I’ve always been a bit confused about whether the Evoque is really for school-run fashionistas or serious off–roaders. There have been times that I suspected its creators felt much the same and, as a result, resigned themselves to making it equally adept at both, despite knowing that virtually everything that made the Evoque special would go undiscovered by most owners.
OVERDRIVE 2019 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
So, nearly a decade on and after more than three-quarters of a million sales – presumably providing a thick wad of audience research – it’s interesting to see if the changes that have brought us the new Evoque tilt the scales one way or the other for those with £30,000-50,000 to spend.
Huge power isn’t really needed for either role, so we tested the Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol four-pot with added mild hybrid system. The ensemble has getting on for 250bhp but its power is sapped by the Evoque’s weight and the emissions-evading nine-speed automatic ’box, which suffocates performance unless you stir it continuously and bring to the boil using the manual paddles.
All but the base-model diesel are four-wheel drive and automatic and, though I am not best placed to judge it on the fashion front, as the city favourite the Evoque is much improved. It has far better rear cabin space – thanks to an all-new platform giving a longer wheelbase, and the deletion of the three-door version – but has retained its ability to be unaffected by most speed bumps or road-width restrictors.
Parking is greatly aided by the addition of a slightly unnerving camera-linked rear-view mirror. You now get an unsullied rear view, but on the other hand you’ll never again know which child hit the other first. Similarly, the only lack of refinement in a package greatly improved in comfort and quality comes from the door mirrors, the bulk of which creates wind noise. But what about the Evoque as a driver’s car and 4×4? Well, JLR has piled a lot into this, even putting cameras on the underside – the ClearSight Ground View – so you can see the rocks you are dangling wheels over. It sounds like a terrible gimmick but it’s fun. The Evoque is incredibly agile on the road for a car of its weight, and can really be hustled. Off road, even without the battery of aids to do everything for you, it is as accomplished as you would expect from any vehicle carrying the historical albatross of that badge. We’re back to the thorny issue of whether that ability will ever be used by the buyers.
Even the Greek launch venue had a foot in both camps, needing to satisfy, but not terrify or bore, both hardcore car magazines and lifestyle glossies. We had a bit of loose surface work, some river driving, some mild off-roading and some good long motorway miles.
Through it all I hugely impressed, but no less confused. My little corner of south-west London is dominated by Evoques. I truly hope that pattern isn’t repeated elsewhere, otherwise so much thinking, engineering, manufacturing and equipment, so much excellence and expense, will have been for nothing. It is about time this vehicle was heralded for its abilities rather than its looks, so that its true forté becomes its calling card. It won’t, though.
Clockwise from top left It looks much like the last one apart from missing black motifs on wheelarch tops; virtual view of lumps beneath; smoother, better-quality cabin; Greek gaps bridged.