The competition in the luxury crossover segment has been hot since the end of the last decade. Car manufacturers recognize a good thing when they see it; they know where the profit margin can be uncovered. The idea of producing a well-engineered, high-riding compact vehicle and infusing it with a decent number of amenities wasn’t exactly a no-brainer. But it wasn’t brain surgery, either.
The luxury spin-off sub-brand of Land Rover jumped in early. In 2011, the first-generation Range Rover Evoque made a big splash. The angular, handsome subcompact crossover won the North American Truck of the Year Award in 2012, as well as the World Design Car of the Year from the World Car of the Year group. The Evoque was even named Car of the Year by the notoriously capricious trio of Top Gear presenters.
The global media launch for the Evoque was staged in Vancouver and Whistler; at the time, the little crossover made a great first impression. Barges carrying the new vehicle were floated into Vancouver Harbour, a large group of guests climbed aboard for a closer look and then the little Range Rovers were piloted to the north shore and driven on to dry land.
As the whole event took place under the darkness of night and the glare of klieg lights, I’m still unsure as to how all the vehicles and the guests made it to shore without drowning.
From that point on, the launch event followed a more expected path. All Land Rover and Range Rover drive events incorporate some form of off-road challenge. In the case of the first-generation Evoque, it was the tackling of service roads on Whistler Mountain. The trails didn’t prove to be much of a challenge for the subcompact off-roader.
Fast forward a dozen years and the third-generation Range Rover Evoque has landed in Paris, lined up on a busy city side street mere metres from the Arc de Triomphe. Although the Evoque has significant capability when the going gets rough, it’s really more at home, from an image standpoint at least, within a cobblestone’s throw of the nearest couture store.
For sure, the Evoque, which starts at more than $60,000, is one heck of a stylish ride. The design of the first-generation Evoque holds up remarkably well to this day. The second-generation model, introduced in 2018, adopted the more minimalist ethic of the Range Rover Velar, which signalled the start of a new design direction for the nameplate. This latest Evoque is a near carbon copy of its immediate predecessor.
The changes to the exterior include a new front grille design and revised headlights that incorporate four small sets of LEDs. A set of new paint schemes also arrive, as does the option to select a contrasting roof paint colour. The test vehicles feature a slick blue body/bronze roof treatment, which sounds terrible on paper, but really emphasizes the handsome silhouette.
Inside, the most notable difference is the new 11.4-inch curved glass touchscreen that triggers all the infotainment and climate control functions, banishing all switches, buttons and knobs to the history books.
This is a controversial switch – even though the screen features ever-visible sliders on the side to trigger some of the controls and Amazon Alexa is integrated into the system. No doubt, once you become accustomed to the interface, things will become easier. Or you’ll get used to the secondary switches on the new steering wheel. But the Evoque is not as intuitive to the first-time user as, say, your average smartphone.
With the introduction of the new touchscreen, the passenger cabin is minimalist. The interior also features new colours, new materials and a panoramic roof. It’s sleek and clean and sufficiently high-end in look and feel.
While other markets get a range (no pun intended) of powertrain options, including a plug-in hybrid version, the Range Rover Evoque for North America is restricted to just one engine/transmission combination. That engine is a turbocharged two-litre, four-cylinder linked to a nine-speed transmission. The first-generation Evoque featured a similar engine that produced 237 horsepower. This new engine cranks out 246 horsepower, so not a big gain over the original.
The original also had a nine-speed automatic transmission, but traction was supplied by a four-wheel-drive system. All of the latest Range Rovers, including the Evoque, feature all-wheel-drive systems. This system automatically adapts to the road conditions or the driver can select from a number of settings, including one for mud/ruts, another for grass/gravel/snow and another for sand. Cameras mounted on the vehicle help when navigating off-road courses, particularly handy when avoiding obstacles such as large rocks.
During our drive from Paris to the champagne region, there was little reason to select one of the special settings. We had our hands full just getting out of the city, with the navigation system being a few beats too slow to call out turns as they were coming up. The need to reverse course after making a wrong turn also highlighted a turning circle that’s disconcertingly large for such a small vehicle.
Once we hit the secondary roads, the Evoque proves it’s a handy little vehicle on twisty turns. It’s no sports car, far from it, but it’s reasonably responsive and certainly comfortable. There are other crossovers in this category that offer more outright performance, some for less money than the $62,350 it costs to start.
But the 2024 Range Rover Evoque comes armed with a decent amount of cachet and, for many car shoppers, that’s more than enough to merit a spot on the wish list.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.