What is it?
The Range Rover Evoque may draw attention wherever it goes, but recently it’s been in the news for a different, albeit welcome reason. Land Rover (read: Tata) has just started assembling the Evoque in India and that has brought down the price of the five-door version of the SUV by around Rs 6.2 - 8.8 lakh depending the variant you opt for. To add further value, Land Rover has made a few former cost options now part of standard equipment. Satellite navigation and parking sensors have become standard across the range while the top Evoque Prestige sees the inclusion of rear entertainment screens and surround camera. Priced between Rs 48.73 - Rs 56.21 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the Evoque is still not the cheapest of luxury SUVs in this size, but the price is a lot more digestible now. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is not a very large SUV. Still, the Evoque’s cabin is more spacious than you’d expect and it’s beautifully appointed as well. There’s a feel of richness to everything in sight and the seats are comfortable too. If there’s something to complain about, it’s that the small-ish windows don’t offer that typical Range Rover-commanding view out. Oh, we also wish Range Rover had updated the infotainment system since it looks a touch outdated in today’s world of far higher-res systems.
As before, the Evoque comes powered by a transversally placed 188bhp, 2.2-litre diesel engine. However, since last year, Evoque’s has featured a ZF nine-speed automatic gearbox in place of the earlier six-speeder. The move to a nine-speed gearbox was prompted by the quest for lower emissions and better efficiency — both being factors which have a bearing on rate of tax in a few countries elsewhere in the world.
What is it like to drive?
Around the bends, in the rough stuff and out on the highway, the nine-speed Evoque feels just as the older Evoque did. That is to say it is tight in body movements, as capable as any range Rover should be (helped by the Terrain Response system that primes the engine, gearbox, brakes and four-wheel drive system for different scenarios) and refined and long legged for extended-distance touring. Ride quality in general is good too with the tyres and suspension ably soaking up most of what our roads throw at them.
However, the in-town driving experience could be better. The gearbox is programmed to upshift as you lift off the throttle. Because of this, in slow-moving traffic the gearbox never settles on a ratio for long. As a result of the constant shuffling between the gears, power delivery is not particularly smooth.
At lower speeds, gearshifts aren’t as imperceptible as ZF’s own eight-speed unit. The way to work around this is to operate the paddles in manual mode or have the gearbox run in S, which limits unnecessary upshifts. However, once on the move at faster speeds, the gearbox gets into its rhythm. Drive with a light enough foot and the electronics will have the gearbox shift to ninth at about 95kph. Press down and the gearbox will go down as many as five ratios, with no delay to get the car into the heart of the engine’s powerband. The engine delivers power in a nice, linear manner and manages to sound quite refined even at its redline. Still, don’t expect the nine-speed Evoque to outdo the older one by a great margin — performance figures are pretty similar.
Should I buy one?
The Evoque, when compared to the other luxury SUVs, is a model you’d love to be seen in. It’s simply got a glamour quotient few other SUVs can match. But there’s so much more to it than just its dramatic shape. It delivers the full Range Rover experience complete with the luxurious cabin, good all-round comfort and proven off-road ability. That it now costs less than before has just made it all the more tempting. As is, the sexy Evoque remains the SUV of choice for the style conscious — the slightly indecisive gearbox notwithstanding.