Crossing Over | 2012 Range Rover Evoque

March 2012 View more

Photos courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC.

More than most car companies, Land Rover has a signature style that has been virtually unchanged for decades. True, there have been upgrades and freshenings, improvements and revisions. But today’s Range Rover and LR4 models look, for all their modern edges, like the Range Rovers and Land Rover Discovery models from the mid-’90s.

For many Range Rover buyers, that look—and the heritage (in the true sense of the word) that the look represents—is a prime selling point. After all, there’s no need to go either retro or futuristic if you are entirely happy with what you’re driving in the here and now.

In that regard, the all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque is not just a knockout. It’s a knockout that truly breaks the company’s mold.

NMAG0312_ForTheRoad_3The Evoque feels sleek and fresh, bold and cutting-edge—all descriptions that, for better or worse, Land Rover has traditionally ceded to the likes of Infiniti and BMW. Pictures, alas, do not do this vehicle enough justice. Attention has been paid to details big and small, and the resulting amalgamation of metal and glass make quite a statement.

Inside is an equally sharp interior, capped off by a wow-inducing panorama glass roof. Rear-seat passengers may even forget their cramped quarters as they gaze at the sky. From the cockpit, however, it becomes clear that the Evoque’s upswept belt line and ultra-narrow rear glass give the crossover not only the air of a sports car, but a sports car’s limited rear visibility. Thank goodness for the backup camera. This design clearly breaks Land Rover’s tradition of excellent sight lines, but you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too.

Importantly, form does not overrule function when the Evoque’s driver presses the power button to summon the selector knob for the six-speed transmission (which rises up out of the center console, a la Jaguar). The Evoque is as entertaining to drive as its looks seem to promise. While not a replacement for the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, the Evoque has some juice; its turbocharged four-cylinder engine adeptly moves its relatively light mass.

For those who might look askance at a four-cylinder Range Rover, recognize this: As car companies look to improve their models’ fuel efficiency, they are increasingly replacing their V6s and even V8s with potent turbo fours. The Evoque’s small engine delivers both plenty of power and relatively big numbers on the window sticker: 18 city/28 highway.

Land Rover’s “terrain response” selector is a soothing presence on the Evoque’s console, for it signifies that the Evoque stays true to the company’s tradition of delivering confidence-inspiring foul-weather and off-road capabilities. Four-wheel drive comes standard, as does the ability to take the Evoque places that most buyers will not.

NMAG0312_ForTheRoad_2The Evoque comes in four-door and two-door models (the latter taking a place in a virtually empty market segment). Don’t feel badly about choosing the more utilitarian four-door Evoque over the sportier Coupe, though: The models are identical in length and width, so from many angles, they are essentially indistinguishable.

Pricing for the Range Rover Evoque starts at $43,995 for the “Pure” four-door and rises to $52,895 for the “Dynamic” coupe. Because each trim level (there are three total for the four-door, and two for the Coupe) comes with a different menu of features, the options list is a relatively short one. Fear not, however: You’ll still be able to add a few thousand dollars to the sticker with a rear-seat entertainment package, a climate comfort group, or an “adaptive dynamics” suspension upgrade.

One feature that comes standard on all of the Evoque models is a bit of whimsy that will likely delight buyers every time they unlock the doors after dark: The “puddle lights”—those lamps that shine down from under the side mirrors so you can see whether there’s a puddle next to your door—radiate not just a bright circle of light, but an outline of the Evoque’s silhouette.