Luxury brands are moving down while regular brands are diversifying, and if the group in which your make belongs is doing neither you'll basically be left behind. Nothing is sacred anymore, and we need to thank the powers that be sitting high atop their world headquarters, wherever they may be. Do it! Thank them!
Thank them because their vision is what's allowed you to buy an affordable high-end car. Be it a Porsche Boxster, an Audi A3, a Mercedes B-Class or a BMW 1-Series, you bought one because, A) It fit your budget; and B) Because you wanted a piece of that brand's action.
|Range Rover expects that as much as 80% to 90% of Evoque buyers will be new to the brand. (Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre/Auto123.com)|
Now, when I say Range Rover, what comes to mind? I instantly think of the King of Hill – not Hank Hill, mind you. The Range Rover is a regal, stately affair reserved only for the Beckhams and those with pocketbooks as deep as the Royal Family's. Not so any more.
Land Rover has accomplished what will most likely turn out to be the boldest, bravest and smartest move in its 65-year history.
The Range Rover was created in 1970 as an alternative or “hybrid” vehicle that was as capable on the road as it was off. The recipe was an instant success and has worked brilliantly for the last four decades. The ingredients have changed little in that time: big, powerful engines, sophisticated 4WD systems and straight angles meeting every surface.
As Range Rover faces the second decade of the 21st Century, it has decided to mix it up somewhat – make that a whole heck of a lot. With evermore demanding environmental requirements and a desire and demand for dynamic styling, the lads in Gaydon, Warwickshire chiseled a shape never before considered for a Range Rover.
After tumultuous relationships with BMW and Ford, Land Rover has been “saved” by the giant that is Tata. This Indian company has opened its mind and wallet ($11 billion in R&D over the next five years) to the great Jaguar and Land Rover makes, and has invested a considerable amount into the Evoque. I can tell you with certainty that it shows. Just look at the Evoque.
What do you see? I see a fizzing, jazzed-up body perfectly stretched over a well conceived chassis borrowing, but lightly, on the LR2/Freelander – and it's all Range Rover. It has an unsurpassed amount of panache and prestige for a vehicle in its category of which most comes from the RANGE ROVER letters stretched across the bonnet. Who doesn't want to drive a Range Rover?
The idea of owning a Range Rover on a smaller scale with a decent starting price of $46,995 (Coupé starts at $52,595) are what will draw consumers into showrooms. In fact, in a brief discussion with one of the reps, Land Rover expects (or hopes) that dealer traffic will increase threefold in the coming months. Actually, they plan on tripling their annual sales within five years. I say it can be done.
|The idea of owning a Range Rover on a smaller scale with a decent starting price of $46,995 (Coupé starts at $52,595) are what will draw consumers into showrooms. (Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre/Auto123.com)|
The Evoque, other than being fiercely handsome, has all the attributes of even the most majestic of Range Rovers, and this was purposefully done. Whether trimmed in Pure, Prestige or Dynamic, the Evoque serves up plenty of style and stance that keeps it from feeling “cheap”. From where I stand, the LR4 parked next to my Evoque is like a cousin from the same mother that seems rudimentary and plain by comparison.
With 19” and 20” wheels on the menu, varied colours and the 3- or 5-door body styles available, the Evoque has got lots going for it aesthetically. If the Coupé is dashing and bold, it's the 5-door that will win the higher take rate with its 1.5” of extra rear headroom, increased versatility and CUV looks.
The detailing of the body fluctuates slightly between trims. The Dynamic wins for emotional appeal with its deeper bumpers, enhanced rear spoiler and other add-ons. On the inside, other than the various colours of hide, nothing changes – that is to say, it's all good.
The Evoque's cabin is surprisingly roomy for front passengers, good for the rear. The materials used in these hip quarters are top-notch, not far from what you'd expect in a $100,000+ Range Rover. The presentation and craftsmanship are a delight and enticing.
The list of standard features is extensive and includes an 8” touchscreen, a 380-Watt Meridian (same make as in the McLaren MP4-12C) audio system, heated steering wheel, front seats and windshield, keyless entry and push-button start, and much more. There are numerous packages that can be tacked on to bring the price to over $60,000.
|The materials used in these hip quarters are top-notch, not far from what you'd expect in a $100,000+ Range Rover. (Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre/Auto123.com)|
What is also included in every Evoque purchased is a 4-cylinder engine under the classic clamshell bonnet. Some members of the staff on hand for the launch noted that they were sceptical when they first heard that their baby Range Rover was to be powered by a 4-pot. Their concerns quickly melted away when they finally got to drive the vehicle.
I was optimistic, and am very pleased with the Ford-developed, Range-Rover-tweaked turbocharged 2.0L mill. With new cams, 10:1 compression and direct injection, it delivers a healthy 240hp and 250 lb.-ft of torque. Channelled through a 6-speed automatic Aisin transmission, the Evoque will reach 100 km/h in just over 7 seconds. Rest assured that this is no buzzy 4-cylinder: it is refined, smooth and displays but a hint of lag when the throttle is mashed, but it'll pull nicely to 5,000 rpm.
To demonstrate the worth of the Evoque's Terrain Response system, the Range Rover crew took us off-roading, climbing up the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort mountains. The Evoque proved to be well suited to tackle this course that's not open to the public. Truthfully, those that plan or expect to pursue these types of activities will be best served by the Pure or Prestige models as the aforementioned bumpers on the Dynamic were a little “low” for some ruts.
About the Terrain Response system: It's no gimmick. Its four settings (General/Grass, Gravel, Snow/Mud&Ruts/Sand) work in different ways, either modulating the throttle, the brakes and traction controls depending on the road conditions.
|I enjoyed my time at the wheel of the Evoque far more than I expected. (Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre/Auto123.com)|
And on the road, the Evoque also demonstrates depth of skill. The two Evoques I tested were saddled with the optional MagneRide continuously variable magneto-rheological dampers. Their ability to provide a balance between handling and comfort is impressive. Its electronic power steering's assistance is well judged and the brakes are served by good pedal feel.
I enjoyed my time at the wheel of the Evoque far more than I expected. Its nimble body and tidy dimensions will make it a winner for the affluent urbanite looking for a multipurpose vehicle that is heavily stylish and a pleasure to drive.
The Evoque will conquer many new hearts. Range Rover expects that as much as 80% to 90% of Evoque buyers will be new to the brand. It is clear that the Evoque, in the hands of its new owners, will rarely if ever see the back roads of the backcountry, but at least they'll know that nearly nothing will stop them when roving through the rough streets of downtown North America.