As I contemplate the latest Range Rover Evoque — from its rambunctious design to the startling driving responses — my thoughts drift to a Welsh field. It’s the history buff in me.
In that field, the original Land Rover concept vehicle had been left to rot some 20 years after it had been shown to great fanfare at the April 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. There and then, it was called a “demonstration” vehicle. Alas, in Wales, it had been reduced to an unloved, unappreciated, unrecognizable and unremarkable hulk. A forgotten piece of history. The first pre-production Defender was being used as a gasoline generator.
Bear with me now; I’m going somewhere with this.
Oddly, I think, most of this Defender’s actual bits and pieces remained relatively intact in 1968, and even thereafter as it moved from Stratford-Upon-Avon, to Worcestershire, to Birmingham, about an hour’s drive from Solihull, Land Rover’s historic centre.
In 2016, the remains of arguably the most important Land Rover in history were discovered in a garden near Solihull, and handed over to restoration experts at Land Rover. An old Defender was reborn.
Today in 2019, I can’t help but wonder what the engineers and designers of 1948 would think of the 2020 Evoque. Would they call it an abomination or a daring and unusual attempt at modern art?
Surely, they would agree that this all-new Evoque, the second-generation model, most definitely is NOT a Jeep knockoff. Not like the original Series I and Series II. Indeed, back in the ‘40s, chief designer Maurice Wilks and his team fashioned a prototype using Jeep components. The camouflage paint was army surplus, a cheap necessity in a post-war Britain rationing eggs, butter and chocolate.
Of course, the first Land Rover models looked remarkably similar to the American war wagon that became famous on the beaches of Normandy and in Audi Murphy movies. By necessity. Britain was a broken shell of a dissolving empire in the post-war period. Two world wars and a hundred years of incompetent government had stripped the Britain of its greatness.
History may yet repeat itself here in 2019, what with the self-immolation and utter stupidity of Brexit. Nonetheless, in the decades since Land Rover was born, the United Kingdom and Jaguar Land Rover or JLR have been reinvented.
True, the revival of both may prove relatively short-lived. JLR is now struggling under the financial demands required to transform itself into an electrified 21st century automaker in an unsettled world marked by a patchwork of regulatory demands and an owner – India’s Tata – that is being more careful with its cash. Meanwhile, Britain, led by the mendacious, lazy, womanizing and crude leadership of the mop-haired Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, may yet implode.
But for the moment, let’s applaud the audaciousness of this new Evoque, for which the first development work began pre-Brexit – and let’s hope that somehow the United Kingdom and Europe survive the foolishness of those who voted to leave and those in the European Union who stubbornly refused to see the crisis unfolding before it was too late.
The Evoque? I absolutely love it. I do, I do. While that reverse slant of the roofline isn’t for everyone, the design gives the Evoque an élan sorely lacking in most two-box designs today. While tall, the Evoque takes a corner with confidence and with the proper tires, it’s remarkably capable in the rough.
At $47,950 to start, it’s not cheap, mind you. And it’s possible to add another $20,000 or so to the price if you move up the model range and add a few extras. Personally, if I were buying, I’d stick to the most basic model, especially so given the standard powerplant is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder.
This mill is tuned differently, depending on how much you would like to pay. The R-Dynamic version comes with maximum horsepower rated at 296; the 0-100 km/hour time is 6.6 seconds. A more basic version comes in at 246 hp, with 0-100 km/h at 7.5 seconds. Range Rover plans to introduce mild and plug-in hybrid versions of the Evoque, pricing yet unknown.
The least expensive Evoque gives you everything from LED headlights to privacy glass, from rain-sensing wipers to a tailgate spoiler and all the powered features you could want (door locks, windows mirrors). The basic sound system is fine. Sure, the HUGE panoramic glass roof on the priciest Evoque left me gob smacked (it was included with my R-Dynamic tester). But I would live without it.
Range Rover types say they have utterly reinvented the second gen here, but you can’t see much at first take. Things have certainly been tidied up, but there’s no drama. Unless, of course, you zero in on the pop-out door handles that go flush when locked, and exterior glazing that’s now flush. The result, with other design tweaks, is improved aerodynamics.
Inside, a longer wheelbase benefits rear passenger, and there is more cargo space, too. The control layout is less cluttered and the dual screen arrangement puts all the functions right in your eyeline. You can get a camera system that functions like very fancy rearview mirrors, and now the Evoque gets Terrain Response 2. Some, but not many, will be tempted to test this rig’s ability to effortlessly tackle rock crawling, river beds and generally nasty stretches.
Yes, it’s true. The Evoque is a smallish little SUV, but it’s muscular, modern and really quite visually startling. Alas, I must mention the usual Land Rover caveat: third-party research has mean things to say about quality.
That aside, I suspect Maurice Wilks would approve of the 2020 Evoque’s modernity and applaud the brand’s survival instincts.
2020 Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic HSE
Engine: 2.0-litre I4, turbocharged (296 horsepower/295 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: nine-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city/8.0 hwy using premium fuel.
Competitors: Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lexus NX, BMW X1.