If ever there was a car that could pass itself off as a bonafide fashion accessory, it’s the Range Rover Evoque. With looks that screamed chic, a prestigious name printed across the bonnet, and helpful if untrue rumours of Victoria Beckham being a styling consultant involved in the designing of the model, it’s perhaps no surprise that the first-generation Evoque was a runaway success, and enough of one to hang around for over seven years.
So what do you do then when it comes to making a new version of a car like this which has attracted a devoted audience purely based off its looks alone? Make it the same, but different, obviously.
Sporting a very familiar shape and equally familiar lines, but also featuring a Velar-inspired fascia and interior treatment, it’s clearly a case of evolution, rather than a styling revolution. To see whether its enough though, I grabbed the keys to this P250 SE R-Dynamic model, one of the many variants in the complex new Evoque range, and headed to the Barossa Valley to see how well this trendy new baby Rangie fitted in.
Now when I say the range is complex, I really mean it. With three trim levels (S, SE, and HSE), six different 2.0-litre turbocharged engines (the D150, D180, and D240 diesels, and P200, P250, and P300 petrols), and an optional R-Dynamic styling package available on all variants, there are 24 distinct variants in the regular range, plus another two First Edition variants available at launch.
The one on test here sits somewhere in the middle price-wise at $75,840, but if you were already feeling spoilt for choice when it comes to which model variant to choose, just wait until you start to look over the options list. A total of $14,165 in extra kit had been added to my tester so, all things considered, it was actually worth nearly as much as an unoptioned range-topper.
While some of the basics you see inside are included as standard – such as the Touch Pro Duo dual-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the fully digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, and some active safety technology – many, including the head-up display, Meridian Sound System, panoramic sunroof, digital rear-view mirror, 360-degree camera, and heated memory seats are all optional.
Even more outrageously than that, however, is that things such as digital radio, blind-spot monitoring, radar-guided cruise control, and even keyless entry are optional extras. How these aren’t all standard on a car costing upwards of $75k when they are on, say, a Kia Cerato worth well under half that is beyond me.
Something that is actually included for the standard asking price, thankfully, is the impressive array of interior materials. While leather upholstery is one of the standard options, the incredibly funky materials used inside this are are the others, and they’re unlike anything I’ve encountered before.
While the suedecloth-clad steering wheel is nothing new, although it is exceptionally nice to grab a hold of, the seats and armrests are all upholstered in what Land Rover calls Eucalyptus Melange. That’s right, JLR reckons our loveable koalas hold the key to the future of sustainable, ethically sourced fabrics.
As gum trees grow quickly and require significantly less water than other plants more commonly used to make materials due to having adapted to our terribly hot Australian climate, it helps to conserve resources. And judging by the lovely feel of the cloth-like lower section and vinyl-esque upper section of the seats, it certainly feels the part, too, in addition to keeping your conscience clear.
The overall interior presentation is excellent, as you’d expect, with the floating lower centre screen and straightforward layout feeling elegantly simple, as this largely shared layout does in all other Range Rover models, so it’s certainly not a place you’ll dread spending time in on a long journey.
Up front, the seats are as comfortable and supportive as you could hope for and offer a decent range of adjustability, although if you’re long in the leg like I am at 6’2″, you will find that no matter where you position it, your left knee will forever be hitting against the side of that lower centre screen, which is an issue unique to the Evoque that you won’t encounter in larger Range Rover models.
While the rear seat sits a little lower than I’d personally like – you’re very much sitting down in it – there is enough legroom for me to fit as a result. Boot space is very good as well at 591 litres, which does mark a slight increase over the old model due to various packaging improvements under the skin.
But before talking more about what’s under the skin, I can’t go past talking about just how fantastic this new Evoque looks. Yes, it just looks like a facelift of the old one and you’ll have to be a right anorak to pick it out at a glance as being an all-new model, when you start to analyse the design is just gets better.
The headlights and taillights that clearly display the design language premiered on the Velar, the blacked out grille and matte grey badges, the rose gold highlights, the characteristic bold front guards and strong body line below the retractable door handles… from every angle, it’s a true thing of beauty. But do remember, though, that beauty can sometimes only be skin-deep.
Of the three transversely-mounted 2.0-litre four-pot turbo petrol engines available in the Evoque, the P250 here sits in the middle power-wise, making 183kW (which equates to 250PS, hence the designation) at 5500rpm and 365Nm from 1200-1500rpm. As with all Evoque variants, it comes paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard.
On the power front, this engine does a fine job and offers as much power as you realistically need in a car like this. 0-100km/h is dealt with in 7.5 seconds and the force-fed engine pulls strongly across the entire rev range, while the transmission it’s paired with shifts nice and smoothly and the all-wheel drive system is perfectly clever, so I have no complaints there.
What there is to complain about, however, is the appalling throttle response, particularly off the line. There’s a clear pause between when you push your foot down and when movement begins to occur, and if the start-stop system activates, it’ll double that time from an age to an aeon, allowing the person to your left at a roundabout who was rightfully giving way to you just enough time to get stroppy with you for not yet going and setting off themselves instead. Thankfully, it’s more responsive when you are on the move, but it doesn’t exactly excuse it.
Once you are going, the Evoque’s cabin is quite serene at speed, as you’d expect something bearing the Range Rover name to be, but I unfortunately can’t say the ride is quite as befitting if you opt for larger wheels – which you surely will as they’re an integral part of the Evoque’s styling.
While on smoother European roads I’m sure these fixed-rate coil springs would be perfectly fine when paired with these big (and, of course, optional) 21-inch alloys, on bumpy tree-laden Aussie roads and city speed humps it does jiggle about more than you might expect.
Air suspension isn’t available at all on the new Evoque – JLR cites the negative effects allowing for the fitment of it would have had on the interior packaging as the reason why – and that’s a massive shame in my opinion, as with it, it would have easily mitigated the effects of the low-profile tyres and helped serve up the exceptional ride you do come to expect from something with a Land Rover, let alone Range Rover badge on the front of it.
It does handle pretty well through the bends though, remaining acceptably composed and confident, and allowing for you to carry a good amount of speed in, but with it – like its predecessor – being built around a steel monocoque, its 1862kg heft is clearly felt as you turn into tighter bends.
The electrically-assisted steering rack doesn’t exactly help out in this regard, either, as it feels clearly artificial and over-assisted, and while the lightness is appreciated in, say, a tight carpark, it’s not quite as ideal through the bends.
I should note also that the heavy underpinnings and overall weight do lead to immense fuel consumption figures, too, with an indicated usage of 11.2L/100km over the course of my 470km behind the wheel compared to the much lower claim of just 8.1L/100km.
When the whole package does work without these issues becoming apparent is on a drive where you’re sat at higher speeds on roads with nice long straights and sweeping bends – hence why the Barossa was a strategically chosen photoshoot location.
Starting out in Seppeltsfield before making a quick detour to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop for a coffee to preface lunch back in Tanunda, it makes for a perfect car for making a statement as you arrive at tourist hotspots, and for getting between them comfortably and without exploiting its weaknesses.
It’s a real shame that the Evoque does have those chinks in its armour, as I really did hope and think that I’d come away impressed, especially given my past positive experiences with this platform.
Without doubt, it is still an absolutely fabulous-looking car – truly one of the best-designed SUVs on sale right now – with an interior to match, especially with its eco-chic materials, but the poor throttle response, unrewarding steering feel, and the insane expense of adding all the options you will want really does let it down.
What I was hoping for with this new Evoque was style and substance, and, certainly, it scores full marks as a four-wheeled equivalent to a Gucci handbag. The shame is that when it comes to its substance, the way that it drives, it’s more comparable in some ways with a Gucci watch than a Zenith like I was hoping for it to be.
2020 Range Rover Evoque P250 SE R-Dynamic List Price: $75,840 | As Tested: $90,005
Pros: Head-turning good looks, funky eucalyptus interior textiles, slick interior presentation, plenty of power from the P250 engine
Cons: Artificial and over-assisted steering feel, lumpy ride quality not befitting of a Range Rover, feels heavy through the corners, way too pricey with options
In a nutshell: The Evoque is truly stunning inside and out, but that beauty is unfortunately only skin deep when you take into account the flaws in the way it drives.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Jaguar Land Rover Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.
Please also note that the testing referenced in this article, including travelling to the Barossa Valley region in which a cluster of COVID-19 cases have been traced back to, was undertaken in advance, prior to the Australian Government’s restrictions on non-essential travel to aid in limiting the spread of coronavirus that are applicable at the time of publication, and prior to the date the transmission of these cases was traced back to.