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A POSER WITH PULLING POWER

APRIL, 19, 2012

Three’s Company The three-door Evoque is really the one to go for because it is so much better-looking than its five-door counterpart

Normally, I would dismiss a vehicle like the Range Rover Evoque as a poser special – it’s aimed at the High Street, not high altitudes, and is bought as a neon “look at me” statement.  But right from the beginning, I couldn’t avoid the fact that, under the fashion model outside, there is a capable chassis. It comes from the company’s Land Rover Freelander 2, which is probably the best of the “softroader” SUVs on the market. The Freelander has a clever electronically controlled, permanent four-wheel drive system that will help the vehicle to conquer off-road obstacles that may even thwart a hairy-chested conventional offroader, even one with a powerful engine and low-ratio gears.

The Freelander 2 amazed me one night in the worst downpour I’ve experienced in Joburg when it sailed through a river-like dip – water cascading up and over the roof – with barely a shrug. And behind the wheel of the Evoque, you feel exactly the same sense of security. The car, despite its raised ride height, feels planted on the road. You can toss it around – to avoid potholes, as I did on some Gauteng back roads – without getting out of shape, and in a way that would not shame cars with sporting pretensions. On top of that, the Evoque rides really well, soaking up the irregularties in the road – and off it – with minimal fuss. At cruising speeds, it feels like the luxury car it is. No surprise there because its big brother Range Rovers have always been some of the best in the business when it comes to the mercurial art of balancing off-road ability, onroad handling and ride comfort.

The Evoque we tested was equipped with a 2.2 litre turbodiesel engine, similar to that in Jaguar’s XF sports saloon and which is well endowed in the grunt department, putting out 140kW. In the Evoque, with a six-speed auto gearbox, though, there was none of the annoying (and potentially dangerous) turbo lag that characterises the power delivery in the Jag. The three-door Evoque is really the one to go for because it is so much better-looking than its fivedoor counterpart, which has a slightly longer wheelbase and, therefore, slightly more legroom and boot space. But not much of  either  the Evoque is not a people or parcels carrier.
Would I buy one? No. Why? Because I don’t need to make any statements… and I’d rather fly under the radar than be a big (albeit attractive) blob in the middle of the screen.

Urban cool with a strong whiff of the Camel man

It’s a thing of beauty. Well, as far as cars go anyway.  And if you think I’m biased because I have a soft spot for the oval green badge, have a look at some of the other comments people are making.  Most agree.  I was lucky enough to be at the local launch for the Range Rover Evoque at Melrose Arch (where else?) a few months ago, and when the covers came off, everyone in the room was taken aback at how stunning it looked.  So finally we get to test one and despite it’s having been on the road for a while, people still stop and stare.Everywhere I went interested parties would have a second look and twice, stuck in traffic, taxi passengers hung out to take pictures.  Not many cars under R1 million attract that type of attention.  At first glance it looks like a really go-fast vehicle, something a graphic designer might have toyed with during his lunch break or a schoolboy doodled while the teacher droned on about square roots.  It isn’t a robot racer, and if you’re looking to leave black stripes on the tar, a few more years of driving maturity will serve you well before you are ready to appreciate the style and quality of the Evoque.

It’s no slouch, though, as 5FM DJ Gareth Cliff can attest to after doing more than 180km/h in his Evoque.  However, if it’s a classy, five-star drive that’s your preference (and stepping into this, it should be), there’s nothing in the showrooms in that price class (or even among some more expensive models) to beat it.  Its road manners seem to have been taken from the finest finishing schools in Switzerland and the interior is possibly the best I’ve seen in a long time. From the moment you slide into the super-plush seats, push the stop-start button and watch the kids look on in amazement as the gear selector rises from the centre console, you know a lot of thought has gone into the ergonomics. Everything is neatly in place and I doubt even someone with serious obsessive compulsive disorder would feel uncomfortable.  The full-sized panoramic glass roof adds to the glamour of the vehicle and driving at night under a full moon makes a mundane trip home much more memorable.  The eight-inch touch-screen display includes all you audio, video, navigation and phone needs. Like our colleagues at Star Motoring, the only fault I could find was that the navigation system had one or two too many steps to get what I wanted.  My gut feel says the shape and style of the Evoque will become a classic, pretty much like its great-grandfather, the original Range Rover. On-road feel for an SUV is almost unmatched. We tested the three-door 2.2 litre turbo diesel, pushing out 140kW and 420Nm.

There was some turbo lag up here in Joburg, and although it takes a while for the turbo to do its thing, making allowances by regular driving will sort this matter out. And anyway, every time you step in or out of it, much will be forgiven.  At speed there is a slight road noise, but with the Meridian sound system this is quickly sorted, there are no rattles to speak of, and it sits beautifully through bends and corners.  It has Range Rover’s Terrain Response system, which means that despite not having low range, it’s capable when taken for a spin away from tar. I didn’t get an opportunity to test it, but everything I’ve read and seen says it’s more than just an average soft roader or mall crawler. Realistically, though, I would think the percentage of owners who’ll do much more than a trip on some dirt roads in game reserves will be incredibly small. If there was any doubt as to the attention to detail, when the doors unlock and the rear-view mirrors fold out, at night the Evoque logo is cast on to the ground. It doesn’t do much to the handling or overall looks, but ups the cool factor several notches.
And that’s pretty much what the Evoque is all about: its urban cool with a dash of the Camel man. If I had relatives in high places who could secure me a couple of dodgy mining deals coupled with an uncontested contract or two, mine would be parked in the garage right next to big brother Range Rover Supercharged.

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