Evoque delivers in all areas
The Range Rover Evoque looks great, drives beautifully and has to be a contender for the car of the year short list, writes Campbell Spray
COME the deluge, come the car. The new Range Rover Evoque is undoubtedly one of the stars of the year. A stylish compact-size coupe-like vehicle with all the off-road ability of its big sisters. It looks great and is also among the best road cars I have driven in 2011.
I had been happy poncing around in it for a week, feeling very cool and confident. But last Monday as it was resting in the garage, a crisis developed that need all its powers. After a number of years living in fairly rural locations, our present inner-city address gives a convenience that is a mixed blessing. We now expect to be able to go shopping 24/7 and, if necessary, have every need delivered.
So last Monday I found myself in the house dealing with two very wet students -- I dare not call them kids anymore -- who had struggled back from college like drowned rats. We all (I had swum out with the dog) deserved a treat, Domino's pizza it would be. But the local branch couldn't deliver, the water was too high.
Undaunted, my son and I changed into our Seal outfits and gunned the Evoque. Assisted by the high air intake, 4WD and great road clearance, we powered through floods, passing abandoned cars and all the time looking for someone to rescue. Eventually I even offered to give the pizza people a lift. Our mission to get sustenance had succeeded and my son quipped that "at least I had a way of reviewing the car".
Four years ago, the Evoque would have been the must-have car of the yummy mummy set as well as appealing to coupe drivers who wanted a bit more flexibility. Despite having very roomy rear seats that will take three people, Range Rover has still developed a three-door model to keep faith with the original concept car. It was the luck of the draw that I got that one for the test drive rather than the five-door model. As both children separately remarked, "Why bother, Dad?"
Getting in the back is both time-consuming and awkward as the electric front seats make their way sedately forward. Once in the rear, passengers have rather claustrophobic slits of window on the side that can't open. These windows -- like the small rear window -- are the result of functionality and safety being sacrificed on the altar of design.
If I had been carrying five people last Monday and we had got into difficulties, the back seat of the Evoque is one place I would not have liked to be. I am amazed that even 25 per cent of orders are for the three-door version.
A 2WD version of the Evoque is coming, but I think that this also negates much of the appeal of this rather beautiful car. Prices start at €40,975 for the 4WD Evoque range and the very smooth 2.2 turbo-diesel engine -- which will be the volume seller -- delivers excellent economy and 150g/km. It's a lovely car and I will be disappointed if it isn't shortlisted for the Continental Irish Car of the Year which will be announced this week. It's a car that will make you proud, but don't do naff things like collecting pizza in it.