The Evoque Active Experience

There is cut-throat competition between manufacturers’ in the soft roader market world wide. With the current economic down turn in Europe and the United States, less people can afford to buy the huge and expensive SUV’s that once rulled the highways,and now are settling for cheaper fuel efficient soft roaders.
In a crowded arena where the Japanese,Koreans and the Germans are trying to out do each other,Land Rover has taken a different approach in the soft roader business, by creating a vehicle that attracts the much more sophisticated elite, while still retaining its legendary off road capability.

The task at hand to design and develop a car that is targeted at the modern,upwardly mobile lady was pain staking and involved a lot of consultation with the former Spice Girl and wife to famous English mid-fielder ,Victoria Beckham.
The results were outstanding. The Range Rover Evoque clearly outlines the direction Range Rover is taking moving foward. I luckily got an invite to attend the Africa Launch in Johannesburg South Africa and was pretty excited to get up-close to this new ‘baby Range Rover’.

The day finally arrived and soon after touching down at O.R Tambo international airport, I was warmly received by the Land Rover experience team and quickly ushered in a shiny metallic silver new Evoque,sitting on those magnificent low profile 19 inchers.
As we cruised in the multi-lane highways of JOZI (as Johannesburg is commonly refered to) towards The Sun Square Monte Casino Hotel, I couldn’t help but notice how agile and supple the ride was in the Evoque. My fantasy was cut short as we arrived at the hotel too soon. If I were familiar with the area, I would have taken the longer route.

Bright and early we set off towards the expansive Land Rover offroad experience grounds at Kyalami, on the Pretoria highway.

As I sat in during the vehicle brief, I wondered whether the Evoque would live to its hype; does it share the same DNA with its older and larger siblings? I thought to myself. Sooner than expected, I was behind the turbo-charged petrol version of the Evoque and straight in to the beaten path riddled with obstacles that would make even the most experienced driver anxious. So whats the ‘baby Range Rover’ really like?

Beneath its designer body lies a tried and tested all wheel drive system suited to take on even the most demanding of tracks. Can the baby rangey deliver what the larger land rover and range rover have done for decades? I was about to find out.

Visual appeal

The new Evoque signals the beginning of a new era for the iconic British brand. As the smallest, lightest and most efficient Range Rover to date, the Evoque shows that even a brand as historic as Land Rover can make an irresistible compact SUV, so long as it’s done right.

From the outside, I am yet to meet a single human being that thinks the Evoque is unattractive. If I do eventually come across such a person, I would have to question their taste and sanity. It is truly stunning. It looks fantastic in photos but to see it on the road as it screams past you or as it sits hovering in your rear-view mirror (with its cat-eye style day time running lamps), you realise that it is a work of art.

The attention to detail and meticulous design characteristics that have gone into styling the Evoque are nothing short of remarkable. In the car industry it’s often the case that designers will come up with an amazing concept and the engineers will then give them a million reasons why it can’t be made that way and eventually dumb it down to mediocrity. In the case of the Range Rover Evoque, the designers had the upper hand.

The first time I saw Evoque was in the form of the Range Rover LRX concept back in 2008. If you place the original concept and an Evoque side by side, it’s almost as if they simply made it as it was in concept form. There has been little compromise on design; the Land Rover team knew they were on a winner so they insisted the engineer’s work within the boundaries of the concept design. This is the same philosophy that Apple employs when it creates a new product – driven by designers and not engineers. For that reason, the Range Rover Evoque had already won half the battle before it even went to war.

It would almost not matter what the engineers had put under the skin because as most would agree, half the decision in buying a car is made on looks alone. Thankfully though, the Range Rover Evoque packs a winning package all around.

Inspired by a famous footballer’s wife, the interior is a work of art. Talk about the definition of luxury translated in the English way is an understament. To begin with the dash its double stitched with fine British leather. It’s symmetrically designed to give a visual experience of balance, the centre console houses a large 7-inch LCD multi touch unit that houses several functions like audio unit, satellite navigation and climate control.

Less knobs and buttons make the dashboard less cluttered and easy on the eye. The instrument cluster is lit in a light blue hue and the calligraphy in the Speedo and tachometer are easy to read. The three-spoke leather draped steering wheel is emblazoned with the Range Rover name on the middle sector. It’s quite a good feel to it especially during long drives.

Speaking of long drives, the sound system in the Evoque is simply breath taking; as I plugged in to the USB hub my memory stick loaded with DJ Cleo’s kwaito mix, the multi speaker Meridian sourced audio unit churned out all the notes in absolute clarity, and bumped to the beat as I drove in a concert like environment.

The cabin is in two different derivatives (five and three door) it seats five adults in relative comfort. For the three-door coupe you’d buy it if you were single or a couple without children, but if you had a regular reason to use the back seats, I would recommend the five-door. It is not that the two rear seats are useless in the coupe (a no-cost option to have three seats), it is the issue of getting in and out of them. The angle of the front doors and the way the front seats move forward doesn’t leave you with much room to get in and out of the back.

This is one of the downsides of letting designers have their way, but frankly, when you actually sit in the back there is ample room, even for tall adults. The five doors, in my humble opinion, make much more sense. It’s still a very attractive car but its usefulness is significantly higher than the coupe. The rear doors are some of the smallest I’ve ever seen on an SUV, but allow enough opening to easily get in the back seats. My initial thoughts prior to driving an Evoque were that you’d be pressed for legroom for the rear seats but that’s far from true as there’s lots of both head and leg room, particularly with the enormous panoramic sunroof.

Performance and Handling

The Landrover experience at Kyalami offroad track presents the perfect mix of different terrain situations suitable to test the Evoque’s Terrain Response system. It enables the car to constantly monitor and adjust parameters such as torque distribution, traction and stability in hundredths’ of milliseconds. Coupled to it is Adaptive Dynamics suspension option, which adds magnetic dampers similar to those pioneered by Ferrari.

In one particular section of the course, I drove the Evoque over a series of rock boulders and initially I was sceptical that it wouldn’t go over them due to its visually low lying ground clearance; surprisingly the head instructor Mr. Sean Reston insisted I go over the boulders and it managed without being scarthed! Straight from the boulders in to a deep-water trough, the evoque waded effortlessly in 50mm waist deep water. Soon afterword’s put to test the terrain response hill descend system on a steep gradient and at the peak I released the brake pedal expecting a quick roll back but the system employed ample stopping power. In short I tried throwing all sorts of obstacles to the evoque and it handled with aplomb!

After the heart stopping offroad experience, it was time to test its on tar capabilities, we hit the Rustenburg highway and I was privileged to pilot the petrol Si4 Dynamic petrol version.

The 2.0 litre engine is a sourced version of Blue oval’s EcoBoost unit. Which on full steam produces 177kW and 350Nm – which sounds like a tasty preposition until you realise the Evoque Dynamic weighs 1745kg.

Land Rover claims 7.6 seconds from naught to 100kph, a second slower than the full strength Rangey Supercharged which makes it a spirited performer nonetheless. It can really be punted along and quickly summon a sharp burst of speed when overtaking or pulling out of corners.

Steering feel and accuracy is on par for the compact SUV class, despite employing electronic assistance. Si4s are auto only, which means a six-speed torque converter transmission with paddle shifters and S mode.

When in S mode, the auto shifts quite quickly for a traditional transmission design and downshifts intuitively based on braking input.
This is likely the result of an efficiency-focus to the tuning of the Evoque; also suggested by the transmission’s tendency to hold higher gears when left in Drive. (The benefits however were perhaps not reflected in the 12.7l/100km as claimed by Land Rover).

Safety

So much to say the evoque is loaded with all lots of techno gadgetry to keep you in track. Visually, the Evoque’s front and rear brake rotors are dwarfed behind the Dynamic’s standard 19-inch wheels. However, they do a perfectly adequate job of hauling up the 1745kg Evoque, with good pedal feel and no fade evident during the testing.

Active safety aids like Abstraction control, ESP and hill descend control constantly monitor your driving and corrects you just incase you feel over ambitios.if the inevitable happens, multiple airbags, crumple zones and the grace of God will lessen injuries.

Summary

Despite its aesthetically focused design, the Evoque functions well as a smallish wagon (read the Ford Focus) with its greatest compromise being outward visibility (which knocks a point off the interior rating). I love the Evoque. Being an avid petrol head, I would quickly run for Si4 Dynamic petrol. The testiness of the 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine carries enthusiast appeal and is a heap of fun to drive. The more frugal diesel makes value driven sense; after all it’s got loads of torque and its fuel economy is simply mind-boggling. Feeling convinced that the evoque is the car for you? Simply dash to CMC motors, whip out your chequebook and drive away in the most exciting soft roader ever built.


About the Author

Trevor Lamenya

Trevor is one of the top motoring journalists in Kenya and is very passionate when it comes to motoring. He has been instrumental in developing content for numerous publications including Autozine Magazine, Capital FM, SME Today, MALE Magazine and American website Top Speed. Currently he is the Editor in chief of www.autovaulttv.com as well as running a syndicated motoring column published in the Sunday Standard, Kenya’s second largest newspaper.



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