FIRST DRIVE | The 2019 Range Rover Evoque is downright evocative
Despite similar looks, the new second-generation model is better in every way
Every now and then, a vehicle comes along that changes a brand - if not its fortunes, then at least perceptions of it.
For Land Rover, that vehicle is arguably the Evoque. Since the 1940s, the image of Land Rover has been dominated by the likes of the Defender, Range Rover and Discovery. But in 2012, along came a vehicle that quickly became the fastest-selling Landy of all time (770,000 globally, with 76% of drivers never having owned a Land Rover before).
The reason for this is multifold: a drop-dead gorgeous silhouette that broke the rules then and continues to do so today, impressive off-road performance and an entry-level price that won’t keep you awake at night wondering how you'll afford the next repayment.
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In its relatively short lifespan, the Evoque has won an impressive 217 global awards - and there is little doubt that a large number of those comes down to its styling.
Yes, this second-generation vehicle is apparently 99.9% new (the door hinges are a carry-over from the outgoing model!), but its distinctive looks remain. And why not? Even after seven years on our roads, it still manages to turn heads - thanks largely to its one striking design feature: the sloping roof. As the saying goes, don’t mess with success.
Although built on a new billion-pound platform, the overall size of the Evoque has hardly changed. At 4.37m it is roughly the same length as the average hatchback and is now available in 14 derivatives.
What has increased is the wheelbase, resulting in a roomier interior. Rear passengers now have 20mm extra legroom and access to technology such as smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, a 4G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices, as well as USB slots.
While on the subject of the interior, Range Rover has a deserved reputation these days for plush cabins - think of the Autobiography and Velar - and the Evoque follows suit.
Simple lines, premium materials, a sloping centre console where everything is close at hand and in logical sequence, 16-way seat controls, a 10-inch high-definition touchscreen, a 12.3-inch driver display, full-colour head-up display and six USB ports. To sum it up in one word: premium.
The luggage space has also grown by 10% (591 litres) – ideal for that set of golf clubs.
A very cool feature - and apparently a world first - is the high-definition video screen that plays on the rearview mirror. Basically it’s like watching a movie. One slight downside is it takes your eyes a second or two to adapt to the screen, but at the flip of a switch you can return to the traditional rearview mirror.
Another unique feature is “Clear Sight Ground View”, which basically allows you to view what is underneath the front of the vehicle with a 180-degree view, thus assisting you when negotiating tricky terrain - or city-centre kerbs.
Besides the striking roof, other stand-out exterior features include slim matrix LED headlamps, flush door handles and sweeping directional indicators, while at the rear a black accent stretches across its width.
There is also a wide choice of wheel sizes, ranging from 17 to 21 inches.
The Evoque will now be available with two engine choices: a 2.0-litre turbo diesel power-plant (132kW and 430Nm) and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol mill (183kW and 365Nm). Both are mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Early next year we can expect a 221kW plug-in hybrid version, which fits in with the brand’s vision for the future, while the three-door version will no longer be available and the convertible has to be ordered. No surprises there - I battle to remember seeing a single soft-top on the road since its introduction in 2017.
The diesel produces performance figures of 9.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash and a top speed of 205km/h, while the petrol is significantly quicker with times of 5.1 seconds and 230km/h respectively.
While you may not be quite as quick in the diesel, you won’t be filling up quite so often as the oil-burner has a claimed consumption figure of 5.7l/100km, compared to 7.1l/100km for the petrol version.
But the Evoque isn't simply a one-trick pony that relies on its looks and comfort to woo customers, as we discovered when the launch took a rather unusual and interesting twist: the tackling of an off-road course at night at the brand’s recently opened outdoor adventure centre in Lonehill, Johannesburg.
It proved an ideal opportunity to put to the test the all-wheel drive and Terrain Response 2 system. Tackling steep inclines and declines (a maximum of 45 degrees), wading depth (600mm) and side slope (35 degrees) were all handled with relative ease. Drivers have the choice of four driving modes: comfort, sand, grass-gravel-snow and mud/ruts.
Hill Descent Control is also standard and takes a lot of stress out of intimidating slopes. Taking to the open road en route to the North West in both the petrol and diesel derivatives, I have to say I enjoyed the petrol version more. The difference in acceleration is quite noticeable (and, I guess, expected) and when you wind the engine up, the sound is definitely one you want to hear time and again.
Handling is precise and even at speeds that I won’t mention, outside noise intrusion is minimal.
All in all, Land Rover has done a very good job with the new Evoque. Importantly, it has not only kept the character of this vehicle but also developed and improved on it.
The only concern they might have is finding a bigger trophy cabinet for some more awards.
Pricing starts from R734,000 through to R987,900.