When Land Rover starts to embrace the growing trend for front-wheel drive SUVs you know the concept isn’t some flash in the pan gimmick. In truth, there’s a lot to be said for a two-wheel drive ‘soft-roader’. Many 4x4s never see a muddy track and the economy savings of only two driven wheels will be of greater benefit to many owners.
There’s a new breed of buyers out there now. Cars like the Range Rover Sport have shown that popularity is not just about ability. Brand image and the whole lifestyle package are equally important to an increasing number of owners. Providing a slightly more affordable alternative is the new Evoque. A bold-looking compact SUV, it’s already created a stir and won numerous awards, and in four-wheel drive guise is surprisingly capable.
Predictably, a front-wheel drive variant was an inevitable addition to the range. There will be cynics who believe such a car dilutes the brand, but company bosses will point to real world benefits: improved fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions and reduced weight. And if you want to buy into the Range Rover image but aren’t overly fussed about a car’s mountain climbing abilities, this two-wheel drive Evoque ticks more boxes than the detractors would care to admit.
By removing 75kg of excessive weight – that’ll be the part of the transmission that’s no longer needed – plus fitting a 150 horsepower version of the Evoque’s 2.2-litre diesel complete with engine stop-start, this two-wheel drive car boasts a creditable 129g/km CO2 in three-door Coupe form and 57.6mpg. It’s a fraction more in five-door trim, but still better than the all-wheel drive model’s extra 20g/km CO2 penalty and 8mpg higher fuel consumption with the same engine.
Immediately it’s easy to see the car’s on-paper appeal, and such a performance easily plays into the wallets of company car drivers. For many SUVs are completely off limits, although this Evoque’s front-drive status and car-like economy should boost its chances when fleet managers compile their new lists of qualifying vehicles.
This Evoque isn’t just a new model for company car drivers, though. For the private purchaser it offers the same stunning looks, quality cabin and practicality as its all-wheel drive cousin. On the road it’s near-identical in its ability to tackle the concrete jungle; the lofty driving position and easy access rear load space complete this car’s rounded performance.
Engine-wise the entry level 148 horsepower 2.2-litre diesel offers ample power and plenty of torque, with the short shift manual transmission proving to be anything but a compromise. Quiet around town yet punchy enough for spirited driving, the car’s modest on-paper performance figures mask the engine’s willing character.
And while you might sacrifice Land Rover’s now familiar Terrain Response system to help you traverse tricky surfaces, the two-wheel drive car is surprisingly capable when the going gets slippery. Granted, its limits are modest by the standards of a seasoned off-roader, however the car’s various electronic traction and stability aids are smart enough to kick in early if they detect wheelspin.
For many, though, this particular Evoque will live almost exclusively in the real world, one full of poorly surfaced roads and congested city streets. And in this environment the car excels, boasting a supple ride and very little body roll despite its SUV dimensions. The car’s electric power steering – another fuel saving technology – offers a good blend of accuracy and assistance at all speeds. On a similar note the engine’s stop-start feature also works well, shutting down and firing up the motor with the minimum of fuss.
If you need an Evoque that will take you (almost) anywhere the all-wheel drive version will surprise you with its abilities. For many who have no such requirements but still want to be part of what has become an increasingly attractive brand, the two-wheel drive car will not disappoint.
Crucially there’s no hint of a compromise when it comes to the ownership experience. From its rakish looks to the wealth of standard and optional equipment – especially the stunning panoramic glass roof – it’s hard to find fault. And when you factor in the fuel, emissions and potential tax savings, you realise that beyond the badge there’s real depth to this particular Evoque’s abilities.
In summary, the Range Rover reputation stays intact despite the car’s lack of genuine, go-anywhere ability. As the brand moves towards satisfying both traditional and new customers, with the latter possessing a markedly different set of expectations and requirements, the company has taken care not to sacrifice its core values.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Range Rover Evoque 2.2 eD4 Prestige Coupe, from £36,625 on the road.
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel unit developing 148bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 112mph, 0-62mph 11.2 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 129g/km.