Range Rover Evoque Dynamic TD4 Review

Range Rover Evoque Dynamic TD4 Review

The thought of driving 420km with two boxes of badly packed crockery didn’t fill me with excitement. I’d planned to take the iPod with 100 Hits of the ‘80s to drown out the constant clattering with some Whitney, Prefab Sprout and Starship.

However, I shouldn’t have feared because despite roading contractors making blacktop as smooth as Dan Carter’s abs, the Range Rover Evoque soaked up the bumps while Michael Jackson asked, “Can you feel it?” I couldn’t feel it or hear it. Not only are you extraordinarily well insulated from road noise and engine noise, the smooth ride meant I didn’t need to crank up the stereo because the crockery wasn’t clattering.

The Evoque is Range Rover’s baby SUV. It gets you into the luxury SUV segment for quite a bit less than a full-fledged Range Rover Sport or Vogue (as little as $80,000, but you’ll probably spend the best part of

$100,000-105,000 once you’ve added the options you want). Our test Dynamic TD4 starts at $96,500 for the 5-door. You can also have it in a 3-door mode which (despite the inconvenience and half the number of door handles) is another two grand!

The aggressive looks come at the expense of window glass: make your windows small and it gives the same effect as chopping the roof, which is what makes hot rods look mean. Other motoring journalists have said that visibility is poor but I disagree. Yes, the rear window is tiny, but if you set your mirrors correctly there’s no problem knowing what’s going on. If you are worried about it, though, you can get a blind sport warning system and reversing camera as an option.

The look of the Evoque really is like nothing else. Little changed from the concept car and the result is as menacing as the love child of Darth Vader and Lucy Liu. The front has narrowed eyes and a boxer’s chin, the rear looks like it’s armoured against X-Wing attacks and the side shows its bruising forward stance. Of all the cars on the market right now, the Evoque makes a statement like no other.

Move to the inside and there are leather seats, leather stitching on the dashboard and a heated steering wheel. Everything feels ‘designed’, although not quite all of it is phenomenally designed. For example, it has probably the best iPod navigation functionality I’ve used (the touch screen is very intuitive), but if you want to get it back to the radio and retune the stations you’ll need the manual. Another example is the interior lighting that you just need to touch to turn on (it means you don’t need ugly switches), but if you put the air conditioning on recirculate it turns it back to outside air after a few minutes for no reason at all, and when you’re following a stinky diesel van in the twisty bits on the Napier-Taupo highway, you don’t want to be breathing its fumes. There’s also a very strong centred steering bias which took a little getting used to. If you are turning only slightly it feels like it’s pulling you back to centre.

Aside from these minor foibles, passenger and driver comfort is exceptional. There’s a reasonable amount of room in the back, too, and you get a good sized boot (big enough for two large boxes of crockery, evidently). The boot door was fitted with the optional automatic push-button open and close.

The Evoque features several driving modes. There’s gravel/grass/snow, mud ruts and sand, or you can leave them all off for the road. I tried it on the gravel beach just south of Napier and it struggled a bit on road tyres in the softer stuff, but still pulled through. The Evoque comes with similar competencies off-road as its bigger brothers. Ground clearance is good, and the approach and departure angles (25 and 33 degrees respectively) mean you can point it at quite steep slopes. With a set of more suitable tyres it will undoubtedly suit lifestylers.

But I was glad I had road tyres. By the time I got to Tirau it was raining more than men and a significant amount of surface water meant slower progress. The Evoque was unfazed. The headlights are excellent, and the automated wipers kept up with the downpour. Through the bends you get that typical SUV lean – you can’t drive this like a sports car. The acceleration from the 2.2-litre diesel is not sporty either as, despite the 400Nm of torque, there’s only 112kW to move a quite heavy vehicle. However, this does mean that it’s fairly frugal (I averaged 7.4l/100km from Auckland to Napier and I wasn’t ‘sparing the horses’).

So, what didn’t I like? I feel it’s a bit picky but integrated satnav would have been nice as standard. There are the aforementioned little details in functionality and design. The trip computer’s calculation of my average speed was not accurate based on the kilometers covered vs time taken. I also would really have appreciated a sports suspension mode.

But that’s just the way it is. The thing with the Evoque is if you’ve got the money and you’re in the market for a compact(ish) SUV you will want it if you drive it. Sure, you could get an Audi Q5 – it has an extra gear (7 vs 6) is quite a bit quicker and has some nice bells and whistles, but it’s also boring compared to the Evoque. In the list of hundreds of cars available on the market right now most are deathly dull. Quite how motoring journalists write interesting things about them is a testament to our fertile imagination and the need to move crockery. You don’t need that imagination with the Evoque. It’s a car with character, but it’s not compromised by it.

Our test car came with the following options, which increased the price to $103,210

  • Cold climate pack: $1600
  • Rear camera: $840
  • Park assist: $1400
  • Front parking aid: $780
  • Powered electric tailgate: $1300
  • Privacy glass: $800

Pros

  • If you’ve got the money and you drive one, you’ll almost certainly want it.
  • It’s got more character than the Audi Q5
  • Looks great

Cons

  • Diesel version is not that quick
  • Suspension would really benefit from a sports mode
  • A few minor irritations

Price as tested: $103,210. Base model Dynamic TD4: $96,490.

You also might want to check out the Audi Q5 we tested as it was a similar price, plus the BMW X3 and the Mercedes ML320 CDI.

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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