Review: 2012 Range Rover Evoque Coupe
By Kevin Miller
A study recently was published revealing that people who identify with the image of their car (people who think of their cars as image enhancers rather than basic transportation) tend to be more aggressive drivers. That didn’t seem particularly revealing to me, but then as I thought about it I realized that the cars I’ve owned that I really identified with- and that I felt really identified me- did tend to have me driving more aggressively. Both my Saab 900 coupe and my Volvo V70R were big parts of my identity when I owned them, and both brought out the aggressive driver in me.
That being said, I could totally see Range Rover Evoque as just such an image car for me. I’m partial to two-door hatchbacks, especially well-proportioned ones that taper subtly at the rear (Yes, I did own two different Saab 900s…). The Evoque’s appearance, especially with its tapering roofline and long, low rear windows and aggressive, good-looking wheels really pushed all the right buttons for me. To me the Evoque was really an “image car”… and yes, it did make me drive more aggressively.
The Evoque’s unique style really does set it apart from other small luxury-brand SUVs, with concept-car design cues like big wheels, a stylishly low-and-long roofline, and artfully-designed headlamp and taillamp lenses. The Evoque’s exterior design is eye-catching and fresh-looking from every angle, and is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else on the road.
Inside, I found the driver’s seat to be all-day comfortable. While many modern cars have seats that are supportive but so firm that my backside falls asleep after about 60 minutes behind the wheel, the Evoque’s properly-bolstered chairs look cool and kept me comfortable during two four-hour slogs on the round trip from Seattle to Portland, Oregon. Each front seat had three-position memory as well as motors that automatically (yet slowly) moved either front seat fully forward for access to the rear. At night, subtle ambient lighting illuminated footwells, the storage bin behind the center stack, and door bins. An attractive and durable material with contrasting stitching covers the dash and door panels.
Visibility out from the driver’s seat was better than I had expected. While the roofline is low, pillars aren’t too thick, and the long rear side windows provided a good field of vision. The view out the back window was narrow, but still pretty good given the Evoque’s low roofline. The mirror housings on the front doors were huge, though – to the point of blocking forward visibility.
While the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel is manually adjustable for rake and reach, when it’s adjusted low enough for comfort with my long legs in the driver’s seat, the upper part of the rim blocks the numbers on the speedometer between 50 and 90, which are pretty important numbers on the freeway. Keeping my left hand at the ten-o’clock position as I like to do blocks even more of the numbers. This could have been alleviated by swapping the positions of the speedometer and tach, or by providing a redundant speed display on the TFT screen in the center of the instrument cluster as other automakers do. Instead, that TFT screen is under-utilized, always displaying temperature, fuel level, and gear selection, as well as navigation directions (when needed) and audio system selection. Allowing the user to configure that screen further (such as Audi and Chrysler do) would add functionality to the system.
The Evoque has a standard eight-inch touchscreen display in the center of the dash, for control of navigation, audio, and phone functions. Like similar screens in its Jaguar siblings, the response time seemed to be a bit slow. Too, the home screen for the system is a jumble of information that isn’t easy to digest with just a quick glance. While hard keys on the dash can be used to move one radio station at a time and a control on the steering wheel can move between presets in the same band (i.e. FM1 or SAT 2, but not all FM or all SAT presets), switching between bands or preset groups means delving down into the menu structure to get to audio, then to the correct band, to then select which of the three brand preset screens you want to use; certainly not a straightforward operation. The 825 W Meridian sound system had 17 speakers in the Evoque’s cabin and had amazing sound reproduction. A screen power button easily turned off the navigation display to reduce distraction.
Although the system has an iPod input in the small center console box and it properly indexed my iPhone 4 running iOS 5, it would not play for more than about 5 minutes before the sound stopped coming out. On my trip to Portland I wanted to listen to a couple of podcasts, but had to just give up and listen to Sirius after unplugging and reconnecting the device about 20 times. I don’t know if it was due to the phone’s newish iOS 5, or a flaw in the Range Rover’s head unit, or both.
The back seat in the Evoque coupe I tested had just two seating positions (a three-person bench is optional, though the middle passenger won’t have much leg space thanks to an intrusive transmission tunnel). While there is a shallow plastic tray between the two rear seating positions, as well as storage bins in the side panels and nets on the backs of the front seats, there are no cupholders for the rear seat passengers. Despite the Evoque coupe’s low roofline, rear headroom is adequate and the large glass roof panel keeps claustrophobia from becoming an issue.
Around back, the Evoque coupe has a power-operated liftgate accessing a reasonably-sized boot. The liftgate opens high enough for me to stand under at 6’4” tall. Rear seatbacks fold forward in a 60/40 split to expand loading space. The cargo area has tracks on each side with movable cargo anchors, plus built-in grocery bag hooks. A spare tire is kept under the cargo floor.
Being a Range Rover, off-road prowess should be a given. A terrain response selector is present for choosing off-road conditions which tailor the throttle response and electronic traction aids for the terrain over which you’re attempting to drive. On the test vehicle, an optional five-camera vision system gave cameras at each front corner of the car as well as pointing downward from each side mirror housing to help maneuver around off-road obstacles (or tight parking garages).
The Terrain Response control in my Evoque coupe with Dynamic package included a Dynamic mode. That mode turned the ambient lighting and instrument lighting red (as it does in Jaguar products when dynamic mode is selected), and increased throttle response and changed some of the vehicle’s other performance characteristics. The car was in Dynamic mode when it was delivered to me, and I spent the first 20 minutes behind the wheel wondering why it seemed impossible to drive the Evoque smoothly around town. After discovering the “normal” mode I had a much better taste for what Dynamic mode can do.
Although the Evoque Coupe is clearly an image car for Range Rover, the four-cylinder turbocharged motor underhood didn’t fit my idea of Range Rover’s upscale image. I am accustomed to smooth, effortless eight-cylinder power from JLR products, and the boosted four didn’t provide that. In standard driving mode, the transmission downshifts quickly and boost does not, meaning that the Evoque feels slow off the line. Keeping on the throttle highlights turbo lag, making it hard to drive the car smoothly.
Whether driving in normal or Dynamic mode, turbo lag is more noticeable in the Evoque than I have experienced in any other modern turbocharged vehicle. That turbo lag seems out of character for a Range Rover vehicle, Some four-cylinder racket does make its way into the cabin in an unexpectedly-coarse-sounding way, though at RPMs approaching red line the exhaust note is rewarding (as is the acceleration). Steering is more responsive than I would expect from an off-road capable SUV, and ride is nicely composed in most cases, though the Evoque sometimes felt like it was riding on a short wheelbase causing a choppy ride.
In addition to Dynamic mode in the Terrain response, there is a Sport mode in the transmission. Moving the rotary gear selector from D to S engaged Sport mode, which held hears longer and changes shift points; Sport mode really wakes up the Evoque, which in Drive typically shifts early for the best fuel economy. There are shift paddles on the steering wheel; they can be used to downshift or upshift the Evoque when it is in D or S mode; in S the shifting then stops being automatic, and the selected gear is shown in the instrument panel display. Those paddle-commanded shifts aren’t quite as quick as the ones I’ve experienced in Jaguar vehicles.
During my week with the Evoque Coupe, it got a lot of looks. Being a new vehicle with a different configuration than most anything else on the road, plenty of people stopped to look at the striking Fuji White crossover with black roof and artful 20” wheels. Only one person, a passenger in a Subaru WRX STI that zoomed by on the freeway, gave a thumbs down. I personally loved the way it looked, with its contrasting black roof which hid the panoramic glass roof, the long side rear windows, beautiful wheels, detailed lamp assemblies, and chunky stance. Interestingly, I though it looked better the dirtier it got, the dirt of accumulated miles giving the Evoque a character that complimented its stylish design.
The Evoque has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19/28 MPG city/highway, 23 combined. On a 180 mile freeway trip between Seattle and Portland with a little traffic but speeds otherwise between 70 and 80 MPH, I had a trip average of 28.2 MPG. Over the course of a week covering 675 miles, I had an average of 24.4 MPG. I found that impressive fuel economy for a luxury SUV.
The Fuji White Range Rover Evoque coupe I tested has a base MSRP of $44,145. Options included the $7900 Dynamic Premium Package (unique 19” wheels, black exterior parts (grille, side vents, rear spoiler extension, mirror caps, waist finisher), sports exhaust tips and rear skid plate; Oxford leather steering wheel; perforated leather on seats, door panels with contrast stitching, pedal finisher kit; unique aluminum finishers, passive entry; surround camera system; HDD navigation, intuitive voice control, 825 W, 17 speaker Meridian sound system; Xenon headlamps with AFS; blind spot monitoring); $400 credit for missing blind spot system; Adaptive dynamic featuring MagneRide ($1250); contrast black roof ($650); $1000 Climate Comfort Pack (Heated front seats, steering wheel, windshield, washer jets); Satellite and HD radio ($275); and “Style 6” 20-inch sparkle-finish alloy wheels ($2000), plus $850 transportation fee, for a total of $58,420.
While I can’t think of any direct competitor for the Evoque Coupe, I would think that vehicles like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Volvo XC60, and Audi Q5 would be competitors of the Evoque four-door. That said, pricing on the Range Rover Evoque climbs quickly with options, so it is competing with larger versions of those German competitors; think X5, ML, and Q7.
Of course, the Evoque has a much bolder style than any of the competing vehicle named above. That style comes with better efficiency than any of those competitors; but also with the lowest-cylinder count. Some buyers will find themselves prioritizing these things over the Evoque’s competition, while others may lean toward a more traditional (and more boring) competitor.
Land Rover provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.