If in doubt, smooth it out

Slicker body, more space and some sur­pris­ing new tech­nol­ogy for f the Evoque’s dif­fi­cult sec­ond al­bum. Range Rover’s baby is all grown up...

Top Gear (UK) - - THE TEN -

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s chief cre­ative of­fi­cer, in­tro­duces the new Evoque pun­chily. “The acid test is this. Does the new car make the old car look old? Not dif­fer­ent, but old.”

He’s right that it isn’t con­cep­tu­ally dif­fer­ent: the blood­line from 2008 LRX con­cept to 2011 first-gen Evoque to this new one could hardly be clearer. But given that the old one served Land Rover might­ily well, is it a noble aim to make it look like yes­ter­day’s chip-pa­per? Isn’t that an in­sult to his own back cat­a­logue, and a slight on the ex­ist­ing own­ers?

McGovern sel­dom dis­plays the symp­toms of low self-es­teem, but his re­ply to my ques­tion is un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally hes­i­tant: “I guess… I could have phrased that dif­fer­ently.” Then he’s back on track. “I might be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever de­signed a car that didn’t sell.” He’s per­haps for­get­ting I’ve known him since he un­veiled the MGF, although to be fair he also did the ri­otously suc­cess­ful MkI Free­lander around the same time. Any­way, as it stands be­fore us, the new Evoque is a su­perb reimag­i­na­tion of the orig­i­nal. More than just an Evoque tribute band, it is gen­uinely pro­gres­sive. But, at the same time, it re­minds you how good the first one was.

Un­der the evolved de­sign, the rest of it is al­most en­tirely fresh. It’s not just a re­work of the old one, which spread its seed into the Dis­cov­ery Sport and Jaguar E-Pace. The en­tire thing is new, as in new.

Some step-change tech­nolo­gies have been wrapped in. What will get the most ooohs and aaahs are the front and rear cam­eras. Look­ing for­ward, it’s ‘Clear Sight Ground View’ – the cen­tral touch­screen can dis­play a per­spec­tive-en­hanced im­age from grille and door-mir­ror cam­eras. It’s like the bon­net and en­gine were trans­par­ent. Handy in car parks as well as off road. ‘Clear Sight Rear View’ is a 1.7-megapixel dis­play fill­ing the rear-view mir­ror. It’s semi-sil­vered so can work as a reg­u­lar item too, but switch it on and your rear pas­sen­gers, head­rests and piled-high lug­gage mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear. The cam­era lenses are dirt- and wa­ter-re­pel­lent by the way.

It’s not just screens for out­ward vi­sion. From mid-level trim and up, the Evoque has adopted the three-screen dash of the Range Rovers above it. Ex­cept – huz­zah! – it fi­nally bows to the in­evitable by adding Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

The other ma­jor tech­ni­cal leap is a play for fuel sav­ings. All auto trans­mis­sion ver­sions – which is all bar the base-power FWD diesel – have mild-hy­brid propul­sion, thanks to a 48V starter-al­ter­na­tor. It also adds 75lb ft of elec­tric low-rev torque-fill for

when the turbo is lag­ging. The bat­tery is un­der the driver’s seat, so foot room and ground clear­ance don’t suf­fer. Evoque chief engi­neer Pete Simkin says it saves around six per cent in fuel. There’s more: aero drag is down by 14 per cent, so the over­all ef­fect is “a step-change in con­sump­tion,” claims Simkin. But you can’t com­pare by look­ing at the specs, be­cause the of­fi­cial test has just changed.

En­gines at launch are diesel in 150bhp FWD and 180 and 240 AWD, and AWD petrols in 200, 250 and 300bhp. All are two litres, natch. Af­ter a year, a full plug-in hy­brid ver­sion launches, us­ing a 1.5-litre three-cylin­der en­gine from the same In­ge­nium fam­ily. Ex­pect about a 30-mile elec­tric-only range.

Simkin wanted good driv­ing as well as big steps in re­fine­ment. A whole dif­fer­ent en­ginemount po­si­tion and de­sign helps there. The rear sus­pen­sion uses sig­nif­i­cant parts from the Ve­lar, though is sprung on coils. At the front it’s a new gen­er­a­tion of light­weight strut. Adap­tive damp­ing is on the menu. The op­tional rear ac­tive-clutch dif­fer­en­tial unit is the same prin­ci­ple as be­fore, but a new, lighter, faster unit. The ba­sic AWD ver­sions just get torque vec­tor­ing by brak­ing.

Some­what against the grain, the new one is ac­tu­ally heav­ier than the old. Why not use an alu­minium chas­sis? Range Rover is good at those. Simkin points out alu­minium de­mands thick struc­tural sec­tions. The com­pul­sion here was to keep the Evoque com­pact. Never mind off-road­ing, it’s mostly used as an ur­ban car.

So it uses su­per-high-strength steels in­stead, grant­ing shorter crash-de­fence over­hangs.

Sure enough, it’s shorter than the old one. But it has a longer wheel­base so rear room is bet­ter. The boot’s big­ger; fuel and urea tanks 20 per cent

The first Evoque was a three­door. Not this time. It’s five all the way. To no one’s great sur­prise, the Con­vert­ible is an­other ex­per­i­ment that won’t be re­peated

Rear-view mir­ror plays chase scenes from your favourite movies

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