Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 17, 2019
We’ve always had a bone to pick with the outgoing Evoque. As much of a fashion icon as it was, everything felt a class below its competitors, and the interior screamed Ford due to its past history with the blue oval. Even the engine was sourced from them. The steering wheel buttons were loose and plasticky, the gearbox was lethargic, and rich leather was scarcer than water at an aquarium. At least the coupe and convertible variants of the Evoque were quirky and daring.
But how far it has come. Eight years since its initial debut, the new second-generation 2020 Evoque appears to finally be worthy of its storied nameplate, and receives a much-needed interior overhaul with swaths of leather and the latest tech. The powertrain has been revised with more horsepower and a mild hybrid battery system, and its stunning sheetmetal continues on with slight cosmetic tweaks. Not that the outgoing Evoque did not belong on a catwalk - it was beautiful in its own right and Land Rover did not want to ruin a winning formula.
As such, you will need to squint to notice the visual differences. Slimmer LED headlights grace the familiar front end, with deployable door handles on each side that sit flush with the body panels when locked or driving at speed. Its chiseled and muscular haunches are further accentuated by the rising beltline, tapered side windows, laughably short overhangs, and oversized 20-inch wheels. Currently available only in a four-door spec, we haven’t heard details of a coupe or convertible but judging by how little they sold of the latter two and JLR’s slumping profits, we wouldn’t have our hopes up.
In the same way that the new Mazda3 interior surprised us with newfound luxury, the redesigned Evoque cabin has us gobsmacked and is a far cry from what preceded it. If you’ve seen the innards of a Velar, you will notice that most of it has carried over into the Evoque, including the beautifully crafted steering wheel with capacitive trackpads and a full leather stitch on the center cap where most other automakers resort to grainy plastic. There’s even a metallic bezel that wraps around the circumference of the wheel that would not look out of place in a Bentley. While cheap and flimsy materials used to be abundant, they’ve all been exiled in place for top-shelf materials.
The fluently integrated 10.0-inch dual screen layout takes the spotlight, and they do not get washed out by heavy sunshine thanks to its high brightness settings and the top screen’s adjustable tilt angle. The displays are responsive and intuitive with easily locatable buttons and a dedicated volume knob. The digital instrument cluster can be customized and has the ability to display a fullscreen map like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, an ocular treat that BMW could learn a thing or two from. Further, there is a new blind spot sensor on each door panel that lights up when there is a car passing by, notifying occupants to be careful opening their door - I haven’t seen any other automakers doing this. Gone is the rising party-trick rotary dial and in its place is a more conventional gear shifter that sits smack dab in the middle of the center console. While appearing clutter-free and simplistic, it takes up too much precious real estate that could have otherwise been used for more small item storage. Instead, you’re left with just two different sized cupholders and a sizable split center armrest.
That said, most of the high traffic areas in the top-spec Evoques are padded with some of the softest cherry red leather that I have ever felt. That quality leather extends to the seats and the bottom of the door panel as well. The dashboard and top of the door sill are still wrapped in that grainy recyclable-feeling foam material, the same kind we’ve seen in the outgoing Evoque, yet it doesn't take away from the overall upscale vibe. That said, you can spend $1,500 and replace said material with leather. The top of the door sill is now flat as well, so you can comfortably rest your arms out the window in typical Range Rover-style - a good alternative as there are no grab handles to be found.
The optional 16-way seats with heated and massage function are supportive and though I normally have a hard time finding a nice seating position with subcompact SUVs, the Evoque and its upright arrangement did not prove to be an issue. The steering wheel happily telescopes far back towards the driver, good for taller folks, and though the sizable A-pillar obstructs a bit of the side view, the phalanx of 360-degree and rear view cameras remedies any of your parking concerns. I do find it odd how you can’t activate the 360-degree camera in Reverse gear, and only when in Park or Drive. There were times when the rear view camera display did not automatically show up either when engaging Reverse, only utilizing the audible sensors instead.
The Evoque is about the same urban-friendly size as the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA. Despite the 2020 model bringing a slightly longer wheelbase and 20 mm extension to rear knee room, accomodations back there are cramped. My six-foot figure can find a slim amount of comfort with a surprising amount of headroom, and the recessed inserts on the front seatbacks do allow your knees to stretch forward. According to Land Rover, buyers thought the compact size of the Evoque was perfect and did not want to see it swell up, hence the decision to keep it the same size. On a further note, luggage space has slightly increased by 10% to 591 litres, and 1,383 litres with the rear seats folded down, about par with the BMW X2.
The Range Rover brand is synonymous with off-roading prowess but the Evoque is very much a city car, and it behaves as such. The 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four returns in two configurations. The P250 state of tune produces 246 hp and 269 lb-ft. The P300 models use the same engine but it’s mated to a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system that recuperates lost energy during deceleration to charge the battery located underneath the floor. And much like Audis that use a similar setup, that electrical power is used to assist in acceleration and shutting off the engine when coasting under 17 km/h to reduce fuel consumption. Of note, the hybrid system does not increase overall power output and in all, the P300 delivers 296 hp (9 hp more than before) and 295 lb-ft of torque through a 9-speed transmission and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds. While all-wheel drive is standard, the Evoque gains the ability to disconnect the rear wheels under light power loads to further increase fuel efficiency.
While impressive on paper, the start/stop system throws a wrench at the continuity of the hybrid-assisted powertrain. The Evoque is not harsh at idle or when coming to a full stop - the battery ensures a smooth transition in that regard. Rather, it’s when the start/stop system disengages and you start creeping forward that the car momentarily jerks forward and can’t seem to pass the baton in a polished and gentle fashion. Turning off the start/stop system does remedy this concern but defeats the battery’s intended purpose of saving fuel.
On a positive note, power is aplenty and each of the 300 horses gallop friction-free to the limiter. The provided thrust disguises the Evoque’s substantial weight exceptionally well and rarely does it feel porky or ungainly. There’s some roll when taking a hot corner but the Evoque generally sorts itself out with composure. I don’t think it needs more power. Rather, more polish. Oh, what I would do for a diesel. The steering is measured and sensitive to inputs, maybe even too reactive, but it subsequently requires only minimal effort from the driver to rotate and park. The ride is on the firm side probably due to the large 20-inch wheels and passive dampers (adaptive dampers are optional). Still, it’s a confident concrete jungle cruiser with enough road manners to be competitive. If you value comfort above all else however, I’d be looking at the BMW X2 instead.
One fight I need to pick with the Evoque is in pricing. Low- and mid-spec Evoques are reasonable and easily justifiable by its storied badge and chic appeal but the moment you start adding the slew of seductive options, the Evoque creeps into big-ticket waters. The base model starts at $47,950, which is more expensive than the BMW X2 xDrive28i ($42,500), Audi Q3 ($38,900), and Volvo XC40 ($39,750). Our near-fully loaded Evoque HSE R-Dynamic rings up just over $70,000 - that’s mid-level Velar territory - and while its compact size forces us to compare it with the X2 and GLA, the price is more in line with larger and more spacious SUVs like the X3 ($49,450) and GLC ($47,300). The notoriously costly Porsche Macan also falls prey to this sort of price-tag edema. That puts us into a bit of a conundrum to assert if the Evoque is worth that extra premium despite its smaller footprint. Then again, the outgoing Evoque followed the same pricing structure and that didn’t stop 800,000 of them from finding a new home.
What the Evoque does have going for it is drop dead gorgeous styling, a go-anywhere attitude, and a sensual interior that makes a statement with sumptuous leather and hand-me-downs from its up-market brethren. If you aren’t bothered by its slightly unpolished powertrain, compact proportions, or potentially eye-watering price tag, then you won’t be disappointed by Range Rover’s smallest urban SUV. The Evoque finally has the key ingredients to back up its first-rate credentials, and is a baby Velar through and through. Seeing how the latter was one of our favourite SUVs from last year, I think that’s as good of a compliment as it gets.
Model: 2020 Range Rover Evoque HSE R-Dynamic P300 AWD
Paint Type: Firenze Red
Base Price: $61,500
Price as Tested: $71,200
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,371 / 1,996 / 1,649
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 48-volt mild hybrid battery system
Horsepower: 296 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.8