Options abound in the entry level Rangie, including one you never knew you needed
SO this is how ninth gear feels. Like ... nothing at all.
At the freeway limit the Evoque’s engine is barely animate at some 1500rpm. Juice use, even for a barely driven new car, is trickling at some five litres per 100km.
The ambient roar of out-size tyres and wind whoosh off the wing mirrors are the perceptible signs A nine speed automatic transmission is but one option on the 2014 edition of Range Rover’s Evoque, a vehicle less in need of facelifting than any in recent history.
That nine-speed auto itself adds $2480 (or some $816.66 per extra cog). Honda charges $2300 for the ancient fivespeed auto on its base Civic hatch. Go figure.
Our comely test coupe is further embellished with HDD Navigation including voice control ($3400); xenon and smart headlights ($1870); 19- inch alloys ($1500), groovily contrasting roof ($955) and front parking censor ($620).
A $1300 sting for metallic paint is a liberty all prestige car makers take, though it’s no more excusable for that. Asking extra for rear view camera ($670), however, in a vehicle that is hazardous without it, is appalling. Rear view camera is standard on a $20,000 Toyota Corolla sedan.
It’s worth noting we’re seeing the Freelander 2, which in essence is the Evoque, advertised by some dealers at $44,990 drive-away with sixspeed auto and free three years /100,000km servicing.
Nine speeds may appear pointless in a country whose legal top speed (away from Alice Springs) is a trance inducing 110km/h. Its benefits are felt across its range — a broader spread of ratios means more responsive lower gears and taller tops.
In other words, it’s difficult not to be in the gear best suited for fuel efficiency and response. Designed by German transmission genii ZF, the auto is also lighter than the current six-speed, so improved economy is doubly vouchsafed. Nor is the new transmission all about cruising in a coma.
Those who have taken the Evoque off road, of which it remains fully capable within compact SUV limits, are pleased by the extra responsiveness of first gear.
Elsewhere, the Evoque remains familiar to anyone who has driven a Land Rover or lower-end Jaguar in recent times. The doughty fourcylinder diesel is not the last word in refinement at start up or higher revs. Nor is it the smoothest off the mark.
It does, however, work highly capably with this uber-auto and for those leery of a new tech, it’s reasurringly familiar.
In its most distinctive coupe form, Gerry McGovern’s design remains one for the ages. Though at heart, the Evoque is a comparatively humble Freelander in designer finery, so to is an Audi TT a Volkswagen Golf. Both prestige coupes are the better for the humble origins.
The Evoque’s all around capability is belied by its lines. So low slung is the coupe that its roof is barely visible in a street of parked hatchbacks. The interior compromises are the price paid for style — no burly adult willingly spends time in these back seats. There is, of course, a
cheaper and more practical five door Evoque.
Of late some designers have come to the realisation that wing mirrors have reached such dimensions they’re obtrusive. It’s not much good seeing clearly to the rear when you can barely see out of the front side. Some carmakers are setting the wing mirrors back off the A-pillar. On the Evoque they are merely trimmed. The optional rear camera remains imperative.
The rotary gear selector is still unique to Jaguar/Land Rover. As a means of freeing airspace in the centre console area it is vastly preferable to Benz’s unwelcome return to column shifters. Benz, however, gives you a decent pair of gear shifting paddles as opposed to these Easter Showbag plastic pieces.
Beyond the obligatory crash safety stars, few cars imbue you with such an immediate sense of security. There’s the slightly elevated driving position, solid but feelful brake pedal and a hewed sense of which Land Rovers have not always been possessed. The caveat? Yep, that’s right. Rear vision.
It’ll be 2016 before J/LR’s new engine range segues into the Evoque. Until then you have the choice of Ford’s so-called Ecoboost turbo petrol four or this diesel.
While the latter is perhaps more logical — at least if most of the your driving takes place beyond the city — the same petrol four which serves in everything from Ford’s Focus ST to Jaguar’s XF better suits the character of the Evoque coupe. Certainly the petrol version is without the lag from which the diesel is never entirely free, with a crisper throttle tip in.
Against that, the diesel’s torque is formidable when it all turns up and is rolled out across almost imperceptible upper range gear changes.
It’s in dynamics as much as design that the Evoque is most obviously a “crossover” — a little car-like, a little SUV. Mainly it’s the former. Body roll in cornering is mild and hardly more pronounced than a hatch with basic suspension.
I could wish for steering with more weight at lower speed, though I’d probably be alone.
A crossover vehicle that crosses continents, creeks and suburbs with equal aplomb. Looks cool, too.