The Evoque is one of those vehicles I find hard to like. It looks fantastic, drives brilliantly and I think one would look good on my drive. But I don’t want one.
I think it’s something to do with the fact that you sit in it, rather than on it, meaning you can’t see over the car in front or over hedges. For me, that takes away some of the pleasure of driving.
It’s not to say that the Evoque doesn’t drive well, though. This, the turbocharged four-cylinder petrol version, is the closest I’ve come to driving a sports car in years. It may not be near Porsche levels of performance, but this is a four-seater off-roader, more at home bumbling along greenlanes than roaring round racing circuits.
Or is it? Our 385-mile Real World Test route from Stamford, Lincs takes us to the Yorkshire Dales before returning to Stamford and includes most of the driving you can find in the UK, including greenlanes. Let’s find out.
Pulling away from the Bloody Oaks filling station north of Stamford on the A1 wasn’t traumatic. Depressing the accelerator resulted in a slight roar and, before I knew it, I was speeding. Although it’s comfortable at 70mph, it feels that it wants to go faster and I reckon its native speed would be more like 80mph.
Even though this vehicle is all about great design, some of the controls were difficult to find. I struggled at first to locate the headlight switch – it’s not where you’d expect it to be in a modern Range Rover, it’s where you’d find it in a normal car, great for owners new to the brand.
The door mirror controls aren’t lit, neither is the volume control for the in-car entertainment – and that switch seems like an add-on, as several times I went to lower the volume only to turn down the passenger’s climate control. I know there are steering wheel-mounted switches for the audio functions, but they don’t allow such a quick drop in volume.
The ride on the motorway was very good and this continued when I turned on to some A-roads. In Drive the engine had ample power and the amount of time the gearbox holds on to a ratio is dependent on the throttle position. I was prepared for the steep climb out of Pateley Bridge, selecting Sport on the gearbox as I’ve had to do on diesel Freelander autos, but I didn’t really need it – the engine has more than sufficient power to climb the hill in Drive.
I tried Sport again a few times, but each time it wasn’t needed. For the lower-output diesels it would make a difference, but not on the petrol version. Instead, on the odd occasions when I did want to take control, I used the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts with the gearbox in Drive and it performed perfectly, holding the gears and allowing selection, returning to full automatic after a couple of minutes.
Selecting Dynamic on Terrain Response makes a few adjustments for sportier driving, with the main change being stiffening up suspension response. On A-roads this was great, but I found it was too stiff for me on bumpier roads.
The full-length panoramic sunroof let the light flood in, making driving through the dales a wonderful experience, catching sight of hills stretching up above me – a far cry from the flatlands where I started the day’s trip. The sunroof helps you feel part of the landscape when you venture on to greenlanes.
The Evoque bumbled along nicely enough off tarmac, and had a good ride. The automatic gearbox makes up for the lack of low range, allowing good slow-speed control, even if the engine braking wasn’t fantastic. But though the performance was adequate, the overall greenlaning experience lacked something.
And much of that is down to the sidewards visibility out of the vehicle. I mentioned about sitting ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the Evoque and that’s the primary problem. With the waistline extending to shoulder height, you can’t lean out of the window to see what’s going on ahead of you and the big mirrors are right in your line of sight. There are external cameras, but greenlaning is about being out in the country, not sitting watching a goggle box.
I’m fairly familiar with these lanes and I found that I had to keep getting out to check what was in front of the wheels, and even then I clipped both ends as I descended a rocky section. The Evoque may have better ground clearance than a Freelander 2 but, as I found, ground clearance isn’t everything. Admittedly I was putting it across terrain over and above what most owners will attempt, but I was disappointed that the limiting factor wasn’t ability, but styling.
That may be the problem – I don’t fit the profile of a target buyer, who wants something stylish to drive around in whatever the weather. The Evoque ticks these boxes perfectly.
As day turned to night I located the light switch and found the Evoque’s headlights are very good, giving a clear view of the road. The dimmable dash makes the display softer on your eyes – and the red display that comes on with the Dynamic setting works well at night. The only complaint I have is the sloping rear roof obscures vehicles a hundred yards or so away, so you have to use your side mirrors more.
Refuelling back at the Bloody Oaks, I calculated that I’d averaged 25.1mpg. I knew it would be quite low, but it got me thinking about fuel economy. My 300Tdi Defender 110 returns 28mpg and that has the aerodynamics of a shed whereas the Evoque cuts through the air far more willingly. Okay, the diesel Evoque returns much better economy, but shouldn’t a petrol 4x4 be capable of a real-world fuel economy figure of 30+mpg?
What's the point?
LRO’s Real World Test gives an independent, ‘real world’ fuel economy figure based on a varied and enjoyable 380-mile route, rather than sitting on a dyno.
It’s a big drive to do in one day, so we get up early and start by brimming the fuel tank at a garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
By doing the same at the end, it’s easy to get a precise ‘combined mpg’ figure – meaning a blend of motorways, fast A-roads, country roads, a couple of long greenlanes and a rush-hour city crawl. And, we find out more along the way!
Our test route
Bloody Oaks services, Stamford > A1 north Knaresborough > Arncliffe > Kettlewell > Middleham > Bainbridge > Stalling Busk (byway) > Hubberholme > Cam High Road (byway) > Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes > Settle > Silsden > Bradford > M62 east > Ferrybridge > A1 south > Bloody Oaks services, Stamford