It must be a nightmare replacing a car like the original Range Rover Evoque. But that’s what Land Rover needs to do, because, while the existing car has carried on increasing its sales year on year, it has done so with an ever-worsening need for fresh tech and electrification – just what the company hopes to deliver in this Mk2.
To recap, the new Evoque sits on a very heavily modified version of the old car’s D8 platform – different enough, it seems, to earn a new name: Premium Transverse Architecture. It has pretty much the same footprint as the outgoing model, but the wheelbase has been lengthened slightly in a bid to improve rear-seat accommodation.
The main reason for the switch to PTA, though, is powertrains – and Land Rover’s desire to offer 48-volt electrification. In fact, the entry-level, front-wheel-drive diesel Evoque is the only model in the range that does not have some form of hybridisation on board – and at the end of this year, a plug-in hybrid version will arrive.
For now, though, there’s a 48V integrated starter/generator system. It allows the car to cut its combustion engine out completely below 11mph, and helps to smooth out any judder when it fires back up again.
That basic 148bhp diesel is also the only front-drive car in the line-up, and it’s the only new Evoque with a (six-speed) manual gearbox to boot. Every other version comes with four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission as standard. There are two more diesels, with 178bhp or 237bhp, as well as three petrols with 197bhp, 247bhp or 296bhp.
The goal for Land Rover’s engineers was to make a car that felt more grown-up than before, without treading on the toes of its cousin, the Jaguar E-Pace. And after several hundred miles in a 237bhp Evoque diesel on the roads of Greece, we’re inclined to say that they’ve succeeded.
The biggest single gain comes in terms of refinement. Wind the fastest diesel Evoque up to 80mph on a smooth motorway and the ‘Ingenium’ engine will be pulling just under 2,000rpm. At that point, you simply won’t hear it – or very much at all, thanks to strong levels of cabin isolation and tyre roar suppression. The most obvious noise at speed is probably a bit of wind rush from around the side mirrors, but even with this, existing Evoque customers should notice how much quieter it is inside.
The hybrid technology helps the diesel out around town, too, where any harshness above 2,500rpm (and there is some) could be more cruelly exposed. Instead, the electric motor cuts in as you come to a halt and is impressively smooth, while its assistance with start-up helps the Evoque to get around with a minimum of fuss.
On twistier roads, though, there is a clear difference between the Range Rover and the E-Pace. The Evoque’s steering has more slack around the straight ahead, and while the response does quicken as you apply more lock, it never feels as keen to turn and aim for an apex. There’s more body roll, too, so the Evoque is less happy with any sudden changes of direction.
Land Rover has clearly set the car up to be an accomplished cruiser that stays just about composed enough on more winding roads. And that feels a pretty good place for the smallest Range Rover, especially with that polite powertrain taken into account.
It’s worth pointing out at this juncture, though, that our test car had the optional 21-inch wheels that come only as part of a pack with adaptive dampers. It still rode commendably well considering the wheel size, but we’re in the dark on whether 18-inch or 20-inch items, with regular suspension, would deliver an even better experience on the UK’s awful roads.
If there is a weak spot, it remains the automatic transmission. In general, it maintains relaxed progress in a refined fashion, but the slightest attempt to hurry the car along a twisty road can still flummox the software and see it scrabbling for a gear.
It’s particularly prone to kicking down two ratios when it’d be easier, and smoother, to drop just one and ride along on the engine’s torque (there’s 500Nm, after all). That’s just what you’ll end up doing if (when) you resort to using the steering wheel paddles and manual mode on more challenging roads.
Only about one in a thousand Evoques will ever get truly dirty, but for those who do want to take their car off road, it’s worth knowing that its wading depth has increased to 600mm – a full 100mm up on the old car’s figure. And it gets JLR’s Terrain Response 2, through which the car can ‘read’ the road surface beneath its wheels and decide the most appropriate setting from its four modes – Comfort, Sand, Grass-Gravel-Snow and Mud & Ruts. Little else in the class will be able to follow the Evoque across rough terrain, for sure.
This will continue to be a vehicle that you don’t really choose with practicality in mind, but the 591-litre boot capacity is around 10 per cent up on the old car’s. That’s enough for a decent-sized suitcase and a couple of overnight bags, or a full set of golf clubs. The rear seat splits 40:20:40 (another useful touch) and if it’s lowered completely, there are 1,383 litres at your disposal.
Cabin space has been improved by the longer wheelbase, but you shouldn’t expect limousine-style accommodation in the back. While you can just about get four six-footers on board, those in the rear will feel slightly snug for leg and kneeroom.
Our car, an S, had the InControl Dual Touch Pro infotainment system fitted as an option. It’s better than ever, but that doesn’t mean that it’s top of the class just yet. It can be rather slow to respond to inputs and the interface remains a little bit clunky, with curious animated transitions that do little but hold you up. At least the Android and Apple connectivity now gives you the chance to bypass the in-car system for navigation and music streaming.
The digital rear-view mirror is a useful addition, too – and we can see plenty of Evoque customers ticking that box on the options list. It uses a wide-view camera in the aerial fin on the car’s roof to get around the fact that, thanks to the subtle evolution of the car’s design, it’s still hard to see out of the narrow rear window. You can flick the display back to a regular mirror if you want – but during our two days with the car, we never felt inclined to do this, such is the clarity and extra expanse of the digital view.