Whether it’s because of its new owners or not, Land Rover seems to be changing its marketing strategy.
India-based Tata bought the company in 2008 and, says Jaguar/Land Rover Canada president Lindsay Duffield, his new parent corporation will be investing $11-billion in Jaguar/Land Rover over the next five years. Tata is, according to Duffield, “the GE of India” and it has deep pockets.
Thus the new Range Rover Evoque, which is a definite departure for the company. Available as either a four-door wagon or two-door hatchback, this mid-size SUV is not aimed at the usual waxed-cotton jacket and welly-wearing upscale boomers who typically purchase Range Rover products, but a whole new demographic: youth.
“The Evoque is a harbinger of things to come,” explained Andrew Polsinelli, Land Rover’s general manager of product planning, at the North American launch, in Vancouver. “North America has a younger emerging customer base and these are different customers for us…. They’re buying models like the BMW X3, Mercedes 350 GLK and Audi Q5. We’re hoping that the Land Rover brand will attract them because of what the company represents.”
As well as brand recognition, fuel economy is high on the list of prerequisites for these buyers, and the Evoque is the thriftiest and lightest model Range Rover has ever produced, although hardly a fuel-sipper. It’s a full 725 kilograms lighter than the Range Rover Sport and will deliver a purported 11.4 litres/100 km in town and 7.1 on the highway. It’s unorthodox “coupe” roofline and the resulting improved aerodynamics help here, as does the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that powers the Evoque.
This engine, originally designed by Ford but refined and modified by Land Rover, develops 240 horsepower. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission only, with full-time all-wheel drive, and a Haldex centre coupling that features various settings to suit whatever terrain you’re dealing with.
Unlike virtually every other automobile on the planet, the Evoque does not have a shift lever, but a centre console-mounted rotary dial. To get into Drive or whatever, you simply turn the knob. A little unsettling at first, but it grows on you. Some Jaguar models have a similar arrangement. Terrain settings are also on the centre console, accessed via forward/backward switch, and the Evoque has a full complement of off-road goodies.
These include a programmable hill descent control, hill start assist, magnetic ride control and the Multi-Terrain Response system. This allows you to choose from four settings: grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand, and general driving conditions. The Magnetic ride feature is optional, and lets you choose from firm to sporty settings. It’s cool; basically the shocks contain a synthetic oil fluid with iron particles suspended in it. When electricity is applied, the particles densify and the ride is altered accordingly. General Motors, among others, has had a similar system on some of its models for some time, and it makes a difference in terms of handling and comfort level.
Although the Evoque is aimed at city folk, it is a Land Rover, and that means it has to be able to hold its own when the pavement goes away. Because it lacks a two-speed transfer case, it doesn’t have the same kind of mountain goat climbing ability as some of its stable-mates, but after a day of potting around Whistler and going through moderately challenging off-road driving conditions, it’s obvious that the Evoque has more than enough climbing ability for most people. It’s relatively short wheelbase and light weight are good to have under these circumstances.
It also features Land Rover’s traditional “wading” ability, which means you can take it in water up to the door sills, at least. That said, if traversing difficult terrain is your No. 1 requirement, one of the company’s other models – the LR4, perhaps – may be more appropriate.
Base price for the Evoque is just less than $47,000 for the four-door, and you can drop up to $62,000 on a fully-loaded Premium model – before taxes. But the list of standard equipment and options is extensive. For example, leather interior, electronic parking brake, Bluetooth, heated seats and heated steering wheel are standard issue, as is a huge glass roof that covers virtually the entire car. This is a lovely feature, but could make the interior uncomfortably hot in summer. It does have a power shade, however.
You can also order things like five exterior cameras, headlight washer, a navi system and a high-falutin’ Meridian sound system, depending upon the model and options package. Three versions are offered: Pure, Dynamic and Prestige, and each trim level has its own options. For example, if you order the City package, you get power rear tailgate, rearview camera, and more chrome bits – for $2,250.
The new Evoque is built in the United Kingdom, and is available at dealerships right about now.
2012 Range Rover Evoque
Type: Mid-size luxury SUV
Price Range: $46,995-$61,195
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/250 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.4 litres/100 km city, 7.1 highway and 9.5 combined: premium gas
Alternatives: Acura RDX, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK 350
Correction: The fuel economy ratings on the 2012 Range Rover Evoque are 11.4 litres/100 km city, 7.1 highway and 9.5 combined. Incorrect information appeared earlier.