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2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Drive

Baby Rover Set To Tackle Anything and Everything Thrown Its Way

What It Is: The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is new for 2012 and a mouthful to say the least. It's also a luxury SUV with the young, affluent, and educated crowd in its crosshairs.

Best Thing: The coupe looks just as sharp as the day it was unveiled. This is because it's closely based on the concept undergoing minimal changes before entering production.

Worst Thing: The off-road capabilities that will go to waste. Who would be crazy enough to actually go off-road in an SUV that can carry a price tag as high as a hair under $60,000?

Snap Judgment: Sister publication Motor Trend named the Evoque its 2012 SUV of the year, and for good reason. The baby Rover possesses similar off-road capabilities to the bigger LR4 and gets much better fuel economy compared to its bigger sibling.

Vancouver is renowned as a young and hip city, which is exactly the kind of image that stuffy old Land Rover wants to project with the all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque. Besides, we like to think we're young and hip as well--the very target that Land Rover has in mind for its new SUV--so when the company invited us north of the border to sample the Evoque in the city and the nearby backwoods of Whistler, we didn't hesitate and quickly packed our bags.

Since the Evoque is new for 2012, Land Rover went all out combining technology and luxury with the off-road prowess known to come with the namesake. The aggressive front end and roofline are new to Land Rover models and head designer Gerry McGovern crafted it with a younger demographic in mind. Land Rover didn't cut any corners, and the 2012 Evoque's interior materials are plush. The Evoque uses the same media and navigation center found in Jaguar vehicles, not a bad association to make. The panoramic fixed glass roof also earned its fair-share of reactions especially as we traversed through the bustling city streets of Vancouver at night. Combining Land Rover's world-renown off-roading capability with all-new styling both inside and has appeared to be a homerun early on, with the Evoque already piling up accolades from automotive media around the world. Day or night, both the 5-door and 3-door "coupe" models grabbed looks whether it was on the friendly streets of Vancouver or the mountain ranges surrounding it.

Two side doors are rare in the SUV segment, but Land Rover's take on it aims squarely at a younger, educated, and affluent crowd. This demographic is usually thrown to the wayside with salaries not matching many luxury vehicle price tags. Land Rover hopes to change that with the release of its latest creation. It's very apparent the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is set to blaze its own trail in the smaller SUV segment. Although we only spent a day with the Evoque, it was more than enough time to see what Land Rover's latest creation was made of.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

When we first laid eyes upon the Evoque we were astonished at how far and away the exterior styling was from other vehicles in Land Rover's lineup. The only feature that was identifiable with other Rovers was the green oval badge sitting at the front of the hood. Knowing the Evoque's exterior styling commands attention and positive feedback where ever it goes and seeing it in person are two different things, but this is a vehicle that you can't stop staring at. This little luxury SUV has an unmistakable look to it, with a front grille that blends into the headlamps, giving it the impression that it's smiling at you. It also didn't hurt that Land Rover had lined up over a dozen Evoque's in all different colors to transport us throughout the city.

The 2012 Land Rover Evoque is available in two body styles, with two or four doors. It's an unusual move in a segment that's dominated by four-door models, but if first reactions from fellow journalists on the trip were any indication, the coupe configuration will be the hot ticket. The coupe, or 3-door as it's also known, is much more appealing of the two body styles, with a sporty sloped roofline. The 5-door model is slightly bigger than the coupe, but only by 0.4-inches in overall length and 1.2-inches in width. Arm it with the Premium package and this Rover has the looks to roll around Beverly Hills at night after climbing up Big Bear Mountain all day.

The Evoque Coupe and 5-door come in three different models: Pure, Prestige, and Dynamic. The upper-echelon Dynamic model is the sportiest of the three receiving unique bumpers, grille, and tailpipes to give it a bolder appearance. The Prestige package adds 19-inch wheels and an interior slathered in leather. All models have a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed automatic the only available transmission.

Getting Inside

While the exterior grabs eyes in bunches the interior is just as lustrous. Soft-touch leather and other high quality materials are carefully placed together with no surface left uncovered. A sloped center console is home to an abundance of climate control buttons and a media center with Bluetooth, HD radio and navigation. Wedged in between the gear selector and dual cup holders is the highly publicized Terrain Response System ready to alternate suspension and engine configuration with one click of the knob.. As in other Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, the gear selector is a knob that rises up out of the center console to greet the driver's hand after the engine's started with the push-start ignition.

The gauges are accented with ambient lighting and greet the driver with a quick start-up sequence upon entering the Evoque. Lighting changes behind the instrument cluster depending on what the driver's current style is. You can also select Dynamic Sport mode on the Terrain Response System and red LEDs pop up all over the instrument cluster. Put the pedal to the floor and a vibrant red hue appears around the instruments to signal that aggressive driving is now in full affect. Take your foot off the pedal and a clear white light signals all systems returning to normal.

The biggest spectacle inside the Evoque is the fixed glass panoramic roof, which at first glance looks less than forgiving as far as headroom goes. However it's not as restricting as it seems, with the roof allowing people taller than six feet to sit in the back seat comfortably. Front headroom is granted two more inches of space in both Evoque models. The Evoque's ample safety features are called on in a moment's notice, and are necessary with all the extensive off-road capabilities in the Evoque's arsenal. In addition to expected anti-lock brakes and stability control, the Evoque gets something called corner braking control, which distributes equal braking force to every wheel even as you are taking a turn. This means you are able to brake and turn at the same time without losing control of the vehicle. Other safety features include hill start, stability control, hill descent and gradient release control, and engine drag torque control. Front, rear, and side airbags are all also standard safety features.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Driving

When it was time to hit the road, we were most curious about two things. First was the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's actually provided by Ford, and is similar to the engine in the Explorer EcoBoost, where it hasn't been well received. Then there was the Evoque's coupe model, and we couldn't help wondering if it would drive as good as it looked.

So we got comfortable behind the wheel of a silver Dynamic model coupe, pressed the Start button, and marveled as the gear selector knob rose up out of the center console. We input our destination into the navigation system, turned the dial to Drive and headed off into the wilderness.

The four-cylinder engine didn't disappoint. With just enough thrust to let us know this baby Rover isn't playing around, the six-speed automatic transmission can be controlled manually by the driver thanks to two paddle-type shifters mounted behind the steering wheel. We did our best to try and use lower gears at higher speeds to see if the transmission would adjust to the proper gear. Without hesitation the Evoque's gearbox upshifted seamlessly to match our speed. Land Rover put a priority on the Evoque's fuel economy, and after driving the Evoque two hours from Vancouver to Whistler up and down a 6,100 mountain, its economy of 22.7 mpg showed that.

Reducing weight was another primary goal for designers of the Evoque. The four-cylinder engine weighs 88 pounds less than the six-cylinder engine used in other Land Rovers, and key components are made of aluminum, polymer, or magnesium to help reduce overall weight. The upshot is that the five-door model weighs in at 3,902 pounds. This helps with fuel economy and handling, but limited rear visibility prevented any quick lane changes.

The highway ride was comfortable and quiet but the Evoque really excelled when the pavement ended. As we started up the semi-beaten mountain path the Evoque took on each water bar and loose-gravel incline like they were everyday speedbumps and potholes. Body lean was minimal and the steering was felt sharp whether we were rolling around a rest stop parking lot or climbing toward Blackcomb Mountain's summit.

Like most vehicles, the 2012 Land Rover Evoque comes with stability and traction control, and it also offers roll stability control to help keep it upright in an emergency. What really separates the Evoque from other SUVs is Land Rover's Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, and Engine Drag torque Control. The latter three keep the baby Rover at a crawl even when the terrain was dangerously steep. For example: The man-made hill we started our drive on. The insanely steep grade was built mere feet from the ocean, and one wrong move would land us in the drink. Any normal truck, let alone any SUV, would have quickly spun its tires into a hole...or gone for a swim. Yet a Land Rover driving instructor explained that all we had to do was keep the throttle steady, and we'd be at the top of the hill in seconds. After a second or two of summoning up enough courage, we hit the gas and sure enough, we were soon at the top overlooking the Vancouver bay. The Evoque scaled the hill without hesitation but going back down required features such as hill descent and gradient release control, and engine drag torque control. Both of which helped control the baby Rover down the slope without any apprehension.

After wiping the sweat from our brows, we began descending the downslope, straight into a massive puddle. As we released the brakes we felt the Evoque's Hill Descent Control take over. The driving instructor yelled to just roll down the hill and brake marginally, and sure enough the system kept the baby Rover at a more than manageable speed. We were already impressed, and we hadn't even started the actual drive yet.

The Evoque performed flawlessly during the two hour drive from Vancouver into the mountains. It was a cloudy day, but the rain held off until around lunchtime, and then turned to snow at the mountain. As we climbed higher the clouds turned into fog, but the Evoque's wipers cleared off any precipitation, and despite the cold we had the windows down and the heat turned all the way up to enjoy the clean mountain air as opposed to the so-called "oxygen" we get here in Los Angeles.

When we broke through the fog we discovered one last obstacle to scale: A snow-laden hill. After engaging the proper suspension and traction setting through Terrain Response, we ascended it without a problem. Our return trip took a while as we were treated to yet more opportunities to test the Evoque's electronic assistance. Everything from Hill Descent and Gradient Release Control to the Hill Start Assist to the Engine Drag torque control were showcased.

Summary

After getting some serious off-road and adequate on-road time behind the wheel of the Evoque we came away very impressed with Land Rover's small offering. And while the latest Rover has only been available to the public for two months now it has yet to disappoint.

Of course, we were in the backwoods of Whistler, British Columbia, scaling the summit of Blackcomb Mountain. Land Rover's latest creation proved that no water-bar or incline can keep it down. However what are the chances someone taking a vehicle with the Evoque's price tag and the looks off-road? How will it fare in a congested city like Los Angeles, where the off-road features won't be utilized? We look forward to getting the Evoque out of the Northwestern rain forests, and into the urban jungle.

Basic Specs

2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure Coupe: $44,995, 240 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Pure 5-door: $43,995, 240 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Prestige 5-door: $52,395, 240 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Dynamic Coupe: $52,895, 240 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Dynamic 5-door: $51,495, 240 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway

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