Land Rovers and Range Rovers have their fans, but one thing these British models have never been able to do is turn heads on the highway. That all changed with the arrival of the Range Rover Evoque, the most stylish model this builder of famously rugged SUVs has ever produced.
As former owners of a 1994 Land Rover Discovery, we know something about the good and bad of the Rover line: unstoppable and supremely confident in snow and ice, reasonably reliable, but uncommonly thirsty and costly to repair.
The Evoque is the Rover line’s new fuel-economy champion, rated at 28 mpg on the highway, and its sculpted lines excite the senses in a way no predecessor has done. It’s also quite quick off the line, thanks to its turbocharged, 240-horsepower 4-cylinder engine bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. And it’s thoroughly refined, with road manners reminiscent of the big Range Rovers.
This model, new for 2012, might snare some new Rover aficionados by virtue of its comparatively modest price and one-of-a-kind styling, packaged with much of the vaunted Rover blend of ruggedness and luxury.
The Evoque starts at $41,145 — $4,300 more than a BMW X3 and $5,300 more than a Mercedes-Benz GLK. But a number of desirable features one might expect would be standard equipment are costly options. Our Fuji White Evoque 5-door test car’s sticker price exceeded $59,000 because the eventual buyer will have to pay extra for such things as leather seats, Surround Camera System, blind-spot warning lights, navigation, Sirius satellite radio and HD radio, rear-seat entertainment system, and 20-inch sparkle-finish alloy wheels. The options added up to more than $17,000.
Some of the options, such as the rear-view camera, are almost necessities: The rear window is high and narrow, and the side windows slope steeply down toward the back. The car’s breathtaking interior wood-and-leather treatment is part of the $10,400 Prestige Premium Package.
Like the forgettable Freelander and the compact LR2, the Evoque is quite small, with a back seat and cargo compartment to match.
Range Rover was able to wring plenty of muscle out of the Spanish-built 4-cylinder engine, which works well with the Japanese-built transmission. The Evoque handles crisply, too. And true to its brand, it’s capable off-road. Standard equipment includes stability control, hill-descent control, emergency brake assist, trailer stability assist, hill start assist and permanent intelligent all-wheel drive with traction control. It’ll negotiate rock piles with the best of them.
The Evoque is sold in 5-door and 3-door versions, each with three trim levels: Pure, Prestige and Dynamic. Our test car was the mid-level Prestige model.
For all its styling panache, the Evoque is the second-lowest-priced member of the Land Rover and Range Rover fleet; only the LR2 (base price, $35,700) costs less. The Evoque thus can be viewed as an entry-level Rover whose head-turning style may also attract owners of big Range Rovers who want to downsize.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 240 horsepower, 250 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Weight: 3,680 lb.
Ground Clearance: 8.3 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and rear
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Tires: P245/45R20 99V
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 20.3 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 51 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 1,650 lb.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium