It’s a bit of a cliche, but there’s no denying that if you can design a car with just three strokes of the pencil, it can’t help but look good. The Range Rover Evoque Coupe is just such a thing.
As with many niche vehicles released by makers with a brand history as affectionately regarded as Range Rover’s, the car dropped to howls of mud-covered, lamb-chop wearing aficionados moaning about the Toorak Tractor association that Victoria Beckham brought, the selling-out to the SUV fad and the fact that it wasn’t a new Defender. They stomped off with their dogs and shotguns and we haven’t heard from them since.
The three-door must have really got them going – stylish to the point of pretty with a nod to the original Land Rover 90, it must be confusing and surprising for the old guard.
Range Rover were not mucking about when they busted open the spreadsheets from head office for this one. The Evoque Coupe kicks off at $51,495 for the base diesel, but the Dynamic petrol all-wheel drive coupe we drove is a fiver off being $20,000 more.
Luckily, when they punched that number in, there was a fair amount of gear that came with it. They started with the 11-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloys, funky interior lighting, cargo tie downs and cover, keyless entry and start, electric and heated front seats, leather trim, factory tinted windows, LED fog lamps, auto bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers, power just-about-everything and cruise control.
Added to the Dynamic spec was a hard drive nav system with audio server ($3480), Adaptive Dynamics ($1850), gigantic panoramic glass sunroof ($1800), contrasting roof colour ($920), powered tailgate ($850), front parking sensors ($620), rear view camera ($690 – and mandatory in our opinion) and privacy glass ($600)
The three strokes that made the three door have delivered what used to be known as a “a very strong graphic.” The profile is unmistakeable, and for Douglas Adams fans, looks a lot like the Starship Heart of Gold.
There isn’t a bad angle on three-door. The five door’s narrowing glasshouse looks a bit squished as it heads towards the tailgate but the three door’s truncated rear doesn’t look like it might trap your hand if you ran your fingers along the glass.
Front on, it’s got a tall grille with a pair of headlights that look terrific at night, with three lines of LED light to make the Evoque instantly recognisable. The rear is also unmistakably Evoque, with big, chromed exhaust exits that are fake, but it doesn’t matter. It just works.
Inside there’s plenty of room for front seat passengers, with easy access from the wide-opening doors. Once inside it’s easy to get comfortable with plenty of adjustment for the wheel and seats. The gigantic optional panoramic sunroof floods the cabin with light, so remember the sunscreen.
The view out front is brilliant – and obviously deliberate – making you feel quite a bit higher than you really are, with low side windows to help you place the car.
Rear passengers sit on seats that are slightly thinly padded with seemingly random bolsters. It seemed comfortable enough for short trips but got wearing for the teenage occupant after a couple of hours.
The boot is a good size at 550 litres, with 1350 litres with the seats down.
Seven airbags including knee airbag for the driver, ABS with brake assist and brake force distribution, stability and tractional control, corner braking control, rollover stability and trailer sway control.
The Evoque scored four ANCAP stars.
Perhaps the only opportunity to mark down the Evoque is the infotainment system. It’s adequate rather than appealing, but is rather better than other examples in the Jaguar-Land Rover family.
The 11-speaker stereo delivers crisp, clear sound is easy to use when you’ve got the Land Rover app on your phone, making music selection a lot easier than the standard interface. The screen is a bit slow on the uptake but once you’ve found what you want, you’ll appreciate the quality of the sound.
The sat-nav is a bit of a dunce, insisting you select the state you’re searching which is kind of irritating and makes it feel old and decrepit.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The 2.0-litre turbo four under the bonnet is part of JLR’s ongoing technology relationship with Ford. Called an EcoBoost everywhere else, this is a fine unit that has been installed impeccably.
Mated with ZF’s hardly believable nine-speed automatic, the Evoque – which is no lightweight at 1850 kg – will get you to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds and use a claimed 7.8 litres per 100 km, which it sadly missed by quite a margin in our hands.
Despite its obvious heft, the stubby Coupe is a ball of fun. You don’t even need to switch into Sport and Dynamic modes, the car responds with good power and torque and a well-judged throttle mapping.
It turns in with surprising keenness and can be hustled to good effect. The weight will get to you the more ambitious you get, but the all-wheel drive system’s is as good on road as it is off.
The ride is predictably firm around town but won’t crunch any vertebrae. What keeps coming home to you is that it’s such an easy car to drive around town and its easy on you, too – it isn’t difficult to place despite its size and responds to your inputs just right.
City fuel usage is quite heavy, despite the valiant efforts of a nine-speed transmission and the stop-start functionality. Once you’re in the cruise, however, the consumption dives dramatically to the low 5s, underscoring the quality of both engine and transmission.
The other thing you’ll notice in the cruise is what a tremendously comfortable car this is for front seat passengers. The rear seats in the three door will seat children, but the padding is a little thin and the leather a bit slippery. Up front, the hushed engine and road noise (there’s a bit of wind noise around the enormous mirrors), the comfortable seats and the fantastic positioning of the seats means an uncommonly comfortable experience.
After long drives, you’ll leap out without any aches and pains, no assaulted eardrums and if you’re built a particular way, constantly pleased at the admiring glances your Evoque gets.
SUMMING UP 4.0/5
The Evoque Coupe is unusual sort of car – it shouldn’t be particularly practical, but it is. It doesn’t look like it’s worthy of the mud-plugging Range Rover name, but it is. A vapid celebrity persona was involved in its design but it’s genuinely cool.
The Evoque is a surprising car for a lot of reasons. The best reason is that it’s a terrific car.
LIKES: Great drivetrain, huge (optional) roof, knockout looks
DISLIKES: Stiff pricing, Beckham association, rear view camera not standard.