Posted: September 05, 2012

Executive wheels: Land Rover goes extra-special super-cool

I want one. You should, too.

Jeff Rundles


2012 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE FIVE-DOOR

There are many cars out there that are special for a variety of reasons – performance, styling, luxury, economy, value. And occasionally, there are extra-special vehicles: usually wonderful oddities, like the Audi R8GT, the kind of super-expensive toys most of us can't afford but love to dream about. Rarely do you find an extra-special vehicle that is accessible to the average person.

Meet the exception, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque – extra-special in performance, luxury, and styling – and relatively accessible in the value and economy categories.  This is the epitome of "Executive Wheels" for the Colorado executive.

The Evoque is the future of Range Rover. The base price is nearly $20,000 less than the Range Rover Sport, and almost $40,000 less than the flagship Range Rover, but frankly I would prefer the Evoque straight up. As for the LR2 and the LR4, both of which feature larger-displacement engines, well, I just can’t imagine anyone would buy those in the same showroom that contained an Evoque.

This vehicle was created with the urban customer in mind. It is a mid-sized SUV of sorts that most observers also call a crossover – a cross between a SUV and a sedan/coupe. The competition includes the Acura MDX, the Mercedes GLK and the BMW X3 – all of which have bigger cargo holds and slightly larger engines – but none of those can come anywhere near the Evoque for styling.

The roof is high in the front and then sweeps down, giving the Evoque a unique and distinctive style – it’s all Range Rover, but it’s a Range Rover where the designers who dream up concept cars finally won out. Plus, it had the coolest thing I have ever seen on any car: At night, I hit the unlock button on the key fob and a spotlight under the mirror came on, forming a perfect circle at my feet and lighting the way. Only in the spotlight was the graphic shadow of the Evoque on the street. Now that’s branding.

Inside, the Evoque was no disappointment either. Very luxurious  Oxford leather,  exquisite very dark wood trim and that signature Range Rover rotary gear shift in the middle of the console.  Everything is easy to reach and control and nothing seems out of place. The touch screen is small, the controls all very intuitive and easy to use, and it had all the stuff: voice command, nav, satellite radio, everything. Oh, yes, and the biggest glass top I have ever seen, one that gives a view of the stars or the sky from over the driver’s head to well past the rear seats. Unfortunately, the roof doesn’t open to let air in, but it is impressive nonetheless. My back seat consultant, my 14-year-old son, pronounced the rear seating “roomy” and quite comfortable.

Believe it or not, it was the driving that impressed me the most. I was all set to not like the smallish engine because Range Rover has really been a stalwart in the V8 category, but this 2.0-liter 4 banger, turbocharged out to a whopping 240 hp, is a beast. Except for slight turbo lag coming off the line, this vehicle is quick, and out on the highway it will cruise, pass and burst enough that watching out for highway patrol people will be a constant activity. I didn’t put it through any off-roading, but my research indicates that it does quite well.

The handling is also extra-special. Too many of these smaller SUV/crossovers either drive like trucks – bouncy, a tendency to lean – or like vans – mushy, floating. Not here. The Evoque has a stiff driver’s feel, corners beautifully, zigs and zags in and out of traffic with ease, and is real fun to drive. It has wonderful brakes, bright headlamps (Xenon, part of the upgrade package), and it sits up high enough to afford a great view of the traffic.

I can’t think of many downsides. The turbo lag is kind of a pain, and the sloping roof makes the rear view a little narrow, but you get used to the lag and the side mirrors here are excellent and make up for deficiencies in view out the back. The cargo hold in the way back (under an automatic liftgate) is too small for golf bags, but the second seat folds down; no foursome transportation, but the heck with those other two guys. 

One of the reasons, I presume, Range Rover went with this engine is to get away from its low-mileage reputation. The Evoque carries a mileage rating of 18 city/28 highway, which is respectable and highly competitive.

The base price on the Evoque is $41,145. That gets you 6-speed auto transmission, full-time all-wheel drive, 19-inch alloy wheels, ABS brakes, dynamic stability control, roll stability control, hill descent control, emergency brake assist, the power tailgate, keyless entry, a five-inch driver information screen in the middle of the speedometer area, a high-res color touch screen and some cool audio.

My test-drive model had the $10,400 Prestige Premium package: upgraded trim, leather and power seating, surround cameras, voice controls, 17 speakers to go with the 380-watt Meridian audio system, leather dash panels and a few other nice details. Add $750 for Sirius and HD radio, $2,000 for 20-inch “Sparkle Finish Alloy Wheels" and $950 for destination charges, and the bottom line: $55,245.

If you’re like me and want a particular vehicle for safety, performance and luxury and don’t care what anyone else thinks, then the Evoque is for you. If you go for the badge, then this is finally a Range Rover where making that choice doesn’t involve a compromise.

Performance, styling, luxury, some economy and value; the Evoque has just about everything. 

I want one. You should want one.

RATING: FOUR WHEELS AND THE FULL-SIZE SPARE (OUT OF FOUR)

      

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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