Thursday 22 February 2018

Range Rover's 'baby' sets out to win over the women drivers

The Evoque is the smallest Range Rover to date and is targeted at the BMW X1 and forthcoming Audi Q3, writes Andrew English.

It will come in 3dr and 5dr guises with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

They hope as many as 90pc of buyers -- expected to be younger, urban and to be made up of more females -- will be new to the marque.

As they say, they don't talk about off-road capability any more. Instead they talk about capability in all conditions.

The Evoque will be built at Halewood in Merseyside.

There will be two engines initially: a 2.2-litre turbodiesel (148bhp or 187bhp) and a two-litre, turbocharged petrol (237bhp) -- the latter not really a starter here in Ireland.

There has been a high level of interest in Ireland ahead of its arrival in the summer. Price negotiations are at an early stage but it is understood the first cars here will be four-wheel drive and we can expect prices to start in the early €40,000s. There will also a 148bhp diesel 5dr, with two-wheel drive and manual six-speed transmission later in the year.

Engineers have been able to reduce the weight to 220lb less than the Freelander by using lightweight materials such as aluminium for the bonnet, roof and suspension components as well as composite plastics for the one-piece tailgate. That also means lower emissions with a claimed sub-130g/km CO2 and 58mpg for the two-wheel drive diesel.

Options include a full-length glass sunroof, continuously variable damping, three trim levels, 17ins to 20in wheels, contrasting roof colours and an automatic parking system. There's also a new version of Land Rover's hill descent control, which allows drivers to select the speed of descent.

Early impressions are promising after a few laps of Land Rover's Gaydon test centre in Warwickshire.

The design team are rightly proud that the Evoque mirrors the lines and chunky feel of the well-received LRX concept (shown at Detroit in 2008) and its dimensions are similar, which is good and bad news.

The cabin is well designed and comfortable, although the rear-seat accommodation is claustrophobic due to the small rear windows. In the back there's just enough head and leg room for a six-footer, although the 3dr feels smaller and you need a degree in leg origami to get in the back.

Front-seat passengers are much better catered for, with comfortable and supportive seats and soft-touch plastics, together with flush-fitting switches as used in more expensive Range Rovers.

The development team has had its work cut out to refine the electronic steering, and their work has paid off.

In the first few metres, the Evoque feels responsive and agile and the all-round independent suspension copes with a variety of surfaces.

The adjustable damping system firms the suspension to provide a more dynamic drive, but rear-seat passengers get thumped around over the worst bumps and potholes.

Both the high-power diesel and the petrol engine feel powerful and refined, but the diesel is gruff under hard acceleration and its extra weight dulls the responses compared to the peppy petrol unit.

The Evoque feels special enough to attract a fashionable, urban audience, but describing it as a four-seater is stretching credulity. (Additional reporting: Eddie Cunningham)

Irish Independent

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