Chan­nelling nine

Op­tions abound in the en­try level Rangie, in­clud­ing one you never knew you needed

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pot­tinger@news.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

A cross­over ve­hi­cle that crosses con­ti­nents, creeks and suburbs with equal aplomb. Looks cool, too.

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