By Chris Chilton
14 July 2011 09:37
Before we get started, can we just clear one thing up: what sort of car is the Evoque meant to be? Hot hatch, coupe, SUV? Well, it’s a bit of all three really. The five-door model will tend to appeal to buyers looking at other small SUVs, like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. But Land Rover sees the three-door, or Coupe, in JLR parlance, as a rival for cars like the Audi TT.
It’s certainly looks good enough to pull in TT buyers. Does the cabin look like it’s come straight from a concept car too?
Not quite but it’s still a great place to be. The Coupe has a lower roofline than the five-door, but there’s not a huge difference in rear room – although getting in the back isn’t the work of a moment. Both have genuine space for four, unlike the TT and Peugeot’s RCZ. The driving position should suit all shapes, and despite the pillar-box rear window, visibility is actually good. Except for the huge blind spot created by the elephant’s ear wing mirror and chunky door pillar - blame EU legislation for the mirror mess.
Autos get the Jaguar rotary gear selector that rises from the centre console, behind which are a couple of buttons allowing you to tweak the terrain response off-road system, switching between, tarmac, sand and mud settings to suit the surface. And cars with the optional dynamics pack get another symbol, a twisty road graphic. Select this and the dials turn from glowing white to red.
Our top of the range Dynamic certainly felt luxurious and well screwed together, but as with cars like the Jaguar XF, there are a couple of areas that spoil the illusion – the lightweight action of the glovebox lid and centre console cubby, for instance.
What’s under the skin?
Nothing revolutionary. No hybrids, no electric motors and, sorry US readers, no V6s either. There are a couple of four-cylinder turbodiesel engines, one developing 150bhp and the other 190bhp, plus a 240bhp turbocharged petrol four that’s essentially the next Focus ST motor. The 150 gets a six-speed manual ’box, the 190 a choice of six-speed manual or auto, and the 240 is auto only. They’re all four-wheel drive, bar the 150, which you can specify without the rear driveshafts for a £750 saving. Unconfirmed but almost certain to appear next year is a 300bhp hot hatch version of the 240 petrol.
What’s it like to drive?
Nothing like the Freelander it’s very loosely based on. It feels taut, secure and sporty, with vastly better body control than the Freelander, and quick witted steering. Imagine a car with the dynamic polish and poise of a small Ford
combined with the vitality of a Mini Cooper. Land Rover’s engineers talked of wanting hot hatch and coupe drivers to be able to jump into the Evoque and still feel like they were in a similar machine, and that’s exactly how it feels. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers are optional and were fitted to the car we drove. For the most part the ride is excellent, but very occasionally the whole car will start pogoing, and that’s a trait that’s much more evident in Sport mode. The body control is good in Normal mode, but the car stays noticeably flatter in Sport, and the steering firms up too. It doesn’t improve true feel – but the weighting increase makes cornering at medium speeds smoother.
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