January 22, 2021

Motoring: Style Leader

When a car’s as good looking as the Range Rover Evoque, does it even matter what it’s like to drive? Happily, the new model delivers looks, luxury and performance.

Is it just me or is time actually disappearing faster?

I seem to remember looking forward to long, lazy summers as a child, when the holidays would stretch almost endlessly into the future. And as for sitting in a classroom, I swear you could almost hear each individual tick of the clock as you waited for the bell to ring, releasing you back into the real world.

Where once the passing of time felt as steady as the melting of a glacier, now calendar pages flip over the way they once did in old movies to mark the passing of years.

I vividly recall the anticipation with which keen buyers awaited the arrival in 2011 (yikes, where did I misplace those ten years?) of the Range Rover Evoque onto Australian shores. Buyers besieged Land Rover dealers, waving their deposits and demanding to be put on the waiting list.

With its sloping roof and rising window line, the Evoque was stylish and unlike other lumpen SUVs. Pre-release images had early adopters salivating. Practicality? Irrelevant. Price? Almost irrelevant. Trend-setters were determined to be first in their street to have one.

And unlike most fads, the Range Rover Evoque has maintained its position as a style icon, even after 10 years.

Some of that, of course, is down to exclusivity. Despite more than 17,000 sold locally, you don’t see an Evoque on every street corner.

The new model looks little different (appearances to the contrary, apparently it shares only its door hinges with the outgoing model). The latest version sits on a longer wheelbase and bigger wheels, with an absence of unnecessary creases on the panels and as many elements as possible fitted flush rather than standing proud (the door handles, for instance, only pop out when you unlock the car).

The Evoque may be an SUV, but it’s very much a city SUV. Despite the longer wheelbase, overall dimensions have remained broadly the same, so it hasn’t become a handful around town or when parking.

Sadly, the most stylish of the first generation Evoque, because it so dramatically showcased the sloping roofline, was the three-door (and yes, it was also by far the most impractical). These days, the Evoque is only available with five doors. Many have forgotten (or never knew) that the Evoque was offered as a convertible. That too is relegated to history.

For starters, buyers can choose from a range of six engines, three petrol and three diesel. Once that choice is made, there are S, SE and HSE trim levels and decisions to be made about specifying the R-Dynamic version of each. Just to confuse things further, there’s a First Edition model (in SE and HSE, and R-Dynamic for both) being offered for the first 12 months. Working through the price list shows a choice of 26 models, starting from $62,450 (plus on-road costs) and rising to over $100,000 for the high-end models should you be undisciplined with the options list.

Range Rover was the first to combine SUV practicality with luxury and, over the decades, they’ve honed it to a fine art. The Evoque interior (particularly in the spec we drove — the P250 SE) is a lovely place to spend some time: lots of pin-sharp screens (including one that gently rotates when you press the start button); tactile buttons and controls; soft leathers and high-quality vinyls and plastics (or you can specify a suede lookalike made from recycled plastic bottles). The driving position is elevated (one of the reasons people like SUVs) without feeling like you’re on stilts and the seats are wonderfully supportive.

Range Rover don’t aspire to create the sportiest SUVs on the market, but the Evoque is easy to drive and can despatch large distances without leaving you feeling wrung out. All the engines are two litres, which doesn’t sound like much to move close to two tonnes of car and driver, but it does very well indeed. The nine-speed gearbox does a sterling job, but can hold a high gear longer than ideal, and then slur down a number of ratios when you ask for some action. The view to the sides and forward is acceptable, but Ned Kelly would have had a better outlook in his helmet than the Evoque delivers to the rear. The adaptive cruise control is also as nervous as a learner driver, slamming on the brakes whenever it detects another vehicle, as often as not in a different lane and no threat whatsoever. Otherwise, the Evoque is stress-free and relaxing to drive in town, on the open road and off-road.

Fashions may come and go, and keeping up is never cheap, but the new Evoque continues to set trends without being excessively priced.

“Does this look good on me?” Yes, it certainly does. 


This story first appeared in the November 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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