The new Range Rover Evoque has a hefty price tag. Is it worth it the dosh?
We investigate whether Range Rover's second-generation premium compact SUV is as revolutionary as its predecessor
Another day, another SUV review. What are we driving this time?
What we're commandeering today, my friend, is the second-generation Range Rover Evoque. Now in case you don't remember, the original Evoque was something of a watershed moment in automation when Land Rover unveiled it to the world in 2011. In many ways, it was to the SUV what the original Audi TT was to two-door sports cars: an attractive and well-packaged piece of industrial design that transcended its mundane purpose of everyday transportation.
In doing so it stood head and shoulders above its then rivals and became an overnight status symbol. Everybody wanted one and as such, it did wonders for the Jaguar Land Rover Group in terms of global sales and profit.
The first Evoque was a formula that worked right out of the blocks, which is why when it came to designing its successor, the machine you see here, the designers didn't screw with the recipe. Because, well, why would you?
The biggest tweaks to the Evoque formula reside in the things you can't see with the naked eye
Consequently there's not much - from a visual standpoint at least - separating old from new apart from a lower roofline, flush-fitting door handles, slightly longer wheelbase and a derrière that borrows much from the Range Rover Velar. Which is kind of ironic as the latter cribbed numerous design cues off the original Evoque.
Instead, the biggest tweaks to the Evoque formula reside in the things you can't see with the naked eye. Like Jaguar Land Rover's all-new Premium Transverse Architecture platform that's not only 13% stiffer than the outgoing chassis but also offers improved noise and vibration suppression.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it - I get it. What's happening on the inside?
As to be expected, the interior of the Evoque apes that of the aforementioned Velar. This means that the dashboard and accompanying switchgear have been streamlined considerably thanks to the implementation of Land Rover's slick new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Well provided you go with either the SE or R-Dynamic trim lines that is - my entry-level "S" model only came with the single 10-inch Touch Pro system.
Still, for somebody like me, whose technological reference doesn't stretch beyond 2006, there was more than enough digital candy on offer to keep me happy. Apple CarPlay. Satellite Navigation. Wi-Fi hotspot. A rear-facing camera to aid in reverse parking. Seriously, what else do you need in a car?
In addition to this my Evoque came with a digital rearview mirror (no more sneaky hair checks I'm afraid) and something called Clearsight Ground View that uses cameras in the front grille and on the door mirrors to project a feed onto the central touchscreen to show what is ahead of and underneath the front of the vehicle with a virtual 180-degree view. Sounds like a gimmick, I know, but it's actually quite handy when parking in tight unknown spaces or traversing tricky off-road terrain.
Tech aside the cabin is well put together and feels as premium as anything else in its class. While the driving position is top-notch, the standard leather-wrapped and electronically adjustable seats provide both support and long-distance comfort in spades.
Let's move to the oily bits. What's under than bonnet?
So for the time being the Evoque can be had with one of two engines: a 2.0-litre turbocharged 183kW petrol or 132kW diesel. Being a fan of the Devil's Fuel (especially when it comes to SUVs) I sampled the latter in my D180 S test car. And provided you're not after ground-shaking levels of performance it's probably all the engine you'll ever need in a vehicle of this ilk. Though I found it a bit lazy in the cut-and-thrust rigours of town driving, this Ingenium unit settles down nicely on the highway where it morphs into a quiet and torquey unit tailor-made to the task of long-distance driving.
FAST FACTS: Range Rover Evoque D180 S
• ENGINE: 1,999cc turbodiesel
• POWER: 132kW at 2,400rpm
• TORQUE: 430Nm from 1,750 to 2,500rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Nine-speed auto
• 0-100KM/H: 9.3 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 205km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 9.2l/100km (achieved)
• PRICE: From R784,300
What was surprising, however, was its frugality - or lack of. Diesel motors are known for their miserly ways but even after several bouts of highway driving I was unable to dip below the 9.0l/100km mark, which I found disappointing. Ditto the nine-speed ZF gearbox that still isn't the smoothest thing out there despite much software finessing. It's either holding onto gears for too long or jumping between them like a confused cat unsure which of its toys to attack next. Don't get me wrong, it's an improvement over the first ZF units, but still I feel there's room for improvement.
Is it fun to drive - and can it go off-road?
I don't know about fun but the new Evoque certainly is competent when it comes to stitching together twisty sections of bitumen. There may be a bit of body-roll (not necessarily a bad thing) and precious little steering feel but once you get used to this you can dispatch corners with a fair amount of gusto: that new and more rigid chassis definitely making itself known.
Ride quality is good - what you'd expect from a Range Rover product really - with the suspension coping well across a spread of surfaces. Be it dirt, gravel or Joburg roads, you're covered.
As for off-roading prowess: do you think your average Evoque owner really cares? I'd hazard a guess they don't. Still, if you are that way inclined, Range Rover has equipped the new Evoque with Terrain Response 2 that, with a scroll of a wheel, can adjust the engine, transmission and all-wheel-drive system to run better over certain terrains. Four modes are offered: Comfort, Sand, Grass-Gravel-Snow, and Mud & Ruts.
Ground clearance measures in at a generous 212mm, while approach and departure angles are 25 degrees up front and 30.6 degrees in the rear. Throw in 600mm of wading depth plus Hill Descent and Gradient Release Control and you get an SUV that's actually surprisingly capable.
So would you say that the new Evoque is as relevant as the old one?
A lot can happen in eight years and in the SUV world much has. Today the premium compact SUV market is filled with many competitors, many of which can hold more than a candle to the Evoque. From Germany you have the likes of the BMW X2, Audi Q3 and Porsche Macan. Sweden (or China if you really want to get technical) has the Volvo XC40 and Japan the recently released Lexus UX.
Some aren't as accomplished over rougher terrain but all are equally adept (in some cases even more so) within the confines of the urban jungle - particularly the Porsche - where they'll no doubt spend most of their time.
Then there's the issue of price. If you want the fancy Velar-esque interior (and you will, even just to impress your mates) then you will need to shell out a minimum of R843,500. And once you've scrutinised the price tags and specs of those aforementioned competitors you will see that this Range Rover is commanding top dollar.
Now this is where we have a problem. You see, it's not that the new Evoque is a poor evolutionary product - far from it - it just seems to be asking a somewhat cheeky premium that I, for, one cannot justify. The living was easy eight years ago but now life for this once ground-breaking Brit is a whole lot tougher.
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