Friday, August 19, 2011

Range Rover Evoque Review:


A man was prowling round an Evoque outside the hotel in Liverpool which was Range Rover’s base for the recent launch, peering through the windows, standing back to study its fancy looks and stroking his chin. His demeanour left no doubt that he was bringing an expert’s eye to his appraisal.
“This is the first time I’ve seen one, though I have placed an order,” he explained. Why would anyone buy a car they haven’t seen? “It’s had a fantastic build-up, and it’s an important car for Liverpool. But it isn’t for me. She likes it.” He was presumably speaking of his wife. “Let’s face it: this car is a bit of a big girl’s blouse.”

Though this speech may have lacked a few percentage points of absolute believability, it contained sound truths. The Evoque, Range Rover’s first attempt at a “crossover” premium compact SUV, has had an immense build-up since the compact LRX concept vehicle was unveiled in 2008. Though based on the platform of Land Rover’s Freelander, it is Range Rover’s first entirely new model for 40 years.
Its success matters profoundly to Liverpool where 1,500 jobs have been created at the renascent Halewood factory to produce it. And it doesn’t look as if it’s itching to flex its muscles and go to war.
Ever since the first Land Rover emerged in 1948, form has followed function. Customers for cars built to traverse deserts and penetrate the jungle took a lofty, John Buchan-like view of such frivolous questions as fashion.

Range Rovers of late have strayed awkwardly into bling territory, their designers talking of the “jewel-like effect” of their headlights. But the Evoque launches the brand into a full-blooded attempt to be fashionable; this is a car built not for the Himalayas but the catwalks.

Massive wheels and wheel-arches; a kicked-up waistline; side and rear windows so narrow that they look like vestigial accessories; tiny rear light assemblies; two exhaust tailpipes in achingly trendy trapezoidal shapes; a roof spoiler; a roof that can be painted in a contrasting colour as an optional extra…the Evoque isn’t just unlike any car we’ve ever seen from Land Rover, it’s unlike anything on the road. It could have come from Kia’s design studio, which is so fashion-conscious the floor sweepers wear designer overalls.

Range Rover hopes that a new type of customer will be attracted by the Evoque, perhaps people who own a Mini or an Audi TT but who would like lots more room. Such fashionistas are unlikely to care that the car is extraordinarily capable off-road. When the launch route took us across Snowdonia on sheep trails or along off-road tracks, the Evoque proved to be far more than a big girl’s blouse. Its high ground clearance and a full array of aids such as hill-descent control and switchable settings for a host of surfaces make this the most authentic 4x4 that has yet appeared in swanky street clothing.

Three-door and five-door versions are available, ranging from £27,995 to £44,320, and more than 50 bespoke variants are on offer. Customers had better write their cheques now, however. This year’s production of 18,000 Evoques has sold out — presumably to people like our man in Liverpool. Perhaps he genuinely did know what he was talking about.

Range Rover Evoque
Price: £27,995-£44,320
Power: 148-247bhp
0-60mph: 7.1 secs- 10.6 secs
Top speed: 115-134mph
Average fuel consumption: 32.5-58mpg
CO2 emissions: 129-199g/km
Insurance group: 32-37
Telegraph rating: Five out of five stars

Volvo XC60
Price: £28,300-£41,260
For: superbly practical family car
Against: how exciting does that sound?
Telegraph rating: Five out of five stars

Price: £31,140-£39,625
For: much improved
Against: except in looks
Telegraph rating: Five out of five stars

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