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2014 Range Rover Evoque First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 11, 2015
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Given the ’14 Range Rover Sport handily won our 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year award, it seems a natural that we’d put Land Rover’s ’14 Range Rover Evoque through its paces. After all, if we loved the big one, we’d love the little one, right? Well, sort of. On paper and in person, the ’14 Range Rover Evoque has a lot going for it, including crisp exterior styling, luxury interior appointments, an all-wheel-drive system featuring Terrain Response, and the fact that the hood has Range Rover emblazoned across it in big letters. But with those big letters cost a big price, and we’re not so sure it’s a fair deal.

Styling
With only a short one-week loan period with which to put the vehicle through its paces, we logged as many New England miles as we could. During that time, we got several thumbs-up from people ranging from teenage boys with backwards-billed baseball hats to elderly old ladies we suspect were on their way to bingo. And as has proven the case with our ’14 Range Rover Sport long-term test vehicle, while stopped in most parking lots or gas stations, at least one 25 to 50-year-old woman asked us about “our beautiful little car.” In terms of appealing to the feminine buyer, Land Rover nailed the styling with these things. But the styling offers a lot to like. The bulgy wheel arches, sinister grille and headlight treatment, and swoopy profile that makes the vehicle look like it’s going 100 miles an hour standing still. Nice. Our vehicle was equipped with Range Rover’s $15,200 Dynamic Premium Package that adds (among many, many other things) 20-inch wheels, red badging, and sport exhaust tips, which really help frame the hind end of the Evoque.

Performance
With a 240hp, 250–lb-ft turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine featuring direct injection and variable valve timing and a new nine-speed automatic transmission, we were able to eke a combined 27.2 mpg while driving mostly like an old lady. We saw as much as 33.3 mpg on one all-highway trip and as low as 19 mpg flipping around town making jackrabbit starts at every light. Our test numbers fell right in line with the EPA’s rating of 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for the ’14 Range Rover Evoque. The 2.0L four-cylinder delivers enough grunt to get the vehicle up and away from stoplights, even with four adults inside. However, when you really mash the accelerator, you’d better not be in any huge hurry since the Range Rover Evoque’s engine lacks any real urgency past its gooey, torquey mid-range sweet spot. It’s not slow, but it’s not fast—It’s adequate, which when you’re paying almost $60-large, isn’t exactly adequate. Perhaps it’s due to the Range Rover Evoque’s porky curb weight in excess of 4,000 pounds. Even when trying to use the paddle shifters to keep the rpms up, spirited driving is a disappointment. It’s better to just sit back, relax, and soak in the comfy seating and plush ride and not be in a hurry.

With the exception of the cruise control and Terrain Response buttons, the interior is logically and ergonomically laid out. The cupholders are hidden beneath a sliding cover in the center console that resembles a rolltop desk from the late 1800s.

Ride and Handling
The 2014 Range Rover Evoque rides nicely over rough pavement and the few dirt roads we were able to find. On dirt, the all-wheel-drive Evoque is sure-footed and stable thanks to its terrain-sensing stability and power distribution, electronic rear diff, and torque biasing that uses the brakes to keep the engine power going to the side needed. And that’s not mentioning the excellent P245/45R20 Pirelli Scorpion tires, of which we’re big fans. The steering input is direct and lane changes happen smoothly, but there is a fair bit of body roll, even with the Terrain Response flipped to the sporty “Dynamic” setting. Other than turning the lighting around the gauge bezels from white to red and making the potholes a bit more noticeable, we can’t really tell if the Dynamic setting does anything different than the “General” setting we left the vehicle in most of the time.

Interior
The power heated leather front seats are phenomenally comfortable, and unlike several European cars on the market, you’re able to position the steering wheel low enough for a comfortable hands-on-wheel angle. The same comfort doesn’t convey to your left leg, however. The front wheelwell intrudes into the footwell and makes for a cramped knee after a while behind the wheel. It’s definitely not designed for those with long legs or big feet.

Most of the dials and switches are logically and ergonomically laid out, with an exception for the Terrain Response and cruise control. If you’ve got a drink in the forward cup holder just below the rotary gearshift, you’re not going to cleanly and easily access the buttons flanking the selection choices. The same is true of the cruise control, which is located on the right side of the steering wheel in two layered rows of buttons. The upper row controls cruise Set/Accelerate, Resume, and Decel, but the controls to increase or decrease following distance for the adaptive cruise and, more importantly, the cruise cancel, are awkwardly placed just below those. Normally, the cruise cancel is a big, honkin’ button that’s easy to get to and not a small, hard-to-find one the size of a grown man’s thumbnail.

The electronic transmission shifter in the Evoque is a rotary dial that, while solid in operation, isn’t as pleasing as the stick shifter of the more expensive Range Rover Sport. The paddle shifters behind the steering wheel remain inactive unless the dial is manually turned over to “S” setting.

There is a fair bit of wind and road noise transmitted to the cabin as well—more than you’d expect in a luxury vehicle with this kind of price tag. The 825-watt stereo can drown it out, but for the money, we’d expect the cabin to deliver the quiet of a sensory deprivation chamber. Still, there’s enough technology included in the Dynamic Premium Package to keep even an iPad-addicted pre-teen occupied for hours, so you shouldn’t run out of distractions to pull your thoughts away from the negatives.

In the back, the rear seating offers ample legroom for adults up to roughly 6 feet tall, and although the materials and cushions are good, they pale in comparison to the front seating. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 configuration to carry bulky items, but even with the seats upright, there’s a surprising amount of cargo room in the back.

Quick Specs
Vehicle: 2014 Range Rover Evoque
Base Price: $41,100
Options: ($15,200) Dynamic Premium Package includes - Pure Plus Package: power leather seats with lumbar and memory, Homelink, fixed panoramic roof with power blind, front fog lights and headlamp power wash, powered tailgate; Climate Control Package: heated front and rear seats, windshield, steering wheel, and washer jet; Plus: adaptive Xenon headlamps with LED signature, auto high-beam assist, surround camera, blind-spot monitor with closing vehicle sensor, HDD navigation, voice control, passive entry, red Evoque badge, 20-inch alloy wheels, loadspace storage rails, sport exhaust tips, active dynamics, bright pedals, Oxford leather steering wheel, perforated leather seats and door panel with contrast stitch, textured aluminum finisher, SiriusXM satellite and HD radio, advanced park assist with park exit; Meridian surround sound: 825-watt, 17-speakers with subwoofer; Black: grille, side vents, side mirror caps, and sump guard finisher
-($1,295) Adaptive cruise control with queue-assist forward alert and intelligent emergency braking
-($550) Cirrus headliner, contrast black roof
Price as tested (including destination): $59,140

The body lines are fast even standing still, but we noted some quality-control problems with our test unit. The plastic flare was partially coming off one of the rear wheelwells, and we’ve never liked how the gloss black headlight accent trim that carries through the fender into the front door gives the illusion of panel misalignment.

Major Gripes

  • The four-cylinder’s power is marginally adequate at this sticker price. The 340hp supercharged V-6 should be standard with the Dynamic Premium Package.
  • Fit and finish on a few of the interior components, like the sliding cupholder cover, were lacking in quality. Also, some of the exterior body panels looked like they were separating and in danger of falling off.
  • Driver legroom for left foot and leg is abysmal and makes drives over 30 miles torturous.
  • The turbocharged engine requires premium fuel, which somewhat offsets the economy of the four-cylinder.

Major Praises

  • Once under way, the turbocharged four-cylinder is a smooth runner on the highway, and it’s nice to see the average freeway economy numbers on the high side of 30 mpg.
  • Power leather front seats are pillowy soft and buttery smooth, while still remaining supportive. You can dial in the power adjustments any way you need to keep comfy.
  • Very maneuverable and easy to park, whether at the mall or parallel parking on a crowded city street. Also, the forward and side collision warning sensors assist with lane changes, stop-and-go traffic, and parking.
  • If it’s your thing, it’s got looks that will get you noticed.

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