Here is the quandary you face if you fancy a stylish new Land Rover such as the two-door Range Rover Evoque: is the appeal so great you’d be willing to overlook the chronic reliability issues?
This is no small matter. If you believe research from J.D. Power and Associates, Land Rover has long ranked near or at the bottom of the pack for quality. The latest Initial Quality Study, for instance, has Land Rover ahead of just six brands: Dodge, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Mini, Fiat and Smart. Not good.
Now Stuart Schorr, who heads communications for Land Rover and Jaguar in North America, says Land Rover suffered in the latest survey from noisy brakes, brake dust and a finicky navigation system. Breakdowns? Not a chronic problem with the brand as a whole, nor with the Evoque in particular.
On the other hand, in the latest J.D. Power APEAL study – a study that looks at what excites buyers and triggers a purchase – Land Rover ranks near the top, below only five others : Porsche, Jaguar, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz. The Evoque flat-out won the Entry Premium Crossover/SUV category (besting the BMW X3 and Audi Q5) and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport was a runner-up in its class.
The annual APEAL study “examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes,” J.D. Power says. And both studies are based on a broad survey of the same 74,000 respondents, though each uses its own set of questions and both measure different attributes. The IQS digs into “things gone wrong,” and APEAL “things gone right.”
Every time I bring up the reliability issue with Land Rover types, they do handstands to explain how focused they are on stripping out problems. I believe their sincerity, but await concrete, measurable results. At the same time, they also talk about the effort that goes into making their Land Rovers so sexy and exciting and off-road capable. That takes some sweat and tears, too.
For now, I’d say the APEAL side of the story is winning. Despite premium pricing in what is still a recessionary world ($46,995 to $61,595) and that spotty quality record, Land Rover is selling every Evoque it can make. Land Rover brand sales last year were up 36 per cent and the Evoque busted every sales record in the brand’s history. Land Rover sold 108,598 Evoques in its first year. Astonishing. In the last two years, Jaguar Land Rover has hired 8,000 new people to keep up with demand. Land Rover sales in Canada are up 22 per cent this year, too.
And this story really is all about the Evoque. Here we have the Land Rover with the expected capability in the muck; that’s a given. But the Evoque is also a shocking bit of design – consider that roofline, for goodness sake, and those massive tires and wheels. The price tag is less than $50,000 to start, and fuel economy is acceptable from the spirited, Ford-supplied turbocharged four-banger (240 horsepower).
If you want practicality in your Evoque, you want the four-door hatchback version. It starts at $46,995. The coupe ($48,095 base) is a bolder choice, and also far less practical. Any adult interested in climbing into the rear – where you’ll find less legroom than the four-door – should first head to Cirque du Soleil for training in odd contortions. And cargo room? Less than the four-door.
Yes, the Evoque is a classic case of function following form. That low roofline means tall people will occasionally bump their heads getting in and out. For the engineers, meanwhile, the racy roofline meant they had to squish all the mechanical bits borrowed and adapted from the LR2. It was the only way to get Land Rover-ish ground clearance and acceptable headroom inside.
Once you’re past the left-brain issues – logic, critical thinking, logic and reasoning – the Evoque gets to work on the right brain. There is certainly an emotional appeal with this rig. Design issues aside, the Evoque is light and quick, responsive and entertaining. That 2.0-litre four-cylinder jumps when you nudge the throttle and the six-speed automatic is a smooth shifter. Fuel economy is alright, too, at 7.1 litres/100 km highway, 10.6 in the city.
Not bad when you consider the engine output and the full-time all-wheel-drive managed by the electronically controlled Haldex centre coupling. As a sign of its authenticity, the Evoque also has Land Rover’s Terrain Response system; it allows the drivers to dial up programs to suit terrain conditions. As you move up the range, you can add lots of different features, though a diesel engine in North America is not among them.
So the Evoque is comfortable and shockingly interesting to look at. Some might find it too daring, but the appeal worldwide is obvious.
2013 Range Rover Evoque Pure
Type: Entry premium crossover SUV
Price: $48,095; $1,270 freight and PDI
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/251 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.6 city/7.1 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX, Volvo XC60, Infiniti EX37