Monday 26 February 2018

Evoque first in line as Range Rover steps into a brave new SUV world

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

FIRSTS are always the most exciting. And they don't come much bigger-- and in this case smaller -- than a Range Rover first.

So it was nice to sample, albeit briefly, the new Evoque. I'll come to the firsts in a second (sorry, couldn't resist the pun), but I must say that it is quite an eyeful and, for me, took a while to get my head around it visually. That aside, it drove exceptionally well; really sharp in the steering and handling and at ease over the poorer roads and sharper corners.

Now, back to the start. The Evoque is the first new Range Rover since 2005.

It is the start of a wave of new models over the next few years. It is the smallest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover made to date with what is definitely the most striking appearance of any SUV I know.

But I think the biggest first is going to be that this will appeal to women like no other Range Rover has. Oh, all right having a luxurious cabin and Amy Huberman as your Evoque 'ambassador' is a help but there is no doubt this is the least overtly macho SUV from the famed stable.

Don't be fooled though, while its visual masculinity may have been toned down, the underpinnings that made all previous Range Rover and, of course, Land Rover motors fearless, go-anywhere animals is there in abundance.

Bless us, they rattled off all sorts of acronyms with the word 'control' (HDC -- hill descent control), so much so, that by the end I nearly got dizzy.

Significantly, there will be a front-wheel drive version (another first) for the January market but, as of now, all vehicles have permanent four-wheel-drive.

Prices start at €40,975 for the 2.2-litre diesel 150bhp (149g/km, €302 road tax), five-door, entry-level 'Pure' version (also Dynamic and Prestige trim levels).

There is also a 190bhp version of this engine (same road tax).

Automatic variants in Coupe (three-door) guise emit 169g/km and invoke €447 road tax, while automatic five-door versions go up to €630 road tax.

There's a two-litre petrol (€1,050 road tax) but few will buy it, I'd say.

I expect the front-wheel drive diesel model to cost in the high €30,000s when it arrives. That will be competitive and in demand.

Even with the existing line-up prices, the Evoque is well within shooting range of all sorts. Range Rover expects to sell around 300 next year -- that's a lot in the current climate -- and most will be conquests.

Not only are other compact SUVs in its sights, such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Q3 but the likes of the Audi A5, BMW 3-Series Coupe and the likes are also expected to be overlooked in favour of the new arrival with its 'floating' roof.

The brand is now owned by Tata Motors and it is claimed it is committing billions over the next few years to fuel the wave of new Range and Land Rover models.

It may have had a rough old time of it over the past couple of years with sales hitting devastating lows, but if Tata can invest the sort of money it's talking about, it'll be the first to benefit when the upturn gets properly under way. And the upturn will come.

Remember where you read it first.

Irish Independent

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