It’s quiet at the top of the rain-soaked mud-and-gravel track that’s been carved out of the Grecian hillside. The auto start/stop system outfitted to the Range Rover Evoque SUV has killed the engine, leaving my co-driver, Ken, and myself to ponder the very existence of the path forward – obscured entirely, as it is now, by some of the thickest fog the Aegean can conjure and then hurl up at the peaks that frame this sliver of the Mediterranean.
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged inline 4-cylinder / mild-hybrid
Output: 256 hp, 269 lb-ft of torque / 296 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque
Transmissions: 9-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: N/A
Fuel Economy (MPG): 21 city, 26 highway, 23 combined
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): N/A
Starting Price (USD): $42,650
Starting Price: (CAD): $47,000
“I think there’s a rock wall just to the left,” I offer hopefully, not entirely certain as to whether my eyes have locked onto obsidian shale or sheer apparition. “And directly in front of us, too.”
“I’d prefer that to the cliff drop I’ve got here outside my window,” Ken returns, the tension in his voice matching the general mood of our creep-forward driving pace. There’s a pause. “Still, I think we’re going to have to make a right.”
I glance at the navigation screen, which neither confirms nor denies anything other than our proximity to a squiggly blue line that seems to stretch forward, forever, into the gloom. I take my foot off the Evoque’s brake, and the four-wheel drive system scrambles for purchase against the loose rock that’s eroding under the wheels in real time as the torrential downpour remakes the ‘road’ in its own image.
Later, we’re shown a photograph of the view from the summit on a clear day. We had been parked not 20 feet away from a pair of massive wind turbines, each completely invisible in the dim mist that had paralyzed our journey more than once through that treacherous, winding passage. Both of us are only glad that there is a later.
Do The Evolution
It’s no accident that the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is as competent at rescuing its occupants from the occasional perils of adventure as it is at shuttling them to soul-searching moments at the precipice of doubt and falling to one’s death – it’s by design. Or rather, ‘redesign,’ as this is trucklet represents the second generation of one of the British brand’s most popular models.
Having graduated from the tentative foray into the subcompact space to three-quarters of a million sales in not even a decade, the Evoque proved to Land Rover that it could make it big by going small. This was accomplished via that most difficult of feats: the translation of the company’s go-anywhere philosophy into a down-sized package that managed to maintain the style and luxury Range Rover customers had come to expect.
As such it’s fitting that despite the very-much new underpinnings and engine options offered by Evoque 2, it takes a discerning eye to spot the visual differences between junior and senior, even when parked directly beside each other. Easiest are the new thinner LED lights up front, the strakes in the lower bumper openings, and the smoother sides facilitated by the move to pop-out pulls for opening the vehicle’s doors.
Once inside, there are clearer indications from Land Rover’s design team that the Evoque has been taking lessons from the recent Velar’s beyond-slick interior. Most prominent is the available dual-pane infotainment system, the main touchscreen tilted towards driver and passenger upon ignition and the second hovering below between the dash and the center console to serve as the primary point of interaction for climate, entertainment, and other vehicle features (with much of its functionality also accessible on the primary display).
This, combined with the surprising range of eco-oriented materials used throughout the Evoque (including fabric-like upholstery for the seats made from sustainable and/or recycled products), ups the ante for the vehicle, especially as compared to simpler, less-detailed presentations from competitors such as the BMW X2 or the Audi Q3. Despite maintaining its modest size, the Range Rover also manages to be a smidgen more practical than before, too, leveraging its near-inch increase in wheelbase to provide better accommodations for second seat riders, as well as just a touch over 50 cubic feet of total cargo space with the rear row folded flat.
All-New Under The Skin
In moving to its new platform the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque may have gained a little weight, but it’s also been gifted with a pair of improved drivetrains to help bear the load. The automaker’s ‘Ingenium’ series of four-cylinder turbocharged motors is now tagged in under the hood, providing 246 horsepower from its 2.0-liters of displacement in base models, and up to 296 horsepower for a soon-to-be-available 48-V mild hybrid model. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard with each version of the Evoque, as is an all-wheel-drive system that can disconnect the rear axles from being powered in order to boost MPG.
On pavement, the Evoque feels quiet and competent, if not quite athletic, when tackling the sinuous asphalt route that the day before had ultimately delivered Ken and me to our near-disappearance down the side of a Greek mountain just outside of Athens. Power delivery is excellent all-around, with only the occasional corner push to remind you that this is a true SUV and not merely a lifted hatchback (with the heft to match).
As impressive as its on-pavement proclivities may be, they are surpassed by its unexpected off-road capabilities. Able to ford nearly two feet of water and featuring several different traction-assisting driving programs through its new Terrain Response 2 system, I sent the Evoque down narrow canyons, over rushing streams, and up steep, craggy trails, before culminating in the instrument-only mountain ascent and descent that would cap my second storm-filled day behind the wheel. The Land Rover ate it all and smiled, mud-splashed from boot to bonnet yet having not backed down an inch from whatever was placed in front of it.
Image Is Everything
How much value does the preceding paragraph actually bring to potential Range Rover Evoque buyers? It’s an interesting question. Realistically, the percentage of Land Rover badge-owners who urge their luxo-steeds on outside the safe confines of suburbia or farther than the occasional rutted road is quite small. The brand image associated with the SUV’s rough-and-tough cred, however, does peel people away from the German and Japanese brands competing for customers in the same $43,000-$56,000 space that the vehicle plays in.
The Verdict: 2020 Range Rover Evoque First Drive Review
Fortunately, given how pleasantly the Evoque parses every other aspect of modern life ( that 99.9% sliver that one encounters in between fog-soaked brushes with the reaper), its off-road acumen is merely a bonus on top of what is a thoroughly excellent and reasonably practical country club commuter – especially for city dwellers whose condo parking spots can’t accommodate the more capacious members of the Range Rover family.
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