A name that has represented the entry to Range Rover ownership for nearly a decade, does the all-new Evoque live up to its predecessor?
There's a lot of difficulties when it comes to growing and developing a brand that has a long history and heritage - where do you stop relying on your roots and start embracing change and progression in search of newer, younger champions of the brand? This is something that quite nearly every automaker has faced - from the Japanese to the Americans, to the Europeans.
Land Rover was starting to suffer from the same issue back in the late 2000s when their model range was just a little bit stagnant. Old luxury wouldn't cut it in a new world with high expectations of style and technology - the badge alone wouldn't be enough. And so the Evoque was born, an entirely new vehicle for an entirely new breed of customer.
The first generation Evoque was essentially based on a shared platform with the Ford Mondeo, but it had numerous qualities associated with Range Rover products and managed to be marketed and positioned as a proper entry-level luxury SUV. Celebrities and influencers at the time were involved, with Victoria Beckham having a hand in some of the design language too. It drove nothing like its brethren, being more passenger car than Dakar Rally, and more approachable and socially acceptable than the bulking machines Range Rover was known for.
Available in both five-door and three-door forms, the Evoque sold over 800,000 units through the first generation of its life from 2011 to 2018. 2019 saw the release of the second generation model, and it has been well received. An entirely new car, on an entirely new platform - but aimed squarely at the same younger demographic.
For the purpose of our review, we got behind the wheel of a P250 R-Dynamic variant of the Range Rover Evoque, which is the range topper for the Malaysian market. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine pushing 249 PS and 365 Nm of torque, paired with a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels, the Evoque definitely has the right mechanical bits for a luxury SUV. The R-Dynamic suffix denotes a few aesthetic changes such as the bumpers, copper-coloured trim inserts, and different alloy wheels.
The interior, while dark in tone and nature, exudes a very European feel with the choice of materials and the precision in manufacturing. Front and centre for the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that lets you configure it in a variety of fashions - whether you want trip information to share screen space with engine and speed telemetry, or you even prefer to have navigation occupy the entire screen. It's a slick and fairly intuitive system, operated by steering-wheel mounted switches.
Reproducing sounds for your aural pleasure is an 11-speaker, 380-watt Meridian sound system that pairs with the 10-inch entertainment head unit. Sound quality is acceptable for the class, and the head unit is capable of Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity. In tandem with that is a secondary screen below that offers control of both climate control and the various drive modes for the vehicle. There is also a 360-degree view camera system and a nifty little virtual view for the front camera that displays what should be directly underneath the engine bay, allowing for better maneuvering off-road.
In true Range Rover fashion, this variant of the Evoque also comes with the various off-road modes that other companies have either adapted or copied from in many of their models. It's almost a signature at this point, to be able to select whether you're on the road or going through gravel or snow paths, or even mud and ruts. Naturally, the systems will adapt power delivery and gearbox control as well as brake control to give you the best possible traction for the selected condition - hence the name All Terrain Progress Control.
What's it like to drive, in the ways that matter? In what we consider the 99th percentile of applications for the 99th percentile of potential Evoque owners, that means driving on a day to day basis, within the confines of an urban jungle - and the Evoque doesn't disappoint. The powertrain offers smooth, supple power and torque to overtake without protest, while the suspension setup works hard to keep discomfort out of the cabin, even with the large wheel and low profile tyre setup.
At times, the gearbox and engine do behave a little strangely, holding lower gears in traffic and making an unnecessary amount of noise (modern direct injection engines do not sound great), but rare are these moments that catch out the Evoque. For the more spirited drivers among us, while there isn't a Sport mode per se, the manual override for the gearbox and the paddle shifters are responsive enough to give you control over the speed and attitude of the Evoque.
That's not to say that the Evoque is without its pain points. The price is a large factor: at RM 475,398, it certainly isn't competitive when you consider that a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 is almost exactly at that price point, with a more potent turbocharged 3.0-litre powerplant and an arguably better interior and design. But there is a presence that the Range Rover badge commands, which arguably is stronger than a larger engine or a natural-language infotainment system.
The two screen setup retains some of the issues of the past, with operation that can be laggy and refresh rates that can be slow if you catch it at a bad time. There are even times when neither the main screen nor the climate control screen fire up when starting up the car, forcing you to restart it in order to even control your air conditioning. That being said, both the quality of the display and the cameras, as well as the overall layout and interface design are impressively high quality for an automotive application.
As a complete product, this second generation Evoque is a worthy successor to the first. It doesn't attempt to rock the boat or try anything radical, but it doesn't have to - especially as more automakers jump on the SUV bandwagon and the number of rivals for the Evoque increases. Just do us a favour: spend some time going off-road to put those features to the test, and you may find yourself a new weekend hobby.