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2013 Range Rover Evoque Coupe Review

The full-sized Range Rover is probably, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, the best SUV…in the world. But it’s a big vehicle, with a huge V-8 engine. Luxurious and off-road capable, sure, but big and fuel hungry. But let’s say you want a smaller but still off-road capable SUV and you don’t want to give up luxury and drive around in a shabby Subaru or Nissan? Or even worse, a Land Rover LR2, with its sad, horrible, under-powered V-6. The answer, according to Range Rover, is the Evoque.

2013 Range Rover Evoque Range Rover took the underpinnings of the LR2 and asked for design assistance from Victoria Beckham, formerly known as “Posh Spice” of the Spice Girls, to design a new vehicle. Surprisingly, they didn’t end up with just a tarted-up version of the LR2, but something totally different.

I got a chance to spend about an hour or so with the Pure Plus Coupe—though sadly with no off-road driving—so here are some initial impressions.

Since my experience behind the wheel is limited—though I’m promised a combined Evoque/Jaguar XF AWD festival in the near future—I’m not sure I have much useful to say. Since all my driving was on regular streets, I can’t comment on the off-road capability at all. I can say that the Evoque has the same Terrain Response System found in the big Range Rover. I allows you to switch to sand, snow, etc. off-road modes at the press of a button, and it has hill assist. Maybe I’ll get to see that work in the future. I watched James May drive an Evoque across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas on Top Gear, so I can only assume it works OK off-road. It’s a Range Rover. It better. 

How it Looks

This is a happy place, filled with happy people.With its steeply raked roof line and squinty headlights, the Evoque looks surprisingly tiny. At around 4,000 lbs curb weight, it actually weighs less than many luxury sedans. The long, low, and lean profile is quite attractive, especially in the 3-door model. But fears about how tiny the inside looks from the outside are unfounded, for the most part.

Up front, there’s a lot of space to stretch out. In the rear, actual adults with actual legs and heads can sit in comfort, unless the front seats are moved all the way to the rear.

From the driver’s seat, it’s very hard to find anything wrong with the Evoque. It’s comfortable and beautiful. Overhead is a massive panoramic glass roof, so it feels wonderfully open inside. The dash is attractively designed, coated with soft-touch materials. 

It has all the techy bells and whistles you should expect in a high-end car. Bluetooth, adjustable and telescoping steering wheel that is festooned with controls, keyless entry and start, iPod/USB connectivity, and swathes of soft leather on the seats.

The driver’s instrument cluster contains an analog speedometer and tach on each side, and multifunction color display in the center. There’s no plebian gear shift knob, either. Just a little dial that rises majestically from the center console, with which you switch to park, reverse, drive, or sport. I switched it to sport.

Posh Spice clearly worked very hard to make the inside of the Evoque a wonderful place to be. Everything screams “expensive” and “quality”, even though this is the least expensive Range Rover. Although, at $50,000 or so, “least expensive” is a relative term.

How it drives

On city streets, the Evoque is pretty nice. The ride is smooth. The handling seems OK. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine’s 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque press it along peppily enough in sport mode, I guess, though it clearly doesn’t have sports-car performance.

The thing is, it just feels good to drive. I don’t know what it is about British cars that makes them nice to drive, but they are. I mean, obviously, this doesn’t apply to anything made by British Leyland in the 1970s, but the top-end British cars make you feel happy when you drive them. The Evoque makes you feel that way, too.

Sure, it may not start in the morning when you set off to work, as the Evoque can have a spotty reliability record, but when it does start, you’ll arrive at work in a happier mood.

What’s good about it

It’s very nice and comfortable inside. There’s plenty of room for adults, front and back. There’s no doubt it’s beautifully designed as well, so clearly, at least one aging former pop star has some other useful talents. It’s actually very difficult to describe how nice it is to just tool around the city in the Evoque. It’s so nice, you just want to stay in it. The interior beauty and comfort is simply unmatched by anything else in its class.

The driving experience is really nice. It really isn’t sporty at all, but that means the suspension is compliant, rather than stiff, and accidentally driving over a discarded cigarette butt won’t crack your spine from the jolt.

What’s bad about it

There’s really no cargo space to speak of. Unless you’re able to fold down the back seats, there’s really no space for much more than a couple of medium-sized suitcases. If the point is to have a cool little Range Rover that makes everyone say “Oooh! Aaaah!” well, mission accomplished. If the point is to have an SUV that, you know, carries stuff, then the Evoque doesn’t really carry it off. In fact, compared to its rivals, like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes GLK, the Evoque has the least cargo space. Also, getting into and out of the back seats is like trial by combat in the coupe version. An adult can do it, but it isn’t easy, and it isn’t pretty. Practical the Evoque isn’t.

Reliability seems to be the perennial complaint about British cars, despite the high level of style and sophistication in their cabins. The Evoque apparently shares that trait, with Edmunds and JD Power giving it below average ratings for mechanical and powertrain issues.

The Evoque is also not the fastest of it’s rivals, an honor that belongs to the BMW X3. The engine is torquey and eager, and lunges at the press of the pedal, but it’s a 2-ton car being pulled along by 240 horses. It’s just never going to be properly quick. On the other hand, like most things, it’s better than the Audi Q5.

Conclusion

The Evoque is stylish and beautiful and fun to drive, with off-road cred that none of its competitors have. If that’s what you want, then you’ll be happy. If you want some cargo space, and will have people riding in the back, you’ll be less so. But driving it alone or with your significant other will make you feel happy, and comfortable, ensconced in British luxury for what is, really, a reasonable price compared to the big Range Rover, or even any Jaguar, other than the base-trim XF.

So, if you don’t care about practicality, other than the ability to carry the groceries, then you’ll probably like it a lot. Right up until you have to play “Will we go to work this morning?” when it doesn’t start. Still, if you can get over the reliability issues and don’t actually need the full-on 4-wheel drive capability, you can get the 350 HP Jaguar XF AWD for about the same price, and go everywhere much, much quicker.

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