The high life, in the baby Range Rover
Range Rovers are perhaps the some of the best examples of panache meeting stupendous capability in the automotive world. They’re as much about ultimate luxury as much as they’re about serious go-anywhere abilities. So while on the one hand, Range Rovers have been the choice of Bollywood celebrities, top level CEOs and billionaires for their luxe quotient, they’ve also been revered by the outdoorsy luxury SUV buyer for their jagged, rock-laden Land Rover DNA (though its shame that most Rangies in India will probably never even tread off tarmac!). And when Land Rover introduced the Evoque a decade back, it introduced a whole new audience to the ‘Range Rover’ badge, given the Evoque’s significantly lower price point.
The fact that the Evoque was significantly pricier than its direct rivals like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 was something that put buyers off, despite its additional oomph. So does second generation Evoque up that game, especially since it borrows the Velar’s err.. evocative design? Of course, at first glance it’s hard to shake off the notion that the new Evoque looks like a scaled-down Velar. And that’s not a bad thing – the Velar is very, very gorgeous looking! Also, let’s not forget, there’s a generous helping of technology and more space to go with the new Evoque’s show too. But first things first, it looks a lot more appealing. More importantly, despite being just as much the same length as the last-gen Evoque the new one is a tad larger looking visually, which makes for better road presence in my books.
The older one looked almost a little too bulky, but new Evoque’s Velar-esque lines make it look less butch and more beautiful. Nice! What you see on these pages is the base, S trim that runs on nice-looking 18 inch alloys that complement its dynamic stance rather well. It’s the lights at both ends that really take the cake in my opinion though – be it the headlights upfront with the sleek-looking daytime running lamps or the slim tail lamp cluster at the rear. Then there’s JLR design director Gerry McGovern’s party trick, the flush-fitting door handles that pop out each time you unlock the Evoque, straight off the Velar. Tug at the handle to step and you realise quickly that things are suitably nicer-looking inside too.
The all-black theme makes for a sporty feel while high quality materials all round, especially the matte-finish dashboard-top exude a very premium feel. The S version does not get the full-digital instrument cluster, but I somehow like the classic appeal of the analogue dials, with just the coloured TFT display in between to access various functions. What the S version does get is the panoramic sunroof which lends the cabin a classy feel. The S also does not get the dual touchscreen layout on the centre console (offered on higher variants though) like its elder siblings and the S instead makes do with a full-gloss, piano-black touch panel replete with two rotary dials for climate control. While the panel looks good, on the flipside it is a fingerprint magnet. That said I do like how the rotary dial on the driver’s side for air-conditioning turns into the Terrain Response click wheel at the touch of a button. Pretty cool!
The large, 10 inch touchscreen on top is the usual Range Rover fare and looks neat thanks to its bright colours and crisp resolution both. Well, the screen has a great aspect ratio too, in case you want to ‘Netflix and chill’ when camping in the middle of nowhere! But while doing that you’ll probably be lefting for more storage space as there’s limited space on the centre console. There’s more space hidden under the climate control panel, but it’s almost a little too hidden from view, if there’s a thing like that. Seats are snug and supportive all round, though I must mention that despite the improved legroom at the rear (courtesy the 200mm longer wheelbase), the rear bench is still better off with just two occupants and not three courtesy the seat squab’s contours and the SUV’s width.
Getting to the heart of the matter, Land Rover India has only launched the diesel version India currently with the petrol expected to launch later. Unlike what some of JLR’s German rivals feel, I think this is a good strategy as the 2.0-litre diesel badge is a popular one in India even today. And the badge on the Evoque’s derriere says D 180, denoting it’s a 2.0-litre oil burner putting out 180 horses along with 430Nm, mated to the brand’s now popular 9-speed automatic gearbox. Overall refinement is excellent as you would expect of the British marque – on the go there’s barely any road, wind or engine noise inside. More importantly the motor is quick to respond to throttle inputs and performance is linear and eager enough to make you want to punt around at rather quick speeds.
Unless going hell for leather the 9-speed automatic is also quick to swap ratios. It’s only when you get over-zealous behind the wheel that you feel the need for quicker responses from the transmission. So highway or city driving, the Evoque is a set of wheels that will enthuse most drivers and in fact, in either condition you barely feel the need to go beyond the 2,000rpm mark unless in a hurry. Another interesting aspect is that the new Evoque sits on JLR’s new Premium Transverse Architecture platform. This has resulted in a structure that’s 13 percent stiffer – that is a lot in case you’re wondering – and has made a huge difference to the way the Evoque feels on the road.
It feels surprisingly closer to a car to drive now, offering better poise and composure, even with steel springs and not the fancy air suspension used by its elder siblings. On the same note, it also behaves impressively around corners as pitch and roll are well-controlled. More importantly, the steering feels well-weighted and precise – there’s a very confident feel from the wheel, which, in conjunction with how well the Evoque holds its line around corners eggs you to go faster. The cushioning from the suspension is firm but good, especially at higher speeds, as I found out on a drive from Pune to Mumbai when the wife and daughter both fell asleep on the back bench! The highway drive also helped me try stuff like Lane Keep Assist the Evoque is equipped with – it works really well in helping you stay in the centre of your lane!
Of course, I just had to take the Evoque off-tarmac too and I must say I am impressed. Armed with Terrain Response 2 it gets Range Rover’s entire gamut of modes to choose from. And despite not sporting adaptive suspension or adjustable ride height it manages a commendable job of clamouring over rocks and boulders. The fact that you cannot increase ground clearance is a bit of a deterrent, yes, but the Evoque will not shy away from off-roading duties.
All said and done, the new Evoque is a far better package than its predecessor. One could argue that like before, the new one is still a lot more expensive than its direct competition and in fact is priced very close to SUVs sitting a segment above, but fact is it boasts way more capability than its direct rivals, while certainly looking a cut above them with its Velar-esque design. And its this packaging that makes you want to turn around and give the Evoque a second glance, every time you lock it and walk away from it!
|ENGINE||1999cc, four-cylinder, diesel engine|
|PRICE||54.94 lakh onwards (ex-showroom, India)|