2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque first drive review

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“A four-cylinder? It's fuel-efficient? How much power? Nice!”

That's the sort of reaction we found from several middle-age suburbanites who momentarily interrupted their community-center fitness group to ask us some questions about the new 2012 Range Rover Evoque—all the while, gushing about the design. And it's a scenario that repeated at least another couple of times on our way from Vancouver earlier this week to take some rugged trails up near Whistler, British Columbia.

And it underscores a key point regarding the stylish new Land Rover Evoque: Increasingly, shoppers liked what they saw in Range Rover models, but they wanted a more manageable vehicle with better gas mileage.

While at first the idea of a better-handling, more smartly sized model for the city might seem like a stretch for Land Rover, it all makes perfect sense as soon as you see it up close and sit inside. The Range Rover Evoque is poised to broaden Land Rover’s appeal more than any other product in the brand’s history.

Warm, colorful, engaging

The coupe-like styling of the Evoque is right on the mark in every respect; and inside, it's sporty, warm, and inviting, with interior materials that manage to feel anything but cold and Teutonic. The soft padded dash, earthy (Prestige models) or colorful (Dynamic models), and contrasting trims—plus the laid-back, cockpit-style layout, set low, all add up to a look and feel that's more luxury coupe than off-roader. In all, Land Rover boasts a total of 12 designer interiors, 12 colors, three contrasting roof colors, and five alloy wheel designs.

On the road, we were able to confirm many of the observations made by our editorial director Marty Padgett in his first drive of the Evoque this past summer: The 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has impressive torque down low, but there can sometimes be a slight delay for power to be delivered (turbo lag) when you ask for some serious oomph. The vast majority of the time, the excellent six-speed automatic transmission deals with that well, with nice, prompt downshifts (and even a throttle blip in Sport mode), plus steering-wheel paddle-shifters. Likewise, body control is superb for a vehicle that does claim some level of off-road ability, with a nice, level cornering attitude and a more carlike feel in general—plus precise, quick-ratio electric power steering that loads and unloads nicely.

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