What is it?
It's the Evoque, the baby SUV that first brought a dose of fashion and style into the previously rather serious-looking Land Rover and Range Rover line-ups. And it's the reason all the models since look as good as they do. But, being a Range Rover, it's not just about the style; it has to be properly luxurious and capable off road too. The style was given a shot in the arm with a facelift last year, but this 2017 update changes one big item under the skin – the motor. Gone is the aged 2.2-litre, four-cylinder motor and in its place is the new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor from JLR's modular 'Ingenium' family; the same one that made its debut on the Jaguar XF last year. It also now brings a fuel-saving engine stop-start system to the Evoque.
There's a new SE Dynamic variant too, which gives you mid-level equipment with the sportier body kit that was thus far the preserve of the top-spec HSE trim. The one we are testing is the less-sporty but fully-luxurious standard HSE trim. And gizmo geeks will be happy to know the Evoque has finally been upgraded to Jaguar's latest InControl Touch Pro infotainment interface. It's done away with the physical shortcut buttons on the sides of the screen, and that space has been used to stretch the screen area to a full 10 inches. The interface itself, too, is much slicker to operate, with the smoothness and responsiveness we've come to expect from modern-day tablets and smartphones. The system includes navigation, native connectivity apps and a very clever menu system, but doesn't feature smartphone integration like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
Other than that, it's the same sumptuous interior as before, and one befitting the Range Rover badge. There's obviously far less room in here than the similarly priced Land Rover Discovery Sport, but you can tell instantly that your money is being spent on higher-quality materials and far plusher seats. And of course, those looks.
What's it like to drive?
We've sampled this new 1,999cc motor in the Jaguar XF and F-Pace, but this is the first time we have a point of direct comparison to the old motor, as the Evoque was previously available with the old 2.2 and the same nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox. The new Ingenium 2.0 motor makes 180hp and 430Nm; the old 2.2 made only slightly more power at 190hp, and exactly the same amount of torque. The new engine promises to be far more efficient (we'll tell you more about that once we get a chance to do a full road test) and it's a lot lighter thanks to an all-aluminium construction.
The first impression is a good one. The new motor comes to life with the slightest rumble and then disappears away into near silence, only to be heard again somewhere in the mid range. But then the sound it makes is just a slight buzz, rather than the clattery din you get from BMW's 2.0-litre diesel, for example. All in all, it feels far more refined than the old engine. The power delivery feels a bit different too. Most of the punch is focussed at the lower end of the powerband, and it gives up some of that top-end kick that you used to get from the old 2.2. So this could translate to slower acceleration times overall, but in practise, it's great at getting you off the line with gusto, which is what you will love in urban conditions. And though there isn't as much of a top end, it's still great at cruising in a high gear with minimal effort.
Sadly, the nine-speed gearbox's foibles return too, being a little bit clunky at low speeds, sometimes shifting just a second too late and interrupting progress with a small jerk. Still, if you maintain a smooth rhythm, it feels a lot better and is quite effective when you're pushing hard too. The Evoque isn't a sporty car to drive, but for something so small, it does give you a commendable rock-solid feeling of security, especially at high speeds. The steering could have been a tad lighter at low speeds, but it's hardly problem enough to complain about, and once again, this gives you a great sense of confidence.
Should I buy one?
As ever, it seems there will always be takers for the Evoque. Even in India where SUVs are often measured by their size-to-price ratio, the pricey baby Range Rover has always found customers, simply because it's just so stylish. That, of course, hasn't changed one bit, and as before, it really feels as luxurious as the full-size Range Rovers on the inside. The new touchscreen system adds a more modern edge to the cabin, fixing perhaps the only real niggle we had with the previous car's interior. As for the new motor, it's bound to show its merits in performance and fuel economy, and it definitely feels a touch smoother and more refined. And of course, in case the government does put restrictions on sub-2,000cc diesel engines again, JLR is now prepared. We wish the gearbox was given a bit more finesse, but it's a small dent in an otherwise superb and oh-so-chic package.