FEEL-GOOD DRIVE

Plenty of choices as diesel en­gine de­liv­ers ex­tra class, TIM VAUGHAN writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - GEELONG -

Style, sub­stance, green cred and pose value com­bine in the compact-luxe SUV that has seg­ment dom­i­nance as a rea­son­able goal.

JAGUAR-Land Rover’s new In­ge­nium diesel is no slouch in Jaguar’s swoopy XE sedan, but it bor­ders on bril­liant when re-plumbed, turned east-west and bolted to all-wheel-drive gear the Range Rover Evoque.

Land Rover’s new en­gine — its most ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle date is 20-30kg lighter than pre­de­ces­sor, oblig­ing JLR to re­vise the rear sus­pen­sion for bet­ter bal­ance though not, as it tran­spires, over­all weight saving.

The 2.0-litre turbo, which shares 80 per cent of its parts with the XE’s en­gine, can pro­pel nearly 1700kg smartly and still claim 5.1L/100km or bet­ter.

The diesel comes in two states of tune, 132kW/430Nm as tested by Cars­Guide 118kW/380Nm.

As well be­ing a feel-good drive, the Evoque has had some cos­metic smarten­ing up and 10 op­tions packs, which al­lows own­ers to cus­tomise their ride.

“We didn’t want change the recipe too much,” says pro­gram man­ager Nilesh Pra­jap­ati.

Front bumper and grille tweaks are not hard to spot are joined by bon­net vents (pre­vi­ously only on the three-door) on high­spec mod­els.

The rear comes in for sim­i­lar treat­ment, with a new-style spoiler and sim­i­larly sub­tle re­vi­sions.

Among tech tricks is “ges­ture con­trol” — wig­gle shoe un­der the bumper you get hands-free tail­gate op­er­a­tion, use­ful given height of the load floor. Cars­Guide’s ef­forts with feet met con­sis­tent fail­ure.

Trim lev­els match those of the Range Rover Sport: Pure, SE, HSE and HSE Dy­namic. There are a dozen or more wheel and paint choices, priced from rea­son­able to eye-wa­ter­ing.

It’s all about choice, is the JLR line and, as many have ob­served, if you see an Evoque in traf­fic that looks just like yours, you haven’t op­tioned it up enough.

Eas­ier on the eye is the In­Con­trol eight-inch touch­screen, which has smart­phone ges­ture op­er­a­tion and is rather more op­er­a­ble than pre­ced­ing version.

The 132kW version a joy on free­way runs, tick­ing over the posted limit at mere 1500rpm, peak torque thresh­old.

This is one of rare oc­ca­sions when Aus­tralian driv­ers will note it’s in top gear in the nine-speed ZF au­to­matic, which car­ries over (there’s a six-speed man­ual, not that many will spec­ify it).

Other than un­der ini­tial en­thu­si­as­tic throt­tle, the In­ge­nium won’t let on to oc­cu­pants it’s a diesel. The surge for over­tak­ing, abet­ted by pad­dle-shifters, is most agree­able.

This is an Evoque you could get dirty, too. On greasy slopes on an English coun­try es­tate, the Ter­rain Re­sponse se­lec­tor set to mud and ruts, our up­spec TD4 19-inch road wheels and tyres fol­lowed a De­fender guide ve­hi­cle with high­lift sus­pen­sion mas­sive off-road rub­ber.

There was an­other hi-tech fea­ture that the es­tate pre­cluded test­ing.

All-Ter­rain Progress Con­trol (a $460 op­tion in tan­dem with the $1850 Ac­tive Dy­nam­ics) op­er­ates up or down slopes and can main­tain the ve­hi­cle’s speed to 1.8km/h

up to 30km/h, par­tic­u­larly handy on sand over boul­ders when the driver must con­cen­trate on steer­ing.

“One of our en­gi­neers de­vel­oped the soft­ware,” says Mr Pra­jap­ati. And in­stead ex­plain­ing it to me, he just threw me keys and said, “go and test it”.

So I took it out on a test loop it was stun­ning. didn’t use my feet to brake or ac­cel­er­ate, just steered over huge rocks.

Front rear, the cabin is plush place be and Range Rover fam­ily feel pre­vails. There ex­tra weight cost in new seats with op­tional mas­sage func­tion, while there is show­biz for its own sake the cabin mood light­ing.

Safety fea­tures are as per class stan­dard, seven airbags, blindspot mon­i­tor, lane keep­ing as­sist, auto emer­gency brak­ing and driver fatigue de­tec­tion.

Much is made of the In­ge­nium line-up be­ing an in-house clean­sheet de­sign, built to meet Euro6 re­quire­ments at com­pany’s bil­lion-dol­lar en­gine plant in the West Mid­lands.

In the Evoque, com­pany’s sales cham­pion, TD4 diesels might put sta­ble­mate Si4 petrol per­former un­der pres­sure. Be­fore even tick­ing op­tions boxes, there is a pre­mium on vari­ants, which are quicker, of course, but thirstier and dirt­ier.

There also the mat­ter the In­ge­nium diesels to be fit­ted to Dis­cov­ery sta­ble­mate, not due for an­other 12 months.

For those who want in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, the Evo­ques en­ter Aus­tralian show­rooms this week, with ini­tial de­liv­er­ies be­fore Christ­mas. Style, sub­stance, green cred and pose value com­bine in the compact-luxe SUV that has seg­ment dom­i­nance as a rea­son­able goal. Leave the cur­rent tasty runout deals for try-hards.

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