The future of Land Rover is looking quite a bit different from its present, and especially its past. The days of the rough-and-tumble, soon-to-be-retired Defender are so far behind the company that the 2012 Range Rover Evoque, a luxurious yet economical front-wheel-drive (in base form) crossover doesn't seem out of place at all. In fact, it seems like a great idea. MotorAuthority rates it an 8 out of 10 for its punchy turbo four-cylinder engine, eye-catching style, and high-quality interior.
That punchy four-cylinder turbo engine is a close relative to Ford's EcoBoost unit, rated at 240 horsepower from its 2.0-liter displacement. That might not sound like much next to the 510-horsepower supercharged beasts elsewhere in the Range Rover lineup, but it's enough to give the much smaller Evoque some pep: it takes just seven seconds to 60 mph. There is a bit of turbo lag, but has plenty of go for the trials of daily life on the freeway. A six-speed automatic transmission controls the shifts, itself controlled by a pop-up knob in the center console much like corporate cousins at Jaguar. The Sport mode boosts the fun factor, while the paddle shifters on the steering wheel further engage the driver in the action.
Driving the Evoque is, unsurprisingly perhaps, rather carlike. Electric power steering makes light work of directing the Evoque, while the independent suspension handles the road with aplomb. If you opt for the Dynamic trim, you'll replace the standard strut/spring suspension with a magnetic-ride damper setup that adjusts ride to suit the road.
But does it do what every Land Rover must? Can it really, seriously, go off-road? The company insists it will, and our reviewers find it to be very capable. It is certainly small, but it still has slightly more ground clearance than the Land Rover LR2, while the advanced Haldex all-wheel-drive system's electronic controls for Snow, Mud & Ruts, or Sand make short work of even very slippery surfaces. Short front and rear overhangs mean approach angles are very good, but at the end of the day, though it's very capable off road, it's not the luxury-liner-crossed-with-a-mountain-goat that a "true" Range Rover is.
The look of the Evoque is very much Range Rover in overall effect, though the details are largely unique to this smaller variant. The converging lines of the roof and the doors make the Evoque look like its moving even when its not, and the rather busy front-end is aggressive, giving the Evoque some bite in spite of its size.
Inside, the story is even better: high-quality wood and metallic trim, supple leathers, and styling to mimic the full-size Range Rovers are the highlights. A range of "themes" offer tiered upgrades to more and more equipment, but even the base Evoque comes standard with a 380-watt audio system, USB input, automatic headlights and climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera. Upgrades available include a hard-drive navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment, surround-view camera, and a panoramic glass roof.
For the full details on the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, visit the review at TheCarConnection.