By Micah Muzio - Updated Date: 8/24/2011
Land Rover's rugged-yet-luxurious Range Rover line has long appealed to the well-heeled and adventurous elite. But with rising gas prices and ever-more-stringent fuel-economy and environmental standards, even the mighty Range Rover needs to adapt. Enter the 2012 Range Rover Evoque, a comparatively compact Range Rover crossover SUV that comes in five-door and coupe flavors, offering up a striking shape nearly identical to the Land Rover LRX concept car on which it is based. With an efficient 240-horsepower four-cylinder engine, improved aerodynamics and a smaller, lightweight body, the all-wheel-drive Evoque reinterprets the classic Range Rover formula with a renewed sense of style and a newfound environmental conscience.
You'll like the 2012 Range Rover Evoque if you want a seriously stylish luxury SUV that drives well in the city, but isn't afraid of the wilderness. The new Evoque also returns up to 28 mpg on the highway, a number inconceivable in anything else wearing a Range Rover badge.
If your vision of Range Rover ownership involves treks across the Serengeti or bashing along craggy mountain trails you may not like the Range Rover Evoque. Its Haldex all-wheel drive system happily varies the torque front to rear, to the wheels where added traction is needed, but the low-speed transfer case and locking differentials found on higher-end Range Rovers–and essential for hardcore off-roading–are missing.
The 2012 Evoque is the lightest and most fuel efficient Range Rover yet, representing a substantial departure for the Land Rover brand and giving cues about where the rest of its vehicle range might be headed. With 20,000 Evoques pre-ordered before cars even arrived on dealer lots, it looks like Land Rover's bold departure is paying off.
It's a known fact that most SUVs are never taken off road. Given that reality, we are pleased with how well the Evoque performed on road. Body motions are controlled, the steering feels good, and the six-speed automatic transmission and 2.0-liter turbocharged engine work well together, reacting eagerly to produce quick acceleration when needed. From a comfort perspective, the Evoque rides smoothly, feels stable at higher speeds, and limits the noise getting into the cabin. But what about that rare driver who does venture off road? We tested the Evoque on muddy, rutted back roads, in wet fields and up and down steep slippery hills. Throughout these trials, the Range Rover Evoque impressed, ably getting power to the ground, absorbing impacts from rough surfaces and generally doing whatever we asked of it. We wouldn't recommend it for crossing the Rubicon Trail, but we'll bet the Evoque is capable enough for most drivers' needs.
Panoramic glass roof
Given the Evoque's narrow side glass, we expected the interior to feel confining. Not so, thanks to the standard panoramic glass roof. This unbroken expanse of glass is positively huge, letting in an abundance of sunlight and it giving those inside a brilliant view of the wonders above.
Pop-up shift knob
When the vehicle is started, a rotary shift knob ascends from the center console to give the driver control of the transmission. Found on the top-line Range Rover models and throughout Jaguar's lineup, the ceremony of the pop-up shift knob reminds you that you're about to drive something special.
Contrasting the flashy exterior is a simply laid out five-passenger interior. Material quality is excellent but it's subtler details like the buttons and switches that really impress. These operate with a refined click that conveys a sense of quality. The seats are comfortable yet supportive and passenger space is good in all positions in the five-door model, though we suspect the rear seats might feel cramped with three aboard. Accessing the coupe's cozier rear quarters is a challenge, but once aboard, occupant comfort remains generally good. Cargo space is good in both models with fold-down rear seats included for larger loads.
Based on the Land Rover LRX concept SUV, the Range Rover Evoque is unusual for having made the transition from concept to reality with its design almost completely preserved. Signature Ranger Rover details like a clamshell hood and "floating roof" coexist with an ultra-narrow greenhouse and a sharply drawn features to give the Evoque a low, wide, athletic and modern appearance. Pragmatic types might gravitate to the somewhat larger and cheaper five-door body style, while style-focused buyers will appreciate the slightly lower roofline and stylized hood vents found on the Evoque coupe.
The base "Pure" trim includes a long list of features including keyless entry and engine start, power-adjustable leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels and an 11-speaker audio system with an eight-inch touchscreen. On the dynamic side, all Evoques feature hill-hold and Hill Descent Control along with Land Rover's terrain response system featuring unique driving modes for sand, mud and snow. Standard safety features include stability and traction controls, roll stability control, Trailer Stability Assist (to help when towing), and six airbags.
Options are grouped into three trim levels. The Pure Premium trim adds a five-camera surround-view system, navigation, adaptive xenon headlights and a 17-speaker audio system. From there buyers can move up to either the sporty Dynamic Premium or the luxurious Prestige Premium trims, each offering a variety of interior and exterior upgrades. Lastly, the optional Adaptive Dynamics system serves to improve ride and handling by way of magneto-rheological dampers that continually adjust their firmness.
Under the Evoque's hood sits a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine that, while turbocharged, exhibits virtually none of the power lag often associated with turbos. Incidentally, the same engine is also found in the Ford Explorer EcoBoost. For Range Rover duty, the engine has been waterproofed and beefed up for operation at more extreme driving angles. Acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill takes around seven seconds–a decently quick time, though the engine sounds less refined doing so than the Evoque's pricier Range Rover kin. The sole transmission offered is a six-speed automatic that includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control.
2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4
240 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
251 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg
The base 2012 Range Rover Evoque five-door has an asking price of $43,995. Stepping up to the Premium trim adds $4,000 to the price while the Dynamic Premium and Prestige Premium versions check in at $51,495 and $52,395 respectively. Prices for the Evoque Coupe are between $1,000 and $1,400 more expensive than their five-door counterparts. Prices for comparable premium small SUVs, including the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5, tend to be much lower than the Range Rover Evoque, with base prices starting in the mid- to high-$30,000 range. To see what others in your area may have paid for their Range Rover Evoque, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com. Products from Land Rover tend to suffer from below average residual values, a trend we expect to be somewhat tempered by the Evoque's strong desirability.