The Range Rover Evoque, or 'baby Range', as we've affectionately dubbed it, is the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient vehicle Land Rover has ever built. It's also arguably the prettiest, aimed at a younger, more fashion-conscious audience than that which the company traditionally targets.
We went hands-on with the two-door coupé model -- the Evoque is also available in five-door guise -- to see whether it's just a pretty face or whether it can deliver the impeccable road manners and sensational off-road abilities of its big brothers.
Evoque prices start at £27,995. Our test model, a 4WD Dynamic with an Si4 2-litre petrol engine and all the trimmings, sells for £39,995.
Exterior and interior
The Evoque's aesthetic may not be to everybody's tastes -- we're thinking Land Rover traditionalists and the blind -- but we think it's gorgeous. Its aggressive, contemporary, coupé-like styling is extremely faithful to the LRX concept that was unveiled in 2008, which is a pleasant surprise, since most road cars are toned down dramatically by the time they reach production.
The Evoque's interior isn't quite as mental as that of the LRX concept, but it's comfortable, well appointed and, if you opt for the panoramic glass roof, light and airy.
Within moments of setting off, it becomes obvious that the Evoque drives as well as it looks. In motion, it feels every bit as luxurious as its larger brethren, cruising comfortably regardless of speed. It's smooth and well-mannered around town and remarkably quiet when hurtling along motorways -- so much so that you probably won't notice you've reached the car's 135mph top speed until you have a rear window full of flashing blue lights.
The Evoque handles well, too. Throw it into a corner and you can't fail to be impressed by its vice-like grip -- even in wet, treacherous conditions. It behaves in a very coupé-like manner, rewarding drivers who push it to the limit.
This car is surprisingly capable off road, too. Favourable weather conditions during our test meant we weren't able to push the car to its absolute limits, but it displayed an impressive range of abilities, scaling hills of up to 45 degrees, dredging through up to 500mm of water, and generally getting itself through situations that would leave ordinary road cars stranded.
The Evoque's dynamic handling comes courtesy of an optional £1,150 Adaptive Dynamics suspension-damping system, which behaves much like the T-1000 from the Terminator movies -- only it's less murderous.
The dampers, which form a part of the car's suspension system, are filled with a liquid metal. Under normal driving conditions, the fluid is viscous, delivering a comfortable ride. Drive the Evoque aggressively through corners, however, and sensors, which monitor your driving style 1,000 times per second, trigger an electromagnet. This sends a current to the fluid, firming it up to provide a more level ride when cornering.
The Evoque is available with standard suspension, which provides a good balance between comfort and dynamic handling, but we found the Adaptive Dynamics suspension system to be the better of the two, particularly when hooning around.
Engine and emissions
The Evoque has the power to make the most of its excellent suspension. Two engines are available, the first being a 2-litre, turbocharged petrol unit that produces 240bhp (US) and 340Nm of torque. The engine, available with a six-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive transmission only, is potent enough for a 7.1-second 0-60mph time and a 135mph top speed, which feels more than quick enough from the Evoque's raised driving position.
Land Rover quotes combined fuel economy of 40.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are rated at 199g/km, although Land Rover plants trees to offset this for the first 45,000 miles of the vehicle's use.
Land Rover also provides the option of a 2.2-litre diesel engine with a choice of six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox, and two- or four-wheel drive transmissions. The most eco-friendly of these options is the eD4 2WD manual model, which returns 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 133g/km.
That's impressive in its own right, but it doesn't quite match the running costs of BMW's X1 sDrive20d EfficientDynamics. The Evoque's Bavarian rival achieves the same economy but spews CO2 at 119g/km, putting it in the £30-per-year Band C road tax bracket, instead of the Evoque's £115 Band E bracket. This version of the German car is also 2.3 seconds quicker from a standstill to 60mph.
The Evoque is physically smaller than its siblings, but the quantity of toys in the cabin is comparable. Users have the option of a £1,900 tech pack, which includes a hard-drive audio server onto which you can rip up to 10 audio CDs; voice control; a heated windscreen and washer jets; automatic headlights; rain-sensing wipers; and a front-parking aid that beeps to warn you if you're about to mangle the Evoque's gorgeous front end.
If that's not geeky enough, Land Rover also provides a £4,325 Lux pack, which is available with the Dynamic and Prestige editions of the Evoque. This includes a powered tailgate that opens and closes at the touch of a button, a panoramic glass roof with power blinds, and an 8-inch dual-view display that can show different images depending on whereabouts in the cabin you're sitting.
The display uses adjacent pixel columns angled in opposite directions, meaning the front passenger can enjoy a DVD or Freeview television -- with audio played over the car's speakers or via a set of wireless WhiteFire headphones -- while the driver views the on-screen menu system or the hard-disk-based sat-nav system.
Audio in the Lux pack configuration comes courtesy of an 825W Meridian audio system, which pumps out sound via 16 speakers and a single subwoofer. It isn't quite as impressive as the Harman Kardon set-up in the full-fat Range Rover, but its overall audio quality is of a very good standard and it's loud enough to attract the ire of passers-by if you so wish.
Rounding out the Lux pack is a camera system that gives you a 360-degree view of the vehicle (useful for navigating tricky mountain passes or checking if you're about to run over pets), keyless entry, park assistance, and a climate-control system that automatically recirculates the air in the cabin if exterior air quality drops below an acceptable level.
We love the Range Rover Evoque. It's not as technically accomplished as the BMW X1 as far as engine and cabin technology are concerned, but it's absolutely beautiful to look at and it's fabulous fun to drive both on and off road.
Edited by Charles Kloet