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STILL THE ONE

Range Rover's Evoque is unashamedly upmarket but is nevertheless Britain's best-selling SUV. Andy Enright takes a look at the latest version, revised to keep it at the top.

Ten Second Review

There's a raft of detail changes to this latest Range Rover Evoque but the biggest improvement is the fitment of a nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox which promises much better motorway economy. Other than that, it's business as usual. The Evoque remains the most stylish SUV in its class and we can't see anything changing that in the immediate future.

Background

How do you go about rationalising the success of the Range Rover Evoque? The most obvious way would be to see its sales figures as reward for a thoroughly well-developed product. There are other equally well engineered rivals around for significantly less, yet the Evoque outsells the lot of them. Cars like the Toyota RAV4, the Volvo XC60 and the Honda CR-V all have a lot to be said for them, yet in terms of showroom appeal, they're utterly blitzed by the Evoque.

Maybe they're playing a long game, waiting for the extreme styling of the Evoque to suddenly crash out of favour. That's risky as sales aren't showing any signs of decline and the latest changes only boost the Evoque's advantage. With a state-of-the-art nine-speed automatic gearbox specially developed for the car by ZF, the latest Evoque is a real piece of work.

Driving Experience

The engine choices continue as before with the 2.2-litres diesel in 150 and 190PS guises, plus a 2.0 petrol 240PS powerplant. The ZF-9HP automatic transmission is among the world's first 9-speed units fitted to a passenger car. It shifts between gears so quickly that ZF reckons it's "below the threshold of perception". An adaptive shift programme quickly matches the driving style and includes a memory function. If you're in seventh gear and are approaching a third gear corner, for example, if you were to manually tap the shifters down four times, the system remembers this request and will shift to third as quickly as possible. In most rival systems, such a request would be denied as the software would decide the car was travelling too quickly to shift into third. With no fewer than four overdrive gears at the top end, the SD4 engine will only be turning over at around 1,800rpm at typical motorway speeds.

Quite a big proportion of Evoque sales go to the entry-level front wheel drive cars, but in a bid to match their efficiency, Land Rover has developed a system called Active Driveline, which operates four-wheel drive models in front-wheel drive only during steady-state driving at speeds above 22mph. The system monitors vehicle dynamics and automatically reconnects four-wheel drive (within 300 milliseconds) whenever it is needed. It also features Active Torque Biasing with electronic-Diff (e-Diff) technology to distribute torque between the rear wheels, optimising traction and stability. At present, it's only offered with the petrol engine. In addition, a Torque Vectoring by Braking feature, available across all powertrains, further enhances agility and safety by redirecting torque between all four wheels to counteract understeer. It features in both the Active Driveline and the Evoque's standard four-wheel drive system.

Design and Build

Land Rover has wisely left the styling largely unchanged. The differences run to a wider colour palette for the interior, four revised alloy wheel styles and a different style of Land Rover badge on the grille, wheel centres and tailgate. And that's pretty much it. Buyers still choose between three and five-door cars, the key difference between which is the amount of room in the back of the car. Go for the five-door and the roofline is subtly re-profiled such that there's 30mm of additional headroom. The 'tumblehome' or amount of angle on the side windows has also been reduced which means another 50mm of shoulder room in the back. The impression of space and airiness is helped by the option of a full-sized glass panoramic roof. The rear row of seats, with seat belts and head restraints for three passengers, have 60/40 folding squabs and are equipped with ISOFIX child seat mounts. When required, luggage capacity can be expanded to a healthy 1,445-litres.

The three-door 'Coupe' version features more extreme styling and a boot that is a little smaller, measuring 550-litres with the seats in place and 1,350 with them folded. The squinty headlamps, the aggressive front air intakes, the sassy rising belt line and the big wheels that fill the arches so well are all present and very correct. Specify it with the right wheels and with the right paint and interior and the Evoque is still a genuine head turner. You can't really say that of an Audi Q5.

Market and Model

After you've plumped for an Evoque, decided that you want five doors and not three, decided which engine gets plumbed in up front and whether you want front or four-wheel drive, there are still choices to make. Not just colours and options but which trim package to go for. Land Rover offers three, each of which endows the Evoque with a distinctive personality.

If you've got a ruthlessly paperless office filled with sleek Apple iProducts, you'll probably prefer the Pure model. This combines the stunning concept-car exterior with a stylish, clean interior in neutral colours. Soft-touch wrapped materials on the major surfaces contrast with the metal brushed aluminium trim. Those who prefer a few more luxuries will want the Prestige. This gets a bespoke exterior that includes unique, 19-inch wheels and metallic details with an extensively leather-lined interior. The extrovert Dynamic model gets Premiership-spec 20-inch wheels and unique bumpers, sills, grille and tailpipes for a more assertive, urban look and feel. Contrasting roof and spoiler colours are available, while the premium sports interior offers sports seats with splashes of bright contrast colour.

The latest cars get a raft of driver aids, some of which are genuinely novel. Park Exit (to automatically exit parallel parking bays), Perpendicular Park (to position the car centrally in parking bays), Closing Vehicle Sensing and Reverse Traffic Detection (to warn drivers of oncoming traffic), Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and Wade Sensing are just the start. The InControl connected car system, available as an option, incorporates two new features - InControl Remote and InControl Secure. InControl Remote allows owners to trigger an SOS Emergency Call which automatically informs the emergency services of the vehicle's position in the event of an accident. InControl Secure tracks the vehicle using advance tracking technology in the event of a theft. It raises a silent alarm at a secure operating centre where a third party service provider will assist the relevant local authorities in recovering the vehicle.

Cost of Ownership

If there's been one consistent gripe from Evoque owners, it's been that their cars haven't been achieving anything like the published fuel economy figures. The latest generation models have focused on improving those returns. You still probably won't get near the published numbers but you'll do a good deal better in absolute terms than you did before. Stop and start is offered with the new 9-speed automatic transmission and with the Active Driveline, so fuel economy is improved by up to 11.4 percent and CO2 emissions are reduced by as much as 9.5 percent. Combined fuel consumption is up to 57.6mpg for front-wheel drive cars, with CO2 emissions starting from as low as 129g/km. Go for an SD4 diesel with all-wheel drive and you should get to see around 47.5mpg.

The Range Rover Evoque also adopts low CO2 systems such as Electric Power-Assisted Steering and is built to maximise end of life recyclability. With such high demand and a distinctly finite plant capacity at the Halewood factory, residual values have remained very strong. It aces the Audi Q5 on residuals to such an extent that comparable 150PS diesel models score very different running costs. The five-door Evoque costs around 55 pence per mile to run over a three year/36,000mile period, where the Q5 costs over 65ppm - almost 20 per cent more.

Summary

In truth, the Range Rover Evoque didn't need a great deal of alteration to keep it at the top of the pile. There's something different about this car. It's got an undeniable charisma that its German rivals are utterly incapable of replicating. That's why it's sold so well and will continue to do so. Land Rover aren't a company known for resting on laurels though and the latest car gets some worthwhile changes, mostly charged with improving efficiency. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a genius piece of engineering from ZF and if you cover a few motorway miles, you'll notice a real difference in your fuel bills.

I once read a quote about Lady Gaga that suggested she wrote deep intelligent lyrics about shallow concepts and that about sums up the Land Rover Evoque. Nobody really needs a vehicle like this, but if you really want one, you might as well get a car that's been done well. Beneath the glitzy styling, there's millions of miles of punishing development and it becomes evident when you own the Evoque. Its success hasn't always been easy to rationalise, but nowhere have we ever suggested it's undeserved.


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