big it’s difficult to see pedestrians in the crosswalk when you make left turns.

I have a few other gripes about the Evoque. There’s an eight-inch, high-definition touch screen on the center console, which is great, but there’s also a substantial lag between the time you enter a command and when the system responds. It’s a little like using an aging personal computer that can’t keep up with the demands of today’s Internet. After a while the delays become annoying.

Also, the Evoque’s gearshift is a knob that rises out of the center console into the driver’s hand as the engine starts. That’s a cool feature, except that I often had a difficult time getting the knob to shift out of drive into reverse or park.

Buy It or Bag It?

I love the way the Evoque looks, and I quickly came to love the way it drives. I would still have a hard time persuading myself to buy one, however, when a 2012 BMW X3 and Audi Q5 cost substantially less. Then again, I have to admit the BMW and Audi look boring by comparison. As I said at the beginning of this review, if you’re willing to pay a premium for styling, the Evoque is a great little luxury SUV.

Click here to see more of the 2012 Range Rover Evoque.

Thane Peterson reviews cars for Businessweek.com.

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  • TTM
    (Tata Motors Ltd)
    • $40.6 USD
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