At one point in time you bought an SUV if you needed one. A family, a dog, bicycles, armageddon. They were all reasons to trade in for extra boot space and on road dominance. The ability to look down on other drivers alone made up for the Action Man styling and poor fuel consumption. Those things didn’t matter though. You had a big tall car. You were basically Arnie.
But somewhere along the line, SUVs became properly, genuinely desirable. All of a sudden they were refined things, with couch-like leather seats you could sink into, and sleek exteriors you actually wanted to look at. You can thank Range Rover, and specifically the Evoque for that. The new 2019 model takes things further, subtly tweaking the design and adding a host of new features that ensure it’s more than just a pretty face.
What Is It?
The Evoque places equal importance on design and engineering, in the same way that Apple does. It recognises that people want beautiful objects that can perform, but ultimately make you feel good when you use them.
A car, like your phone, can be a style accessory of sorts, it reflects the wearer’s taste, so it’s not just enough for it to handle well, or be capable off-road, it needs to look good at red lights, too. And whether you view the Evoque as Range Rover going ‘soft’ or not, there’s no denying it looks damn good.
Its design is a lesson in restraint. An evolution of the original model, the lines are clean and minimal. The side profile is particularly satisfying, with a roof line that tapers gently down to its rear like a pair of perfectly tailored trousers. The door handles sit flush against the body until the car’s unlocked, when they pop out like high-tech cassettes in a VHS player. Everything’s in proportion, and nothing is there that needn’t be.
The Evoque is a muscular thing, low in its stance and ready to attack. It’s the stocky underdog in the left corner, short yet well equipped, with the skillset to throw a deadly haymaker to unassuming, larger opponents. It is quick enough, – especially in 300bhp R-Dynamic spec – but it’s not truly interested in speed, that’s not its bag. If you want pace, check out the Range Rover Sport or SVR.
That’s not to say it’s not fun. Push the ‘race helmet’ icon on the large touchscreen (the centre console is basically one big black mirror) to tighten the suspension and quicken the engine responsiveness. Then flick the gearstick into sport mode and make use of the short, snappy paddle-shifters behind the wheel for effortless overtaking. It won’t win any drag races but it’s no slouch when pushed.
The Evoque impresses most with its brain. It’s like the clever friend you could turn to for help with your maths exam, except all the sums it works out for you are driving-related.
Can’t squeeze into that annoyingly tight parking space? The Evoque will park itself with the push of button. Can’t be bothered to stay in your lane on the motorway? The Evoque’s lane assist function will take over for you. The rear view mirror even turns into a HD video screen for an unhindered, wide-angle view of what’s behind you.
The car’s party trick though is the first of its kind: a bonnet camera that shows you what’s under the front of the car. It’s especially useful for avoiding curbing the alloys, showing the sex of the badger you’ve just killed, or as I did, driving on a disused railway bridge over the Corinth Canal.
The Evoque also connects to your phone, allowing you to open the doors and play with other settings on an app, although it probably won’t respond to your Snapchats. It’s far too dignified for that.