Quick Drive: 2012 Range Rover Evoque

I am just going to come out and say it now, only because you hoons will find out about it soon enough. I love Land Rovers. My father is a 4×4 guy and he has been telling me how great these are since I was about zero. I spent six weeks in a D110 Wagon (TD5) driving around South Africa. I once almost bought a rusted D90. I once almost bought a $2000 ’89 Range Rover. I once almost bought a Discovery with cracked cylinder heads. There is not justifiable explanation for my lust with these vehicles, so just accept it. And don’t judge me.

When I learned of the new Evoque I was a bit skeptical however. The Freelander’s failure (trivia: the USDM V6 Freelander has three timing belts) hovered in the back of mind along with the off-road ability of most FWD-based crossovers. The reviews were fantastic however! Truck of the year this, Best of that, Top 40 here, all gleaming positive reviews. Last weekend I got to drive one very briefly and… I was completely disappointed!

Outside, it is what it is. Some will say it’s over-styled, some will say it’s stylish, some will say it’s beautiful, some won’t. Everyone has an opinion on looks so I won’t touch that. I’ll just stick to the facts that one can gather from a quick drive in the new Evoque. In my case I drove the two-door-ish coupe-ish shooting-break-ish three-door-ish hatch-y wagon-y version.

One of things I love about the big Land Rovers is the commanding view of the road; big windows, low beltline, high sitting position. In the Evoque you don’t get any of that. You’re surrounded my small windows which get smaller toward the rear. The only car that has worse windows is the Camaro. Rear visibility is similar to that of a Lotus Evora; about a 4”x6” rectangle.

The seats are comfortable, offering much more side bolstering than any Land Rover in history. Steering wheel is rather large and thin, with two big gauges and a typical info screen behind it. Borrowed from Jaguar is a round pop-up it’s-not-a-shifter shifter with buttons for terrain control near it. The terrain control uses the vehicle’s AWD and stability control system to distribute the power to the proper wheel. There is also a hill ascent control.

Seating gets worse in the back, which has one inch less headroom than that four/five-door version. Assuming you’re an adult that can get into the rear of the coupe, you won’t have much leg room once you get there. And then you’ll have difficulty getting out. That seat is best for kids who have outgrown car-seats and can buckle themselves in but are not too tall yet to be uncomfortable. In short, if you’re planning on having people back there get the 4/5-door.

On the positive side, the little four-cylinder turbo feels peppy and torque-y, at least around town (I did not get a chance to drive it on the highway). Overall the vehicle can be best described as zippy and fun to drive, perhaps a first for a Land Rover vehicle. With a sub-3900lb curb weight, this allows for an 18/28 EPA gas mileage, making it the least thirsty Land Rover in history too.

I think the Evoque will attract new customers to the Land Rover dealership. These will be people who have never considered a Land Rover before. They will be lured in by the brand image, the like-nothing-else styling, and Posh Spice’s approval. They will overlook the vehicle’s short-comings, and they will buy them as fast as Land Rover can produce them. This vehicle will be a hit wherever go-getting style-conscious upper-middle class yuppies live.

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