August 26, 2014 | Photos: Jan Glovac.
Vehicle Style: Five-door small SUV
Price: $57,895 (plus on-roads), $66,935 (as tested, plus on-roads)
Engine/Trans: 110kW/400Nm 4cyl diesel | 9spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.0 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
Land Rover’s smallest luxury car recently came in for a mid-term update. This saw the beautiful Range Rover Evoque get some tweaks to the infotainment system and also heralded the addition of an optional nine-speed automatic.
Yes, you read that right - nine speeds. Can that many gears really be necessary, or useful? Quite apart from ratio-count bragging rights, Land Rover thinks so.
The rationale is fairly straightforward: more ratios means less time spent at higher revs, thereby saving fuel.
Couple that with stop-start technology and fuel use is listed at an ADR-tested 6.0 l/100km on the combined cycle. Even city-only driving is rated at 7.2 l/100km.
Of course, the ADR fuel test program is one thing, but what about in the real world? Traffic, roadworks, diversions - they all increase fuel use; something the average driver can attest to.
So how did the nine-speed Evoque fare in the daily grind? And are the extra three forward gears worth the extra $2480? We topped up the tank and got out the abacus to bring you the result.
Quality: The Evoque’s interior hasn’t changed much since its release, but that doesn’t mean it looks dated.
While the almond-coloured interior isn’t our first choice (black is a whole lot more practical), the fitment and feel of interior surfaces is very good.
There are the obligatory brushed-metal surfaces which add an air of luxury, and while the smart angled centre console takes up a lot of room, the cabin is open and spacious.
The plastics have a nice matte texture, with an almost metallic finish, and the buttons are big and clear. The rising gear selector (a rotary dial) hasn’t dated either.
Comfort: The front seats are where most people will spend their time, and the Evoque doesn’t disappoint.
Sure, the seats are manually adjusted (move a rung further up in the range and electric seats are included) but there’s nothing wrong with either the support or long-distance comfort.
There's a distinctly sporting influence to their design; the larger hip and squab bolsters show their intent.
Leg-room in the rear isn’t especially generous - those with longer legs may feel a little cramped - but there's enough room there, if a little snug, for passengers of average size.
The seat comfort in the back though is good; slightly firm, but the seats won't leave you with numb-bum syndrome.
Fitting three abreast can be done, but it’s not ideal; the centre console protruding rearward combines with a driveshaft tunnel to eliminate the middle seat’s feet space.
The outboard seats, however, have a good amount of space under the front seats to rest your shoes.
A debit, and arguably a serious one, is visibility from the driver's seat. The overly-large wing mirrors are right in the line of sight when approaching roundabouts.
Also, if making a right-hand turn into a street with an island, there's a bit of guesswork trying to judge where the end of the island is... because there's a mirror slap-bang in the way.
If the mirrors were mounted further forward, or were simply slimmer, it would likely solve that issue. It really should be addressed.
It has push-button start, touch-capacitive interior lights, climate control with air filtration, rear air-vents, hill-start assist and parking sensors.
A reversing camera is unfortunately optional, at $670.
The centre screen is an eight-inch touchscreen with auxiliary and USB inputs linked to an 11-speaker, Meridian sound system. MP3, CD, DVD, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming - it’s all included.
Also featured in the infotainment is an economy-mode section which lists your average fuel consumption, your best and your worst.
Judging by the amount of green bars lit up, you can see if improvements to your driving style decrease fuel use, and how heavy your foot on the throttle.
Storage: The Evoque’s storage is 'middle of the road', with the standard two cupholders under a bread-bin sliding cover. Two more reside in the centre armrest of the rear seat.
The door pockets are slim but reasonably deep, there’s a tiny space under the centre console up front, and the glovebox is very low, but of an average size.
The usual map-pockets behind each front seat are netted, rather than solid (meaning lolly wrappers won't disappear for years).
The boot is quite good, being 575 litres with the rear seats up, and there’s a 12V power outlet there too. The luggage cover is connected to the boot, raising when opened.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Starting the Evoque is the same as any other Range Rover; press the start button and it kicks into life. The gear selector then rises, you dial up Reverse or Drive and the park brake disengages automatically.
The 2014 model doesn’t drive much different at all to previous models (save the automatic, which we’ll get to) - the steering is still light but very accurate, the roadholding is the same and the ride is firm but very nicely controlled.
Under the bonnet of our test car was the 2.0-litre TD4 turbo-diesel.
While power output is a somewhat modest 110kW, it more than makes up for it with a very thick band of torque, 400Nm in fact. It comes on strong from around 1800rpm and only runs out of puff just before the redline.
Land Rover claims a 0-100kmh sprint of 9.6 seconds, and that feels about right. Under hard acceleration the grip is strong and there’s no real hint of torque steer. So that’s the good news.
The bad news? The song and dance about the nine-speed auto is a bit premature. In theory, the more ratios the better. In practice, however, the story is very different.
For starters, the ZF nine-speed auto is not the last word on refinement. It’s occasionally clunky when shifting (unlike ZF’s sublime eight-speed auto) and the mapping of the change-points is, we think, a bit patchy.
It will occasionally upshift too quickly in medium throttle applications (when you might be looking for a bit of urge), and, at other times, it will hang onto gears too long, not upshifting when needed.
The fix is to rely on the paddles and take manual control, but that won't suit everyone.
While it's just a mapping issue, in comparison to the six-speed standard ‘box the nine-speed isn’t worth the extra spend.
So what about fuel economy? We put it to the test using two different driving modes, splitting the week between manual and then full-auto mode.
While avoiding heavy throttle use (in both applications), we used the paddles exclusively for the first part of the week, then left the drivetrain in full-auto for the latter part.
Interestingly, despite the sometimes dim-witted gear choices, fuel economy was best when left in full auto. But a week of city-only driving netted 8.2-litres/100km, not bad, but a full litre more than the ADR test.
Still, on the 57-litre tank, that’ll get you a range of almost 700km. Head into the country and you’ll get a lot more.
Ride and Handling: The smaller wheels fitted to the Pure model on test (17-inch) still give a firm ride, but the sidewall flex is pliable enough to iron out the sharper jolts from rough tarmac.
Body control is excellent and while it’s not as sharp as the Dynamic models, the handling is beautifully balanced and poised.
The steering is a highlight: though electric, it combines light weight with natural feel, and at speed its weight is perfect.
Refinement: While the Evoque’s interior is solid and there’s only a little wind noise from the large mirrors at high speed, its cabin’s quietness is only let down by the stop-start system.
It’s very noticeable when shutting down and starting up, sending a shudder through the interior.
No doubt the petrol would be better, but again, this is enough reason to not pay extra for the nine-speed, which comes bundled with the stop-start function.
Braking: Unusually, the Evoque’s rear discs are larger in diameter (302mm) than the front discs (300mm), though the rears are solid compared with ventilated fronts.
No complaints about the feel and with how quickly the Evoque can repeatedly wash off speed.
ANCAP rating: ANCAP hasn’t tested the Evoque, though it received 5-Stars in EuroNCAP testing.
Standard safety equipment is extensive: traction control, front airbags for driver and passenger, a knee airbag, side curtain airbags for driver, front passenger and second row, hazard warning lights under heavy braking, height adjustable seat belts and an electric park brake.
Also included is emergency brake assist (EBA), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), trailer stability assist (TSA), ABS and roll stability control (RSC).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Service costs will vary between dealers and states, but intervals are set at 26,000km for the diesel Evoques. Contact your local dealer for pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW X3 xDrive20d ($64,400) - Like the Range Rover, options are the killer here. But its eight-speed auto is infinitely more agreeable and its stop-start system much more refined.
If you can live with its slightly awkward looks, it’s a brilliant steer. (see X3 reviews)
Volvo XC60 AWD D5 Luxury ($69,900) - The left-field choice, the XC60 is nice to drive and the interior is beautifully built.
The diesel isn’t the smoothest however - the XC60 is in best form in petrol. The built-in kiddy boosters are a real boon however. (see XC60 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The LRX Concept was shown for the first time in 2008, and it’s a rare thing for concept cars to come to the road virtually untouched.
But the Evoque proves it can be done, and this styling still looks a million bucks.
To drive, the Evoque is certainly a lovely car - its interior and road manners are very good, especially in standard form.
But paying several thousand extra for the 'higher-specced' mechanical package should give you noticeable benefits. Alas, that doesn’t appear to be the case here.
The nine-speed auto is simply too flawed to be of benefit, and the clunky stop-start becomes a bit of an annoyance.
We have no hesitation recommending the SD4 diesel with the six-speed auto however, so if you’re in the market for a diesel Evoque, stick with the standard fare and you’ll fare very well.