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2012 Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover takes to the streets for some high-fashion fun

By Malcolm Gunn

2012 Range Rover EvoqueSleek" and "sporty" are terms that don't usually describe any Land Rover product, but the upcoming Range Rover Evoque constitutes a major change of course for Britain's storied off-road brand.

Its lack of formality and boxy practicality runs counter to a marque that cut its teeth tearing through the jungles of Botswana and Borneo, roaming the plains of the Serengeti and traversing the blistering Sahara sands.

But that's exactly the point. Many of Land Rover's steeds spend their lives in urban settings and are rarely, if ever, tested anywhere near the limits of their considerable endurance. Although the Evoque arrives this fall in multi-terrain-capable condition, high style at a good price is where this Range Rover really shines.

The Evoque appears more like a sport wagon derivative of a compact passenger car, especially in two-door livery. It's slightly shorter than a Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, or Jeep Patriot and about 45 centimetres shorter than a Range Rover Sport. As well, with its steeply raked windshield and tapered roofline, it can also lay claim to being one of the slinkiest, wind-cheating-est rigs around.

2012 Range Rover EvoqueWhen ogling the attractive two- and four-door body styles, it's difficult to believe that the Evoque is the real deal when tackling the kind of off-road terrain that made its iconic ancestors so desirable. With its short front and rear overhang and ample ground clearance, the odds of becoming hung up on uneven terrain or stuck in some muddy bog would seem remote.

The sprightly Evoque can easily handle those challenges, but with more youthful exuberance than its stable mates and, Land Rover promises, with significantly better fuel economy.

The fuel-economy issue is crucial since all other Land Rover/Range Rover models are inherently thirsty beasts. For example, the best that either the V8-powered Range Rover or its Range Rover Sport relation can muster is 17.3 l/100 km in the city and 11.2 on the highway. Although the Evoque's actual numbers have yet to be published, its 240-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, sourced from Ford, will be a relative gas miser. The powerplant operates through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Land Rover claims that the Evoque will accelerate to 100  km-h from zero in 7.6 seconds, no doubt aided by some significant weight-reducing measures that include the use of plastic front fenders and rear liftgate, aluminum hood and roof panels plus various suspension components.

Traction is supplied by a full-time all-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled centre differential that varies torque between the front and rear wheels depending on where the grip is greatest.

2012 Range Rover EvoqueThe Evoque's underpinnings can be supplemented with an adjustable Adaptive Dynamics option that offers either a soft or firm (sporty) ride. The system's unique shock absorbers sample the suspension "at least 1,000 times per second," which, for all intents and purposes, means instant adjustment.

That feature should literally sit well with drivers who now actually do sit within the Evoque instead of being perched high atop the seats as they would in other Range Rovers. Upon entering the vehicle, a large rotary gearshift knob (an item borrowed from Land Rover's Jaguar relation) rises from the floor console. It replaces the traditional shifter.

How you dress the interior and some exterior features will depend on the trim level selected. The base Pure contains all of the basic entry-luxury goodies plus an eight-inch touch-screen display module for operating a variety of standard or optional temperature, audio, hands-free telephone and navigation systems. The Prestige adds a leather-covered interior its own distinctive 19-, or optional 20-inch wheels, while the "Dynamic" model features its own unique 20-inch wheels plus unique bumpers, grille and perforated-leather seats.

Among the wide range of extra-cost items is a surround camera system (with five cameras), a power liftgate and a heated windshield.

With a starting price in the $50,000 range, the Evoque should provoke fresh patrons to consider a Range Rover to carry them down a decidedly different path.

What you should know: 2012 Range Rover Evoque

Type: Two- /four-door all-wheel-drive compact sport utility vehicle

Engine (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4, turbocharged (240)

Transmissions: Six-speed automatic

Market position: Land Rover enters a whole new automotive category by building a stylish vehicle that's equally at home in an urban jungle environment as it is trekking into untamed wilderness. It's the smart choice here.

Points: Groundbreaking design places form ahead of function; New turbo four-cylinder should address fuel economy concerns, but it's outgunned by competitors; A shame that turbo-diesel models sold elsewhere are not available here; Evoque will become Land Rover's top-seller; Practical size makes for a more socially responsible Land Rover model.

Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

L/100 km (city/hwy): 11.5/8.5 (est.)

Base price (incl. destination): $50,000 (est.)

By comparison

Acura ZDX
Base price: $56,900
Four-door hatchback with unique coupe-like styling and hot V6.

Lincoln MKX AWD
Base price: $48,150
Updated design for 2011 is elegant and distinctive. Standard 305-hp V6.

Audi Q5
Base price: $43,000
Sporty, sophisticated wagon is arguably the best looking in its class.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted May 25, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM


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