As they say, once a Kotte…when I first spoke with Land Rover Malaysia for this review, my intentions were very different. I had in my mind the idea to write a story about the frugality and efficiency of the company’s baby Range in diesel guise. Which in itself seemed quite a joke as Denis pointed out because no one really buys a car for upwards of RM400,000 thinking about how much money they’ll be saving on gas!
Still, the Sri Lankan Tamil in me persisted and so it was that I found myself sitting in a brand new Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 on a rainy afternoon, staring at a full fuel gauge, anticipating some magic consumption figures. And the Evoque did not disappoint in terms of sipping softly. Over a combined cycle that included city and highway driving, the Evoque faired extremely well, more than matching its claimed 6L/100km.
I had intended to thrill you with far more detail and share my cost saving escapades but “Vijay proposed, and God laughed” because I discovered a whole different point and while it makes economic sense, that is NOT why you drive an Evoque.
Still sexy after all these years
Along with 98% of the population of the planet, I was never a fan of the Spice Girls. So when it was first revealed that a certain Mrs. Beckham was to be on the design panel of Range Rover’s baby SUV, I gagged…to say the least.
Here was a brand that wrote the book on pedigree and class, drawing inspiration from a WAG! Hardly cricket, you might say. And then I saw the Range Rover Evoque and I thought, “Mama, I love you”. It was a feat of brilliance because the playbook on SUVs had already been written, but the Evoque turned things on its head. This brilliance in design came from the designers’ ability to take an existing form and turn into something you could never imagine. I wasn’t the only one apparently. The Evoque was flying out of showrooms faster than you could say, “I say”.
Fast forward four years, and the Evoque looks as good and surprisingly as fresh, in 2015. This says a lot because there have been lots of fancy SUVs since. Now I could write 739 words about the Evoque’s looks but that would be pointless because it has all been said before. But in nutshell, it’s beautiful. There’s a symmetry to the shape that I still can’t quite figure out. I mean based on its length and portfolio, it should look like a frog, but it doesn’t. There’s a hum to the design and you just never tire of looking at it.
Over the years, I often found “revolutionary design” to lose its novelty after closer inspection. After all, doesn’t familiarity breed contempt? In the case of the Evoque, it doesn’t seem so. Over the days I spent, I tried to find some defining feature and then a defining fault. What was it that made it special and surely there was an angle which made it unflattering? I struck out on both counts and then it came to me, this was a car that was seamless. It didn’t have a defining feature in terms of looks and therefore no corresponding fault. It just came together in one flowing set of lines.
But this was not what sold me.
Let them eat cake
Get inside the Evoque and the term “coachbuilding” comes alive. Again, no one particular thing I can put my finger on but everything came together to evoke a sense of calm and luxury that I have not felt in any of its more than worthy competitors. The Germans maybe masters of ergonomics and modern design, the Japanese premium marquees of millimeter-precise fit but you got to hand it to the Pommies for being able to imbue a cabin with a sense of luxury. Maybe it’s Mad Cow or just lousy weather, but the English seem to know their interiors.
The Evoque seems to have this magical quality of shutting out the rest of the world, elevating its occupants to a different plane. It was my first truly “let them eat cake” moment. It felt more “carriage” than car. Any of its competitors are worthy in terms of their build quality, toys, ergonomics…you name it. Yet, none of them can match the Evoque for this elusive sense of refinement. You will feel special in an Evoque.
And this is what won it for me. Sitting inside the Evoque, I discovered a sensation that I suppose only those who breathe truly rarefied air know – detachment. From the moment you shut the door, you feel like everything can slow down and that the world can wait. I used to think that luxury was about being ensconced in plush leather and having copious amounts of wood and metal trim inside a vacuum sealed cocoon. The Evoque helped me discover that there is more to it than that. Marie Antoinette was right.
Corners, canyons and country
In terms of driving, the Evoque is more than competent but not necessarily exciting. The gas burner offered up enough torque to get away from the masses but it wasn’t setting any land speed records. The century sprint of 8.5 seconds and top speeds close to 200 km/h are highly probable. Cruising is of course smooth. There was precious little in terms of vibration or movement making for a sedate sensation even when moving fast.
The Evoque is nimble and tracks well. Don’t expect too much high-jinx but there is fun to be had, if you so desire. The area in which the baby Range really distinguishes itself is off-road. While not on this review, we did get some time off-road with the Evoque and we did things that would make Daktari baulk. Pools, ruts, mud, ridiculous angles – bring it on. The Evoque goes about vanquishing terrain, like its utilitarian brethren, with aplomb.
In terms of toys, the Evoque is a veritable Hamleys. Park-assist which after much trepidation, I really started to enjoy, touch screen, surround camera and even a mood lighting feature should give you enough talking points to thrill your passengers for a bit. If I had one pet niggle, it was that the view from within often felt encumbered by the A-pillars and the rear window made me feel like Jim Lovell in Apollo 13.
As a people carrier, the Evoque does alright with four adults and corresponding baggage, but five people on a long-distance ride might leave some frayed nerves. Having said that, for all you masochists, the Evoque will be able to satisfy your cravings to the unnamed Scandavian torture chamber for the monthly Allen key fix.
But again, I digress. Whatever I have written, I have done because that’s how we have been taught to communicate about cars. Space, looks, speed, efficiency…all readily physical and quantifiable. But how do I describe things like elan, calm, detachment and panache. It’s experiential and just like the feeling of zero gravity, a mere concept for most of us mortals. And that is why I want an Evoque – because that’s the closest a pleb like me can come to feeling truly wealthy.
So much for an article on the frugality of diesels. Denis was right.
Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige
Price RM413,888 (incl. GST, w/o insurance)
Engine 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel, 4WD
Output 190PS, 420Nm
Transmission 9-speed automatic w/ manual mode
Performance 0-100km/h in 8.5 sec, top speed 195km/h
Wheels/tyres 20in alloys, 245/45R20
Safety 6 airbags, dynamic stability assist, hill descent control,
Warranty 5-year/300,000km (w/ 5-year/80,000km maintenance package)