Inspired by the LRX concept shown at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, Land Rover’s first three-door crossover has been received as the SUV of the year 2011 by many critics. The Range Rover Evoque has shown that it is possible to create a new chapter in the history books of the British brand. Historically Land Rover has focused on vehicles that mix off-road characteristics with a touch of luxury and refined on-road capabilities. So will this smallest of Range Rovers ever be capable of the strengths its bigger brothers are renowned for?

Range Rover’s are currently seen as the luxury vehicle of choice to take you from your Scottish country estate to the theater and back again in total comfort. They are the immediate choice of wealthy urbanites when a people mover is required. But does the Evoque stand its ground between the world of off-road supremacy and shopping street show-off?

Yes, it does! Range Rover knows which way the wind is blowing, and with the Evoque, it has adapted its formula accordingly. It fits into both worlds, meaning that its appeal should be widespread. Compact, challenging and almost futuristic looking. When was the last time you heard that in reference to an SUV?

Road Test Range Rover Evoque 01

Our test car was packed with a complete lineup of options. You name it and it was fitted to our top of the range Range Rover Evoque SD4 Dynamic. SD4 stands for the diesel engine that powers all four wheels. It’s a 2.2 liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine shared with the Jaguar XF 2.2D – another test drive on our list – and in the Evoque it produces 188bhp and 420Nm of torque.

The engine is linked to either a six-speed manual or an automatic gearbox. The sprint from zero to 100km/h takes about 8.5 seconds. The top speed is 194km/h. The power train feels brisk, but not quite fast. There is a slight turbo lag at lower rpm and it can lose control for just a short moment, but if you keep the engine at a higher rpm it feels quick enough to let the chassis show its capabilities.

Cars fitted with the automatic have the rotary gear selector that rises from the center console. Underneath the central gear selector a row of buttons allowed us to tweak the terrain response off-road system, switching between tarmac, sand and mud settings. Our Fuij White SD4 Evoque was fitted with the 20 inch seven-spoke Shadow Chrome wheels combined with the Adaptive Dynamics and magneto rheological dampers. The dynamic package adds another symbol, a twisty road graphic. Select this and the dials turn from glowing white to red, and the driving characteristics are tuned to your behavior.

Road Test Range Rover Evoque 02

The ride quality is excellent. The Evoque is fun to drive, easy to handle and a wonderful SUV both on the road and on off-road surfaces. It sets the benchmark with direct steering and sharp handling in the smaller SUV segment. Body roll is well-controlled, the driving position is excellent and the Evoque’s seats are comfortable. It somehow feels like a proper marriage between a compact sports utility and the characteristics of a MINI Cooper.

The SUV is mainly focused on on-road handling, but there is enough clearness for bumps. The four-wheel-drive system offers enough traction on off-road surfaces, but most Evoque owners probably won’t venture any further from tarmac than a dirt road or pea-gravel parking lot.

The interior offers much the same refinements as the Evoque’s bigger brothers. The extensive option list has similar features, the materials feel luxurious and the build quality is of the same level. The three-doors are perfectly positioned for the driver and front-seat passenger. Yet the sloping roofline doesn’t compromise rear-seat headroom, and there is plenty of space for four inside. Getting in and out of the coupe is quite a hassle, but luckily a five-doors is offered.

The true highlights are to be found on the inside as well as the outside. The excellent styling of the smallest Range Rover is combined with a number of details we should not forget to mention. The five-camera surround system, panoramic roof and black roof spoiler are available as must-haves. The adaptive Xenon headlights with LED signature lights ‘wink’ when you engage the indicator.

The exterior also offers mirrors with the Evoque projection light, this casts the image of the Evoque emblem onto the ground when the unlock button is activated. The interior ambiance lighting offers a color choice to suit your mood, and the central eight inch screen features the Land Rover entertainment system with its dual-view technology linked to the Premium Merdian audio system. There is only one single downfall we need to discuss; and it’s the build-in navigation system. It is crap! Let’s leave it at that.

Road Test Range Rover Evoque 03

The Evoque is offered in three and five-door body styles and in three specification levels; Pure, Dynamic and Prestige. The lineup of options is extensive, even though the standard equipment is quite comprehensive. Three engines are available; two four-cylinder turbo diesel engines, one developing 150bhp and the other 190bhp, plus a 240bhp turbocharged petrol. Enough options to choose from! We can only urge you to add the Evoque to your SUV wish list.

Why? First of the all the Evoque looks sensational and secondly it is fun to drive on any type of surface. The premium quality levels of the bigger Range Rovers has found its way down the market and offers an affordable answer to any type of stylish crossover currently available. For us it is the right-sized Range Rover to be used as a daily driver every single time of the day.

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