If we’ve learned anything at all in the decade(ish) since the Range Rover Evoque first made its debut is that the world has an insatiable appetite for SUVs. Particularly the ones from premium brands, and even more so the ones that have rakish styling.
But while the buying public at large can accept the compromised practicality and visibility that comes along with those coupe-SUV things, what we’ve come to realise is that a pair of rear doors is essential.
And that while a convertible SUV is a great concept (not to automotive purists anyway), history has proven that those generally have exceptionally short lives. Case in point the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-2014) and the Evoque Convertible (2017-2018).
So, armed with the knowledge gleaned from past mistakes (probably), the second-generation Evoque debuts in just one bodystyle. If you don’t like four doors and a fixed roof, that’s too bad.
There’s no word yet of any additional variants, not least of which a hot range-topper to compete with the likes of M- and AMG-badged variants of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC respectively.
But don’t hold your breath—the Jaguar Land Rover Group posted a GBP3.6 billion loss last year (though to be fair, most of that was down to one-off expenses and revised valuations) and there’s still the huge question mark posed by Brexit and what will happen to the bulk of its manufacturing, which takes place in the UK.
Yes, we’re aware the pre-amble to our discussion of the new Evoque is… rambly, but it’s essential to understanding why the new model is the way it is.
In a nutshell, the new Evoque is conciliatory, inoffensive and eager to please. A risk-taker the new Evoque isn’t. The former wild child of the Range Rover lineup has grown up, settled down and started a perfect nuclear family in fair suburbia.
It’s got a wheelbase 21mm longer for more cabin space and a boot just shy of 600 litres (some five percent better than before). The new car also rides with a good deal more pliancy and has the sort of serenity one would normally associate with SUVs a size class up.
Speaking of a size class up, its expansive dashboard, broad centre stack and airy cabin all contribute to the feeling you’re in the Evoque’s bigger brother, the Velar, with refinement to match.
At low to moderate loads, you can barely hear or feel the 2-litre powerplant under the bonnet. There’s a buzzy, brittle timbre of the engine, but unless you’re driving the doors off the thing, there’s a good chance you’ll never have to put up with it. And it’s so smooth and free of vibrations, you’d swear there was a turbine powering the new Evoque, and not a piston engine.
A fine complement to this is the exceptionally light steering. No exaggeration when we say you could potentially drive with two fingers. But simply because you can doesn’t mean you should, because that sort of thing is dangerous.
The general impression of the new Evoque is one of lanquidity, and paired with a ride that prioritises pillowiness over control, you would most certainly be forgiven for thinking the model has gone soft.
Not that it’s too bad a thing, because remember what we said earlier about the Evoque being conciliatory. Jaguar Land Rover, being in the precarious position it finds itself in, compounded by slowing sales in China and a global pivot away from diesel engine, absolutely cannot afford to let the new Evoque tank.
It desperately needs the Evoque to do well, and probably after a few fevered focus group sessions with its potential target audience, decided to crank up the comfort and premium features, instead of adding to its once-impressive handling.
Joe Average is far more interested in what a car looks like, how luxe its cabin feels, how much interior space it has, whether it’s got a huge touchscreen infotainment system and how reasonably it’s priced.
And the new Evoque is most certainly a car for Joseph M Everyman because it checks all those above boxes and then some. Its build quality is the most visible improvement over its predecessor, what with buttery, premium leather generously slathered over its cabin.
If that sort of thing offends you, as it rightly should, sitting on the hides of dead animals, the new Evoque also offers some woke options made from a wool/synthetic suede blend, or plant fibre/vegan leather.
The blockier styling and added wheelbase length (even though the car is just 1mm longer overall than before) gives the new Evoque far greater road presence. This is hard to see in isolation, but park it next to the preceding model and you’ll realise that the old one can come across a little reedy.
Speaking of touchscreen infotainment systems, the new Evoque, like the Velar above it, gets two, with a pair of 10-inch screens. The top one displays various things, including the navigation or in-car entertainment, with the bottom primarily controlling the HVAC.
If we’re being completely honest, it’s not exactly intuitive, sometimes unnecessarily complex (try adjusting the temperature/fan speed) and its touch controls don’t have the same haptic polish as some others, but well it’s niggles on the truly nit-picky will fixate upon.
As for its price, the Evoque might seem pricey compared to a Mercedes-Benz GLA or BMW X2, but the Evoque is also a bigger car, occupying a happy (but somewhat odd) spot in between a ‘true’ compact SUV and a mid-sized one.
So, there you have it, the second-generation Range Rover Evoque. Less soulful than the car it replaced, but a whole lot more sensible. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is entirely up to your point of view, but given the fact the new Evoque is the way it is, we suspect most of you thought it is.
ENGINE 1,997cc, 16-valves, inline-four, turbocharged
POWER 200hp at 5,500rpm
TORQUE 320Nm at 1,300-4,500rpm
0-100KM/HR 8.5 seconds
TOP SPEED 216km/hr
TRANSMISSION Nine-speed automatic
FUEL CONSUMPTION 7.9L/100km
VES BAND C1 ($10,000 surcharge)
PRICE From SGD221,999