The Range Rover Evoque pretty much invented the idea of a style-led baby crossover, back in 2012. Plenty of critics said it seemed a bit frivolous, but three-quarters of a million buyers around the world prove we were wrong. It’s been a massive success, selling three-quarters of a million copies.
This new one launches in 2019. It’s got some clever technologies to make sure there’s substance behind the style. Its surprisingly serious off-road chops are given another leg-up. But it’s also got some canny gadgetry and furnishings to serve the real majority of its buyers: smart city couples.
Land Rover hasn’t stinted. It’s been given an-all-new platform with amazingly little carried-over hardware. That should make it stronger, safer, quieter and better-driving than before, as well as slightly roomier – all within the same city-friendly overall length and width.
Given the old one looked distinctive and was well-liked, the stylists elected to cling on to that equity. If a drinker at a street cafe spotted it through the bottom of a cocktail glass they’d still immediately know it was an Evoque. The rising waistline, the falling colour-contrast roof, the black pillars, the emphasis on straight lines: they all speak the same message.
Even so, the makeover has been emphatic. It’s been tightened, smoothed and sharpened. The surfaces are simplified, the cut-lines narrowed, the windows pulled semi-flush, the light clusters narrowed, and the door-handles disappear until they’re needed.
Inside you find, at least on mid-spec models and above, a screen-based layout like the one they introduced in the Velar. It’s surprisingly configurable, so you can use the upper and lower touchscreens in ways that suit your preference and purpose. A pair of big graspable wheels set into the lower display still give it a reassuring hardware tactility. Their function is context-dependent, but usually pretty relevant.
Anyway you can ignore much of Range Rover’s interface by switching to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connection. That’s a first for the Range Rover (or Jaguar Land Rover) and it’s not a moment too soon.
The upper of the central screens has another function. Range Rover calls it ‘Clear Sight Ground View’ but you could call it X-ray vision. Cameras buried in the car’s nose feed a processor that alters the perspective to give a view of the ground from pretty much the front tyres forward. It’s like the bonnet and engine were transparent.
Of course RR positions this as a tool for negotiating tight spots and boulders in the outback. Everyone will use it for neater manoeuvring in cramped urban car parks.
A similar camera feeds the rear-view mirror. That camera aims backward from the trailing edge of the roof. The mirror is a switchable semi-silvered job. Flick the switch and your rear passengers’ heads and your tall baggage apparently disappear from blocking your view. Both the front and rear cameras are protected by dirt shields and muck-repellent coatings.
Driveline technology hasn’t been overlooked. Like rivals, the engines are 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, but there’s a mild hybrid system attached to all the AWD versions. This is a 48-volt motor-generator that harvests energy during braking and feeds it back in as a helping hand of torque in gentle slow acceleration. It saves about 6.0 per cent fuel overall, the maker claims, and helps especially in town. On the highway, thirst is trimmed back because of a lower aero drag.
There is a base model with a 110kW/380Nm diesel engine and front-wheel drive, with a manual transmission or optional nine-speed automatic, good for 0-60mph (0-96km/h) in 9.9 and 10.4 seconds respectively.
Everything else is all-wheel drive and nine-speed auto. Other diesels include 132kW/430Nm for an 8.8sec sprint and 177kW/500Nm for a 7.2sec to near-triple-figure speed. The petrols are 147kW/340Nm and 8.0sec, 183kW/365Nm and 7.0sec, plus 221kW/400Nm and 6.3sec zero to 96km/h acceleration.
In a year’s time, fuel-sensitive markets will be offered a plug-in hybrid version able to do about 50km in electric mode. Its high-voltage electric motor contributes more power than the other hybrids in the range, so on that version the petrol engine is scaled back to a 1.5-litre three-cylinder.
The new platform is made of some very high-strength steels, which means the crash structures can be usefully compact. One positive result is shorter overhangs, and a longer wheelbase than before, within the same overall length of 4371mm.
There’s now space in the arches for 21-inch wheels. Rear suspension components have been blagged from the Velar, aiming to improve ride quietness and cornering precision. Adaptive damping is on the menu, as with the old one.
The longer wheelbase means a little more rear legroom than before, so it feels just about adult-sized. But Evoque owners seldom carry people in the back, so the main aim was to improve boot space. It’s now 591 litres. The box under the centre armrest can take big bottles or tablets.
Also the fuel tank is bigger, at 65/67 litres for diesel/petrol, and the AdBlue tank rises to 17.2 litres, cutting the need to stop for that emissions fluid.
By the way, this new platform means the Evoque now has few under-skin similarities with the Jaguar E-Pace or Land Rover Discovery Sport, though obviously when those cars get replaced they’ll move onto the new hardware.
Those shorter overhangs help the Evoque’s off-road capability. Approach angle, in the version without the deep front spoiler, is 25 degrees. Ground clearance is 212mm and wading depth a strong 600mm. Climbing gradient tips out at 45 degrees. The braked tow limit is 1800kg.
Wade sensing, which measures the distance from the mirror housings to the water surface to calculate the depth below, is an option. The Terrain Response system measures slip at the wheels and sets ESP, throttle and diffs to help you along. Hill descent control and hill-start assist are standard too. Top models get an active driveline, with controlled centre and rear diffs. Others use the brakes to clamp a spinning wheel.
But back to the modern premium urban buyer. Range Rover has clocked that many of them are looking for sustainability. Whether they’ll find it in an SUV is moot, but at least this is a small one. And those folk don’t all want leather. So the cabin designers have come up with some alternatives, including non-animal upholsteries that are derived from plants that need little irrigation, and man-made fibres from recycled plastic bottles. Also, the UK factory is certified carbon-neutral. Tread lightly and all that.