Range Rover Evoque Autobiography first drive

Range Rover Evoque AutobiographyLand Rover is continuing their global sales growth despite its relatively limited model range compared to other premium brands.

In the UK sales are up by 1.7%, significantly less than the overall new car market where sales have increased by 9.4% over last year. Land Rover expects to beat last year’s global sales of 348,338 units of which 54,699 were UK sales. 

SUVs in general continue to grow with the launch of many new compact SUVs and overall SUVs are the world’s fastest growing market sector. In the UK sales of high value SUVs are up by 45% over last year. 

The Range Rover Evoque launched in 2011 is Land Rover’s best selling range in the UK market with 20,237 sold last year and an increase on that figure is expected this year. The Evoque with over 270,000 sales worldwide is the fastest-selling Land Rover of all time. 

The Evoque in the UK sells marginally more than the now discontinued Land Rover Freelander which is being replaced from January with the all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport. This is a compact 5+2 seater SUV which is based on the five seater Evoque and priced from £32,395. In due course an all-new larger heavyweight Discovery SUV will be introduced which styling wise will be based on the new Discovery Sport. 

The Range Rover Evoque is a range of compact five seater five door and three door models with core versions available with the choice of 2.0-litre, 240PS petrol and 2.2-litre turbodiesel, 150 and 190PS engine options. In addition for the 2015 model year top of the range, sumptuous Autobiography five-door variants have been added with turbodiesel and petrol engine options. The Autobiography Dynamic variant has a 2.0-litre petrol unit with 285PS/400Nm power/torque mated with the popular nine-speed fast acting auto gearbox and revised chassis and handling characteristics. 

Most Evoques are 4×4 versions but 2WD is an option for the 150PS turbodiesel variant. Prices range £29,205 up to £49,805. The Evoque’s main competitors are the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 but with Volvo and Lexus SUVs also to be considered. 

Range Rover Evoque AutobiographyRange Rover Evoque AutobiographyRange Rover Evoque AutobiographyTo coincide with the annual Jaguar Land Rover end of year media test driving event I picked the Evoque to try both on and off-road to refresh my memory as the new Discovery Sport uses the same platform, running gear, engines and some of the same interior fixtures and fittings. The size is approximately the same as well, so is the rakish styling although the Disco Sport will be a seven-seater. 

The Evoque version available for testing was the new top of the range £49,805 Autobiography specification model powered by Land Rover’s long running 2.2-litre, four cylinder SD4 turbodiesel engines with 190PS of power and 420Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. This has permanent 4×4 traction via Land Rovers highly prised nine-speed automatic transmission. In due course Jaguar Land Rover’s new generation of British built Ingenium Euro 6, 2.0-litre diesel engines will be phased into the range as well as the Disco Sport and the new Jaguar XE compact sports executive saloon due next May. 

With an overall length of 4,355mm the Evoque is a scaled down version of the prestigious Range Rover and its appeal has been that premium brand ownership proposition but in a sleek compact and more stylish bodyshell and at a much more affordable price. Inside the Evoque is pure luxury but it a little cramped and not as always as practical as its larger Range Rover stablemates. But even at this price it is considerably cheaper by at least £11,000 over the Range Rover Sport and over £23,000 less costly than the Range Rover although they both offer more power and performance from their range of 3.0 diesel and 4.4/5.0-litre petrol engine options. 

During on-road driving the Evoque is not as sharp in the handling department as the BMW X3 or Audi Q5 and it can give a fidgety ride with the larger 20-inch Autobiography spec wheel fitted. But when it comes to off-road driving neither of the German brands can compete with the British built Evoque by some considerable margin. In real-life of course it is likely that most owners will never need to venture into serious off-road driving conditions so actual driving on road performance with some off-road ability has a higher preference. In many ways the choice most affluent UK potential SUV owners have to make is what brand do I prefer? Although BMW and Audi have long waiting lists for their SUV models the Evoque outsells them so that would suggest the image and desirability of the Range Rover Evoque is higher. 

No Evoque owner whatever version is chosen will feel let down by the design and luxury of the interior. True it is a little cramped in the rear, especially the three door Coupe versions and access to the rear seats is limited so the Coupe really doesn’t figure highly as far as UK sales go. The latest Autobiography versions are pure luxury with a premium leather interior even including embossed headrests. Other spec changes and additions include InControl Apps which provide vehicle-optimised Smartphone apps to be displayed and controlled with their original look and feel from the vehicle’s touchscreen. Of course being a premium brand there are numerous extra costs options that can be added and these include, depending on the standard spec, ark-assist automatic parking, surround camera system, closing vehicle sensing, rear seat entertainment system, head-up display and strangely for just £250 wade sensing – for a highly rated 4×4 with a Range Rover badge I’d have thought this would have been a ‘given’ standard item. 

As for performance the Autobiography spec 2.2-litre, four cylinder turbodiesel unit with 192PS of power and the significant 420Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, the acceleration response gives confidence for getting past slower traffic really quite quickly with a zero to 62mph taking 8.5 seconds with a top speed of 121mph. This torquey engine might no longer be the last word in refinement due to its age, new Jaguar/LandRover 2.0-litre ones are on their way in 2015, but the flexibility allows driving at low in-traffic speeds or crawling up and down muddy hills or through deep water very smooth with immediate sharp response to throttle pressure when needed. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a dream to use with this engine. Officially the Evoque Autobiography 2.2-litre turbodiesel will return 47.1mpg in the Combined Cycle and my on-road country roads test drive around the Malvern Hills area returned 40.3mpg. The CO2 emissions are 159g/km which means VED road tax is £180 a year and company car tax is 27%. 

Range Rover Evoque AutobiographyMoving the test drive to the off-road course the Evoque doesn’t have high or low gear ratio selection but it does have Land Rovers electronic and computer controlled brilliant Terrain Response system. Just select the mode you need, Dynamic through to mud, snow, rocks and so on and the ‘brain’ does the rest. It also has adjustable speed Descent Control with the engine and braking system combining to give the optimum crawling controlled speed going down very steep off-road hills. With its height adjustable suspension the vehicle has a wading depth of 500mm so ground clearance is reasonable and of course dealing with bonnet high water proved to be no problem at Land Rovers brilliant off-road driving centre at Eastnor Castle Herefordshire. 

No matter what our unpredictable Winter weather will throw at us in the next few months the Evoque will cope even in the hands of a new generation of novice 4×4 owners. Just a wash down will bring back its shine and the vehicle will revert with ease to its role as urban chic transport for city slickers. These affluent owners might at the weekends just venture to the country where a driver’s lack of off-road driving experience will be somewhat made up for by the incredible ability this Range Rover, or any Range Rover for that matter, delivers but at a very steep price. 

Hard-core country dwellers, where a 4×4 is more of a necessity and not a show of affluence, will wait until the marginally less expensive, equally capable and roomier Discovery Sport comes along In January. 

MILESTONES: New edition Range Rover Evoque Autobiography 5-Door. Price: £49,805. Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 190PS with 420Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 9-speed automatic, computer controlled 4×4 system with Terrain Response. Performance: 121mph, 0-62mph 8.5 seconds, 47.1mpg Combined Cycle (40.3mpg on test on-road, CO2 159g/km, VED road tax 180, BIK company car tax 27%. Insurance group: 34. Warranty: 3-years unlimited mileage. For: Stylish and an aspirational ownership proposition, premium high-spec, high-quality interior, brilliantly capable off-road, easy to drive on-road, globally the fastest selling Land/Range Rover of all time. Against: Not as sharp to drive on-road as some other premium brand mid-zed SUVs, more refined new generation engines on their way, unsettled ride with 20-inch Autobiography spec wheels, not as roomy as some in this class, expensive to buy and run.  Miles Better News agency 

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