BABY IMPROVES ON THE FORMULA

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE

GLENN BUTLER

Model Range Rover Evoque D240 R-Dynamic HSE

Engine 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TD, MHEV

Max power 177kW @ 4000rpm

Max torque 500Nm @ 1500-2500rpm

Transmission 9-speed automatic

Weight 1955kg 0-100km/h 7.7sec (claimed)

Fuel economy 6.2L/100km

Price $97,090

On sale May

THERE’S A LOT to talk secondgeneration Range Rover launched in Plug-in hybrids, driver-assist technologies, dynamic practicality improvements, mature styling are the most obvious. But the biggest talking point could well be something we can’t see.

The 2019 Range Rover Evoque sits on an all-new platform – called Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) by JLR – which will underpin the next Jaguar E-Pace and Land Rover Discovery Sport. And while this new platform is plug-in hybrid ready, it has not been developed for full electrification, surely a mandatory base to cover in this age. PTA has also resulted in a heavier car (up to 66kg on some models), despite being no bigger physically, and is going to have an unusually short life span.

“We’re hoping for eight to 10 years,” says Range Rover Evoque chief engineer Pete Simkin when we catch up at the global launch in the Hellenic Republic. “Beyond that, it’s just too hard to predict, what with all the revolutions going on.”

Range Rover’s baby model has matured into a well-rounded rival for the likes of the Volvo XC60, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5. Australians will choose from 26 variants when sales begin in May, yet none of those will be three-door or convertible – both were dropped due to poor sales.

The new Evoque five-door’s styling is sympathetic to the 2011 original yet cleaner, less fussy. The trademark falling roofline, rising beltline and long wheelbase continue, but the adoption of the Velar’s front graphic, a more rounded rear (for aerodynamic reasons) and cleaner sides (including pop-out door handles) are genuine improvements.

The new Evoque is not much bigger externally than the old one; 1mm longer, 4mm wider and 11mm lower doesn’t help explain the increase in useable space inside. Clever design does. There’s now 20mm more rear legroom, the boot is 10 percent bigger, and there are more storage options.

The cabin has also benefited from Velar hand-me-downs, most notably the new steering wheel with embedded thumbpad controls, 12.3-inch fully digital instrument binnacle (standard on all but the base) and double-stacked multimedia screens.

Motive duties still fall to two basic Ingenium engines: a turbocharged petrol and turbo-diesel, both displacing two litres and paired exclusively with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Both engines come in three states of tune, ranging from 110kW/380Nm to 177kW/500Nm in the diesel and 147kW/320Nm to 221kW/400Nm in the petrol. Only the mid-spec 183kW/365Nm petrol and top-spec D240 diesel were available to test at the launch.

Both drivetrains are smooth and quiet and offer commendable performance in a compact premium SUV. But it’s the diesel that surprises the most. This engine has the mid-range you’d expect, but it’s the energetic acceleration off the mark, and responsiveness that really impresses. The reason: the D240 we drove, as per all diesel models, has Land Rover’s 48-volt mild-hybrid (MHEV) system, which captures braking energy in an 11.3kW/h lithiumion battery and uses it via an 80kW electric motor at the rear axle to tangibly enhance initial acceleration, and also to add pep under full throttle.

Roomy for its size; syrupy drivetrain; great ride even on 21s

PLUS MINUS

Best equipment costs extra; best-sellers miss the hybrid tech

Dynamically, the Evoque takes another impressive step forward, even on monstrous 21-inch Pirelli Scorpion Zero tyres fitted to our test car. Add the Adaptive Dynamic suspension ($1950) and quickish 2.3-turns lock-to-lock steering, and it’s an agile combo that delivers admirable body control and excellent ride comfort. At no time did we find ride compliance lacking or wish for smaller boots with bigger sidewalls, not even off-road.

No surprises that the Evoque’s off-road capabilities leave its rivals in the dust, literally. The Evoque’s Terrain Response and associated systems are now even more surefooted in tricky conditions. They’re complemented by some new technologies like ClearSight Ground View which employs cameras mounted under the car to project the road onto the Evoque’s new centre console multimedia screen so you can see exactly where your wheels are.

Another technology first on Evoque is the ClearSight rear-view mirror. Flick the dimmer switch, and it becomes a high-definition screen broadcasting wider rearward vision from a camera mounted in the rooftop shark fin.

The Evoque represents great value if rugged off-roading is something you prize, but it’s midfield if we compare it purely for on-road capabilities, equipment and practicality.

GLENN BUTLER