Published on Saturday 25 April 2015 11:58
Ten Second Review
The entry-level front-wheel drive version of the Range Rover Evoque may not have its more expensive 4x4 siblings' off-road bragging rights, but with a lower price, lighter weight, better economy and emissions and more nimble handling, it has an awful lot going for it and, for many, will be the more pragmatic choice.
Land Rover obviously thought long and hard about its brand provenance and off-road heritage when it conceived the Evoque - especially in font-wheel drive form. And then it must have concluded that, however many purists it annoyed, it was really a no-brainer, because a baby Range Rover with radical concept car looks didn't need 4x4 underpinnings to sell. Indeed, the on-road dynamic and economy advantages of front-wheel drive would, for many, be the more attractive option. Which is which the entry-level Evoque eD4 - available with three doors or five - is arguably the most significant model in the Evoque range. Style and on-road ability are undoubtedly the Evoque's key selling points, not its swamp-wading prowess, impressive as it is when specified with four-wheel drive.
Not that the eD4 is in any way the poor relation of the range. It may look a little bare inside - the array of buttons that control the Terrain Response system are missing from the centre console - but few rivals look as inviting or up-market. .
It was to the sound of a thousand jaws hitting the floor that the Evoque was unveiled at the 2010 Paris show. It looked virtually identical to the LRX concept and was even finished in the same shade of white. But it was the lower-key announcement some months later of 5-door models that perhaps chimed a more relevant note to the majority of British buyers, especially in front-drive form tested here.
In a move that's bound to have Land Rover traditionalists chewing through their Barbours, the front-wheel drive version of the Evoque five-door is proving to be the biggest seller. You don't need a degree in astro-physics to appreciate the emissions and economy advantages of a front-wheel drive model and, if we're being properly pragmatic, most of them will never tackle anything more arduous than a gravel driveway, so it makes solid sense to offer a front-wheel drive variant. Such is the brilliance of Land Rover's electronic control systems, it would take some quite extreme conditions before even a front-driven Evoque could continue no further.
The eD4 is powered by a 149bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine that drives to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Losing the extra driven wheels makes it 75kg lighter than the equivalent 4x4 Evoque and it feels slightly more nimble as a result with a marginally more supple ride. Performance isn't startling - 0-62mph in 11.2s and a top speed of 112mph - but the engine pulls well from low speeds and is impressively refined. And, of course, there's a significant payback at the pumps with an 8mpg saving over the all-drive Evoque with essentially the same engine.
Design and Build
The key difference between the five-door and the three-door model, aside from the obvious aperture count, is the amount of room in the back of the car. Land Rover hasn't freed up any additional legroom, but the roofline has been subtly re-profiled to liberate 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 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 commodious 1445 litres.
The styling of the five-door variant, if anything, is even better resolved than the three-door coupe's. Where the long doors of the coupe give it a stretched and squeezed appearance, the five-door just looks resolutely chunky but still retains the delicious detailing. The slit-shallow headlamps, the aggressive front air intakes, the sassy rising belt line and the big wheels that fill the arches so wheel are all present and very correct.
Market and Model
The eD4 model we're looking at here is the entry point for Evoque ownership. This model 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.
All Evoques get an intuitive control system and touch-screen display that presents a clean fascia and can be had with the astonishing dual-view technology, so that driver and passenger can view independent content on the same screen. Yes, you did read that correctly.
Cost of Ownership
The good news is you're considering Evoque eD4 is that it's this entry-level diesel, front-wheel drive model that achieves the headline-grabbing 56.3mpg economy figure and sub- 133g/km carbon dioxide output. Go for bigger engines and all-wheel drive and the impressive stats start to tumble but the bottom line is that this is the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever.
To deliver optimum efficiency, the Range Rover Evoque features lightweight construction techniques and engines that come with direct injection and stop-start. The car also adopts low CO2 systems such as Electric Power-Assisted Steering and is built to maximise end-of-life recyclability. With such high pre-release demand and a distinctly finite plant capacity at the Halewood factory, residual values are predicted to be very strong.
The Range Rover Evoque has delivered on all fronts for Land Rover, pulling the rug so violently from under the wheels of its less stylish rivals, you wonder if they'll ever recover. They will, of course, but in the meantime the Evoque is stealing a notable march and is most definitely one of the cars to be seen in.
The eD4, fitted with a diesel engine driving to the front wheels, is cut out to be the big seller and while you shouldn't get too excited about its carrying capacity if you have a burgeoning family, for most other purposes it's big enough. What's more it answers all of the criticisms that have dogged roadgoing SUVs, being nimble, economical and light on emissions. Looking great usually means making compromises. Land Rover has chosen the Evoque's compromises very cleverly indeed.