Range Rover Evoque

KEN APR 14 Motors review

KEN APR 14 Motors review - Credit: Archant

The Junior model is sexy but no softie

That a junior Range Rover would scale new sales heights, much as it might conquer a muddy hill, now seems blindingly obvious.

After all, compact SUVs have been in vogue for years, with BMW and Audi both offering variants with prestige, plus a measure of gung-ho spirit.

But nothing quite touches the Evoque, launched in late 2011 and now a pillar of the revitalised Jaguar Land Rover group.

The junior ‘Rangie’ has looks, interior class, proper off-road ability – except the eco-friendly front-wheel drive versions, of course – and credibility.

Only Jeep and perhaps Toyota’s Land Cruiser brand could have created a junior SUV with such 4x4 off-road authenticity, but neither could then hack it for design and tangible quality.

And then there’s the Evoque’s sex appeal: the ladies love its looks and style particularly – a point not lost on male buyers who want to be noticed.

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Admittedly, I have only anecdotal evidence here, plus proof that my other half seemed to believe the test car’s key was her exclusive property. Did she like the Evoque? Well, I’ve never seen her so downcast at the end of a test loan, except when the Bentley GTC went back – a car costing nearly four times as much.

The test Evoque was a full 4x4 five-door model in luxury Prestige trim (from £38,300), which vies with sporty Dynamic as the flagship finish, with Pure being the ‘cool’ effect used on the most affordable and front-wheel drive models, though none of these look cheap.

You can also customise your Evoque a lot by, for instance, varying the roof colour – which can have the visual effect of lowering the car.

Ours also came with the highly desirable £4,425 Lux pack, which includes a panoramic glass roof and electric blinds.

This is a must on the rakish but slightly more claustrophobic three-door coupe, which Land Rover has convinced buyers is worth paying extra for. Coupe prices start at £30,195, against the five-door’s £29,200.

I’ll take the gravitas of the five-door every time, however; it looks like a junior Range Rover and is practical too.

Of course, most buyers will never need the magnificent off-road prowess I found previously when driving various Evoques on moorland, rutted tracks and cloying mud in Scotland.

It is so easy and comfortable to drive off-road, and the trademark icon-driven Land/Range Rover terrain selector makes it simple to be in the right mode for the wrong conditions.

It’s pretty sharp on-road, too; although relatively high, the ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ chassis is set up to give a flat cornering stance without body roll, yet ride comfort is surprisingly good for a car with such taut composure.

The 190bhp version of the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel mainstay engine is smooth and the test car had an unobtrusive six-speed auto ‘box; the pairing should be good for an average of around 40mpg - not bad for a car with a 0-60mph of eight seconds.

Does any of this matter? Not really when the car is so arresting inside and out. I have confessed regularly that the Evoque’s looks don’t really work on me – or SUVs generally – but this usually provokes howls of ‘shame’ or outright derision. Rarely has a vehicle’s styling ‘evoked’ such passionate defence. n

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