Range Rover EvoqueOctober 28, 2011
The Beating Spirit Road Test of the Range Rover Evoque
Model/Engine size: SD4 Dynamic 5 door
Fuel economy combined: 49.6 mpg
Beating Spirit rating:
The Range Rover Evoque , in diesel manual form, returns 49.6 mpg ; for a Land Rover this is excellent, however there are other 4x4s that beat this – so can the Evoque show it’s in a different class to these rivals due its superior off-road ability?
If the Evoque can prove that its off-road ability is in a league above other 4x4s that can return more than 50 mpg, then in addition to being able to claim that it’s the greenest Land Rover ever, it can also claim that it is the greenest ‘real’ 4×4.
So in addition to our normal road test, and review of fuel economy, the Evoque was given an extremely tough off-road challenge – could it make it across the Wayfarers Way in North Wales, a route normally reserved for Land Rover Defenders with special off-road preparation?
We’ll find out later, but in the meantime, of course there’s one other title that the Evoque could claim as part of this exercise; it could easily win the ‘best-looking’ 4×4 award. The Evoque has inherited the original Land Rover LRX show car looks with hardly any changes. The result is a vehicle that looks amazing, and that really stands out on the road. Our test car was the five-door version of the Evoque, however there’s also a three-door coupe, which looks even more dramatic.
Our test car was also the most economical four-wheel drive model. To achieve its 49.6 mpg, and emissions of 149 g/km CO 2 , you will need to specify the diesel engine, and the manual gearbox. There are actually two power output options available from the same 2.2-litre diesel engine; either 150 bhp (the TD4) or 190 bhp (the SD4). Both have the same economy and emissions figures. The 190 bhp output costs more, but getting more power and performance for the same economy seems like a price worth paying.
There is also an automatic transmission option. This results in a difficult decision, as our preference would be for the automatic option, as it is more in keeping with the Range Rover brand. However with the auto option, the emissions climb significantly to 174 g/km CO2 and the fuel economy drops to 43.5 mpg.
There is also an Si4 petrol engined-version. The petrol engine doesn’t feel laid back enough for the character of the car, although it will obviously be popular in markets such as North America. We therefore conclude that the diesel automatic suits the Evoque best – but if you want maximum economy and minimal emissions then you’ll have to live with the manual.
Then there are the three ‘design themes’: Pure, Prestige and Dynamic. Our test car was Dynamic spec and it cost £37,380 , with £4325 of options, including the dual-view touch-screen display with analogue and digital television, panoramic glass roof with power blinds, and powered tailgate.
There is also an even more economical eD4 model, which is front-wheel drive only. This returns 56.5 mpg along with emissions of 133 g/km CO2. The Coupe posts slightly better emissions and economy figures – 129 g/km CO2 for the front-wheel drive version, equating to 57.6 mpg – this is certainly impressive for a vehicle with a Range Rover badge.
As the majority of people will probably buy the Evoque for the aspirational image rather than for any form of serious off-roading ability, the front-wheel drive only version will probably be adequate for many people.
On the road, the most important point remains that the Evoque looks amazing. The Evoque has huge wheels (ranging from 17 to 20-inch), and slim windows, ensuring that it still looks like a concept car. But does it drive as well as it looks? It certainly behaves in a very civilised manner and is especially refined on motorways, when it’s quiet, with an excellent ride. Travelling at 70 mph feels like 30 mph. You’d be happy to sit on a motorway all day in this car.
Around town the diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox combination means that the Evoque doesn’t have a powertrain that you can rush, and in such driving conditions the diesel engine certainly isn’t as refined and effortless as units found in larger Range Rovers. The Evoque does come with a stop-start system, which cuts the engine when at a standstill, and this certainly helps to lower the official emissions figure in urban use. There’s also a smart regenerative charging system to capture wasted energy during vehicle deceleration.
However it’s the handling of the Evoque on twisty roads that is the revelation in terms of its driving experience. Although the Evoque is related to the Freelander, if you drive both vehicles back-to-back on twisting country roads, you’d swear there was no family link whatsoever. Whereas the Freelander experiences considerable body roll when cornering enthusiastically, the Evoque controls its body through corners extremely well.
The Evoque is available with Adaptive Dynamics featuring the MagneRide adaptive damping system; this is standard on Dynamic models. The car’s Dynamic setting ensures that the dampers provide extra firmness on smooth twisty roads, but on poor road surfaces this setting can make the car feel too jiggly.
The Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) is intended to be more efficient than mechanical systems; it is well weighted for this car, with decent feel.
When we first saw the interior of the Evoque in pictures we thought it looked quite plain, but when you’re actually sitting in the car the interior is restrained and tasteful and it has an upmarket ambience. The materials are excellent quality and the interior has original design touches to help set it apart from German rivals.
One option that should be considered is the full-length glass roof. Without it, due to the slim, tinted glazing area, the interior can feel rather dark and enclosed.
The amount of space in both the front and rear passenger compartments is good, and although the boot is a reasonable size, there are certainly rivals with larger luggage space. However this is supposed to be a small, efficient Range Rover so a compromise here is perfectly acceptable.
So, can the Evoque combine good economy with real off-road ability? Does the efficiency of the car – for example its low rolling resistance tyres – compromise its off-road ability? Our main off-road test route, the Wayfarers Way, is actually a public road – you need road tax and insurance to drive on it – but it’s a road that only specially-prepared Land Rover Defenders and the like can normally negotiate successfully. So would a completely standard Range Rover Evoque, with road-biased tyres, stand any chance of making it over the mountain and out of the other end? Watch the video
The road had actually been closed for two years and it had just reopened days before our test. Maintenance work had been carried out, as it had become completely impassable. The Wayfarers Way winds up over the Berwyn Hills and then back down the other side. It starts off with a combination of rocky inclines and large pools of water. Already, at certain points, the Evoque was close to its limit in terms of ground clearance, but with careful positioning it made it through this section without any unwelcome scrapes.
The ground clearance of the Evoque is slightly higher than that of a Freelander and the track is slightly wider, so Land Rover claims that the off-road ability of the Evoque is therefore slightly better. The Evoque certainly had no problem with any of the large pools of water that it had to negotiate, and only on a couple of occasions did the road-biased tyres scrabble for grip on steep uphill rocky sections, but the four-wheel drive system quickly re-apportioned traction to other wheels and forward motion was restored.
The Evoque comes with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which adapts the car’s engine, gearbox, centre coupling and braking/stability systems to match the demands of the terrain, to maximise traction. The Evoque has four Terrain Response settings, selected via a control on the centre console: General Driving (on-road and easy off-road); Grass/Gravel/Snow (slippery conditions, on- and off-road); Mud and Ruts; and Sand. An additional Dynamic setting is available for cars specified with Adaptive Dynamics.
The four-wheel drive transmission is a full-time intelligent system which continuously varies the front/rear torque split using an electronically-controlled Haldex centre coupling. All this technology no doubt helped the Evoque to climb up the trail, over rocks and through water, and we managed to reach the top of the hill. It felt as though the Evoque was the first vehicle to scale the summit after the road had been closed for two years.
However it wasn’t long before a serious-looking off road-prepared Land Rover Defender appeared over the summit from the opposite direction, then another, then another. It turned out to be somewhat of an off-road convoy, making the most of the recently re-opened route. The occupants of the Defenders – all of which had tyres with tractor-like levels of tread – came over to the Evoque and marvelled at how it had managed to get up the mountain. All of the female passengers vastly preferred the idea of travelling up a mountain in such levels of interior comfort as the Evoque evidently offered, compared to their basic Defenders.
So we had made it to the top of the mountain but we now had to face the most difficult challenge – going down the other side. The first part was a very rocky downhill section, which the Evoque again had no problems tackling. It has Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Gradient Release Control (GRC). HDC automatically restricts speed downhill using the anti-lock brakes, and GRC, linked to HDC, progressively releases the brakes on slopes for maximum control.
You do have to be aware that the front of the Evoque is relatively low for a 4×4, with more overhang than at the rear, and it’s potentially the main part of the car that’s most vulnerable to off-road obstacles. The Evoque does have a Surround Camera System which uses five digital cameras placed around the car, providing a 360 degree, real-time view of the surrounding area on the touch-screen display. This feature proved to be more of an item of interest rather than something that you could actually use to rely on to drive safely over a challenging off-road route.
After the rocky downhill section down from the top of the trail came the most difficult part of the entire route – a timber boardwalk laid out on top of a very boggy area. The boardwalk itself wasn’t a huge problem, but getting on and off it is one of the biggest challenges of the entire track. On our direction of travel, it meant wading through some deep muddy water with the Evoque and then climbing out of the water onto the boardwalk. This was real touch and go in terms of whether the Evoque would be capable of achieving this, but the baby Range Rover made it look easy. The only challenge was a small section of mud on the approach to the boardwalk which the road-biased tyres struggled to bite into. The Evoque even dropped down from the end of the boardwalk with complete ease, helped by the short rear overhang. There were another couple of miles of rocks, ruts and huge puddles which the Evoque again made easy work of.
We reached the end of the route, where there happened to be a pub, so we stopped to celebrate the Evoque’s highly impressive capability. We were followed into the hostelry by another Defender owner who had driven behind us on the trail, and who was amazed at the Evoque’s ability.
In the pub we awarded the Evoque the greenest ‘real’ 4×4 award. We concluded that there is no other vehicle that can match the Evoque in terms of the combination of its official fuel economy and its off-road ability.
That, combined with all the other strengths that the Evoque demonstrated during our time with the vehicle, should have put the Evoque in line for a potential Beating Spirit rating of 10 out of 10. However there was one problem. Although the Evoque officially returns 49.6 mpg on its combine cycle, we really struggled to get anywhere near this on test. Our results ranged from a worst figure of 27.5 mpg when testing off-road – which is actually very impressive under such conditions – to a one-off best figure of 48.6 mpg when stuck at 40 mph on a stretch of the M6. However the average fuel consumption over the entire week with the vehicle was 33 mpg. This is quite a way short of the official 49.6 mpg.
Therefore our conclusion is that the Evoque is a highly capable vehicle in virtually all areas, but if you expect it to regularly return 50 mpg, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Summary and Review
The Raneg Rover Evoque looks great. It is comfortable with an excellent ride, it has impressive handling on twisty country roads, it has the potential to be class-leading in its economy, and it is highly capable off-road. On the downside the engine does not always have the effortless refinement that people may expect from a vehicle wearing a Range Rover badge, and it’s likely that real-life fuel economy will fall quite a way short of the official figures.
Taking everything into account, the Evoque scores a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10. Real-life economy is the main area that lets it down, but against this it should be remembered that this vehicle is a huge step forward for the Land Rover brand in terms of efficiency. Who would have thought, when Beating Spirit was founded in 2006, that after five years we would be testing a Range Rover that had an official fuel economy figure of almost 50 mpg?
Therefore Land Rover deserves congratulations for producing a car that is so much more economical than any of its predecessors, which looks so fantastic, and that is still obviously highly capable off-road.
Was our off-road test important? Well, the Land Rover brand is built upon its genuinely capable off-road abilities, so a product that couldn’t live up to such standards would risk causing real damage to the brand. Will most people use their Evoque in such an environment? No. However the whole point of buying a Land Rover is so that it can do that sort of thing if asked, and it shows that most Evoque owners will be able to cope in the event of a heavy fall of snow.
The Evoque is likely to sell extremely well and it will be interesting to see how the efficiency of the brand progresses with the promise of new technologies such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
Car details and fuel economy data
Fuel economy extra urban: 54.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 42.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 149 g/km
Green rating: VED band F – £130
Weight: 1700 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 22%
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 190 bhp
Max speed: 124 mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds