Range Rover Evoque

Rosemary Cottage lr

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By Tim Saunders

“That’s a girl’s off-roader,” says a fellow motoring hack, as he gives the Range Rover Evoque a cursory glance.

I know what he’s getting at. Its futuristic styling is quite far removed from that of traditional Range Rovers but my friend is too dismissive without any foundation, I fear. We must all embrace change and that is something Range Rover has done wholeheartedly.

It’s a popular sight on Britain’s roads in three and five door versions. The Loire Blue SD4 example that I’m testing is loaded with goodies including heated and cooled front seats and television screens in the rear. Yet the price tag seems attractive at around £40,000.

With all the refinements of its big brother, the Evoque makes an attractive proposition.

My test from Hampshire to the depths of Dorset allows me to really put it through its paces. The boot is completely filled by our tandem pushchair. That rear power tailgate is a joy to use because it can be operated by the push of a button on the dashboard and it can be shut with the flick of a switch on the boot. Absolutely no effort involved on the part of the driver. The rear is crammed full with our daughters’ car seats and luggage. There’s not enough room for our travel cot. Nevertheless it’s a very welcoming environment. The cream leather seats are just what the doctor ordered for my back and the driving position is excellent. The interior, which incorporates a massive glass panoramic roof, is sumptuous. It would be useful if this roof could be opened as a sunroof. The sat nav is surprisingly simple to use. We get lost trying to find Golden Cap, which is a little National Trust gem hidden away near Lyme Regis. My wife and I only ever use sat nav as a last resort but the simplicity of this system begs us to ask the question ‘why?’ Perhaps we will change our ways from now on. Although we soon realise why we are averse to this technology when the pleasant sounding female voice who kindly repeats her instructions three times, in the same way as my wife… persists in directing me to Golden Cap even though we have already visited it and are on our way home. We finally discover how to switch her off. The doors need a good thump to shut, which is slightly irksome when there are two children in the rear fast asleep. Another little niggle is that at night the vehicle can be left parked with its lights on and no buzzer alerts you to this fact. But they can be turned off via the keyfob. I do like the fact that as long as the keyfob is present entry to the vehicle can be keyless which is a great help when offloading luggage etc.

Loaded to the hilt you might be forgiven for thinking that the Evoque might struggle but none of it. The 2.2-litre 190bhp engine is an absolute joy to drive with the nine-speed automatic gearbox and the centrally mounted dial for this rises up when the engine is started by a push of a button on the dash and the foot on the brake. Depending on driving style it will return anywhere between 35mpg and 53mpg. No matter what the driver’s demands the Evoque will meet them: whether they want to drive it like a manual thanks to the steering wheel mounted gearshifts through to sedate motorway cruising – just set the cruise control at your desired speed.

On first acquaintance the Evoque suffers from a noticeable delay when manoeuvring away from a junction. This version is fitted with economical stop/start technology and it is usually pretty quick to restart the engine but not on this first drive for some reason. Later well into the test I find the auto box to jerk between gears.

Bearing in mind it’s only a 2.2-litre diesel it has a surprising amount of get up and go, if required. For instance, there’s a pretty steep hill as you leave Chideock. The beauty of it is that it adapts to its environment with ease. Find a field and put it through its paces and it does not disappoint. I find a disappointingly flat field on the Devon/Dorset border and it makes its way across it as if it’s on the road. On another occasion we have to do a spot of wading and again it doesn’t bat an eyelid. All of these instances have been captured on video at testdrives.biz. It does of course burn through fuel far quicker when off roading because the power is being fed to all four wheels. It is equipped with Active Driveline, claimed to be the world’s first on demand four-wheel drive system. This enhances agility and improves fuel efficiency by operating in front-wheel drive only at speeds above 22mph on the road. This system monitors vehicle dynamics and automatically reconnects four-wheel drive (within 300 milliseconds) whenever it is needed.

Facts a glance

New price: £40,005

0-60mph: 9.5secs

Top speed: 124mph

Average economy: 40mpg

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