Thumbs Up: Believe the hype: the Evoque is as good as critics say it is.
Thumbs Down: All that style and luxury carries a hefty price with it.
Buy This Car If: You want the most stylish crossover on the market today and can swing the price of admission.
When the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque debuted in late 2011, we quickly got tired of reading all the praise heaped on Range Rover’s latest model. It seemed like no one had a bad thing to say about the stylish crossover, and the Evoque just kept winning accolades month after month. Since launch, it’s picked up eight awards that we’re aware of, including the 2012 North American Truck of the Year, the 2012 World Design Car of the Year, 2012 Best of the Best from Autoweek, 2012 SUV of the Year from Motor Trend and the 2011 Car of the Year from Top Gear.
We’d be hard-pressed to name another vehicle that can top that, and after spending a week with the Evoque, we’ve got to admit that it really is something special. If your budget allows, the exterior styling is reason enough to park one in your driveway or garage; unlike a lot of crossovers on the market today (including those with luxury aspirations), the Evoque will look as good in five years (or ten years, or twenty years) as it does today. Its lines are modern, without being brash, and that’s a tough line to toe.
Up front, the metallic lower fascia gives the impression of a skid plate and brush guard, while a deliberately narrow grille sweeps across into the headlights to form a wing pattern. The ultra-low-profile hood sweeps back to meet the steeply-raked windshield, ensuring that aerodynamic drag is reduced as much as possible. Even the fog lights follow the profile of the lower character line that adds dimension to the doors, showing how much thought went into the Evoque’s styling.
In profile, perhaps the most noticeable feature is the Evoque’s plunging roofline, which adds flourish without sacrificing too much rear seat headroom. The 19-inch wheels stand out as well, and look almost too large even though they’re shod with relatively low-profile tires. A subtle rise in the upper character line further helps to diminish the daylight opening as your eyes track to the rear of the Evoque, where black C-pillars are defined by a large rear spoiler. Finally, a dignified strip of chrome breaks up the all-black lower cladding on our Prestige Premium trim model.
Out back, the same rugged theme begun up front is carried over. The lower fascia is clad in black, split by gray and metallic panels that are likely meant to represent skid plates. Tail lights, like the headlights, are minimized, as is the rear window. Despite this styling element, outward visibility is reasonable, although the rear-view camera is needed to see what’s directly behind you below beltline height.
The same obsession with design shown on the outside is evident on the inside of the Evoque as well. The dash of our Prestige Package model was a near work of art, with an Oxford leather top, dark polished wood trim and a leather crash pad that matches the color of the upholstery. HVAC controls are prominent on the lower center stack, and the infotainment / navigation screen sits at the center of the dash. Controls for audio and navigation are easily accessed via the default main menu, with redundant controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Instruments are split by a color LCD display that contains vehicle information, trip data, a temperature gauge and a fuel gauge. Gradations for both speedometer and tachometer are made of translucent plastic, which looks good when backlit but oddly down market in daylight; in fact that’s the one and only thing we could find to complain about inside the Evoque.
Front seats, wrapped in premium leather, are every bit as good as the rest of the interior. The Prestige Package gets you an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a six-way power adjustable passenger seat, and both are truly comfortable enough for the longest of road trips. Opt for the Climate Control package, and they’re heated, but not cooled.
Even the second row seats are surprisingly comfortable for outboard occupants. Both seat bottoms and seat backs are dished for comfort, and bolstered for a bit of lateral support. Headroom and legroom are both reasonable for average-sized adults, so we’d have no problem hopping into the back of the Evoque for a trip cross-town or a trip cross-country. If your back seat passengers expect heated seats, however, they’ll likely be disappointed, since heated rear seats aren’t available.
The Evoque comes with one drivetrain configuration, and that’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving all four wheels via a six speed automatic transmission. Output is a respectable 240 horsepower and 250 pound feet of torque, which can yield a 0-60 time of just under 7.5 seconds. The EPA rates the Evoques’s fuel economy at 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, and we saw an indicated 19.9 mpg in mostly-city driving.
As with family brand Jaguar, engaging a gear requires you to rotate the drive selector knob into the desired position. If you prefer to row your own gears, the Evoque includes steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Land Rover’s Terrain Response System also lets drivers automatically optimize throttle response, stability control and traction control settings to account for normal conditions, snow, mud or sand. While we didn’t have the opportunity to take this particular Evoque off road, we’ve worked with Land Rover’s Terrain Response System in the past and can attest that it works as advertised. While we wouldn’t use the Evoque for hard-core off-roading, in the real world it will get you wherever you need to go, regardless of weather.
On the road, the Evoque drives more like a sedan than a crossover. In corners, there’s a fair amount of body roll, but that doesn’t impact the impressive amount of grip delivered by its Continental all-season-radials. Even acceleration feels better than the numbers would indicate, except for a very brief stumble just off-idle. Once you’re past this flat spot, the Evoque pulls hard enough to spin the front wheels momentarily before traction is restored. Ride comfort is quite good, even on broken pavement, especially when you factor in the Evoque’s 19-inch wheels. The cabin is quieter than you’d expect, even for a luxury crossover, which only further pads the Evoque’s resume as a long-distance hauler. Even crosswinds don’t present much drama, thanks to the Evoque’s (relatively) low profile.
So, to sum things up, the Evoque is stylish inside and out, more comfortable than any other compact crossover we can name, handles better than you expect it to and even returns reasonable fuel economy. If there’s a problem with the Evoque at all, it would be the luxury crossover’s well-equipped price, which puts it atop the current luxury crossover field by a rather substantial amount. If you can swing the price of admission, its easy to see why the Evoque filled Range Rover’s trophy case in its freshman year on the market.
Land Rover supplied the 2013 Range Rover Evoque for our evaluation. Base price on our Pure model was $41,995, including a destination charge of $850. Options included the $10,400 Prestige Premium Package (Pure Plus trim level; unique 19-inch alloy wheels; exterior design package; real wood interior trim; load space storage rails; power driver and passenger seats; Oxford leather dash, topper and interior trim; body colored mirror caps; surround camera; voice guided navigation; Meridian audio system and xenon headlamps), the $450 Blind Spot Monitoring, the $1,000 Climate Comfort Package (heated front seats; heated windshield; heated steering wheel and heated washer jets) and the $750 Sirius Satellite Radio & HD Radio Package for a total sticker price of $54,595.
For comparison, a similarly equipped Lexus RX 350 would list for $46,715, while a comparably equipped BMW X3 would sticker at $50,245.