Pictures of the nearly completed truck – now being referred to as the Range Rover Evoque – had surfaced; pictures that looked remarkably like the concept. My skepticism was spanx’d.
Fast forward to 2011 and I’m back from my first behind-the-wheel tryst with the all-new Evoque, a vehicle that will no doubt be referred to as the ‘Baby Range’ or similar by some rapper looking to shape automotive culture. Well I’m here to tell you from the get-go that though it may be more abbreviated in stature, the truck’s Range Rover DNA is paternity test clear, and it’s anything but child’s play. Climbing inside the cabin of a ‘Dynamic’ trimmed coupe, I immediately felt a familiar, gentlemanly vibe. Sure, the confines were cozier, but the rich, generous use of hide and soft-touch materials in the Evoque’s interior further display its genetics; with a more youthful stylish take on elegance.
Borrowing the rotary-style shift mechanism made famous by sister brand Jaguar keeps the cockpit modern, while a selectable terrain response mode suggests that its pretty face still means business. Does it though? I proceeded directly off-road to find out. Clicking the shiny Evoque into “mud and ruts”, I faceplanted its gleaming grille into a knee-deep puddle of grime, fully expecting to require immediate assistance from a winched-out LR4 or better. Not so. Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, the Evoque pulled itself out, then joyfully responded as I throttled up a steep incline of dirt and rock. If the voice on the navi had some AI going on, I’m sure she would have quipped “What else you got for me, honey?”
What else I had was an open ribbon of highway ahead of me. And while the Evoque’s off-road capabilities were impressive to say the least, we all know that 95% of them will probably never leave the pavement; meaning they better be able to hustle. Throwing her into highway mode, the 240 hp turbocharged four-cylinder quickly showed off its respectable 251 lb.-ft. of torque. That may not sound like much compared to other powerplants in the bloodline, but at around 3900 pounds, the truck weighs in a full 1600 pounds less than a Range Rover Sport and is more than capable of moving - quickly. For those that still require more output, we’re sure the engine’s force-induced configuration at moderate boost levels will lend itself friendly to some aftermarket chip-tuning; but that’s another story. In addition to smooth power, the concrete also allows the ride’s suspension capabilities to shine. Rock out in a properly equipped ‘Dynamic’ model, and magnetic ride control dampers – which adjust themselves to changing road conditions thousands of times per second – couple with tightened steering, deliver close to a sports-sedan like experience for driver and passengers alike.
Outside, it’s hard to hate on the styling. Borrowing the iconic floating-roof design of its big brothers, the Evoque takes things a step further, pushing its ceiling back like Lebron’s hairline. Too drastic for your tastes? The top panel – also equipped with a stunningly large glass panoramic inset – can additionally be ordered in white, or completely blacked-out for a more stealth profile. Up front, the perforated grille and jeweled headlamps are unmistakably Range Rover, and guaranteed to get you noticed. Climbing back in, larger types may find entering the coupe’s rear seats an act of contortion – though once you’re there, they are surprisingly roomy. Still, if you need a bigger dose of function with your form, the five-door is a no-brainer, as the Evoque hardly loses any of its sexiness with an additional pair of portals.
Ready to cop your own? Yeah, me too - which leads to the Evoque’s only vice; price. In fairness, nobody expects “cheap” from the Land Rover lineage – that’s of course part of the appeal. But while the latest in the Range range starts at a fairly attainable $43,995, it’s hard to stop at the base. Start adding options and trim levels, and you can easily find yourself in the $60s – that’s flirting with Range Rover Sport territory. Still, assuming fuel costs and physical footprint mean anything to you, the Evoque may be the better move – assuming you can avoid checking every box on the options list. That said, if you’re smitten, get in line. We’re told the Evoque’s demand and preorders have far exceeded Land Rover’s initial estimates. So just like that dime we first compared her to, there’s a mob of dudes looking to get a ride. Trust me though, this one’s a much better bet.