Pros: Distinctive styling; firm and responsive handling; powerful and fuel efficient

Cons: Road noise in cabin; small interior space; high base price

Land Rover's luxury brand, Range Rover, doesn't often unveil new vehicles. In fact, the original Range Rover was a stand-alone offering for 25 years before the second-generation P38 made its debut. So, on the rare occasion that Range Rover does introduce a new model or nameplate, it's historically significant.

For 2012, Range Rover has an all-new offering: the Evoque. This is perhaps the most noteworthy new model from the Land Rover brand since the Land Rover Discovery or the first Range Rover. The Evoque is not only stunningly beautiful to behold but good enough to have been named the 2012 North American Truck of the Year.

Based on the Land Rover LR2 platform, the Evoque takes the Range Rover name in a new direction. A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine powers the Range Rover Evoque, which is both powerful and relatively fuel efficient.

Comfort & Utility

The Evoque has many features that set it apart from the competition. Perhaps the most notable is its interior, which features excellent build quality and materials and pleasing aesthetics. Even in the base model, the Evoque interior is stunning with soft-touch materials, brushed aluminum trim and an automatic gear selector that rises out of the center console.

The roof is virtually all glass but can be covered by an automatically retractable shade. The Evoque features ambient lighting in the center console's cubby areas and in the foot wells; its color can be changed using the eight-inch touchscreen information and entertainment system.

In the rear, although passenger legroom is minimal, headroom is plentiful. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split and lie nearly flat, providing 51 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear cargo area has anchors within a sliding track to secure delicate cargo.

Rather than use a traditional trim hierarchy, Land Rover gives Evoque buyers the choice of three design themes, each with a distinctive character. The three themes are the standard Pure, the luxurious Prestige and the bold and sporting Dynamic.

Customers who choose the three-door "coupe" version should note that it has a lower roofline. That means there's about an inch less interior headroom than in the five-door model. The three-door is priced starting at $44,995, which is $1,000 more than the five-door model.

Technology

Just because the Evoque is smaller and cheaper than its Range Rover brethren doesn't mean it's not tech savvy. The Evoque has an impressive list of available tech features. Among them is a surround camera system that uses five digital cameras, discreetly placed around the car, providing a 360-degree, real-time view of the surrounding area. Other features include heated windshield, seats and steering wheel; keyless entry; a power-lift tailgate; satellite navigation; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with Bluetooth audio streaming; an 825-watt Meridian surround sound system, which comes with 16 speakers; satellite radio; and a rear-seat entertainment package with eight-inch video screens, digital wireless headphones and touchscreen remote control.

Performance & Fuel Economy

Range Rovers of the past have all been V8 powered, so the Evoque marks a new direction for the brand. Under the hood of the Evoque is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine borrowed from Ford. The peppy 2.0-liter produces 240 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Evoque will make a 0-to-60-mph run in an impressive 7.1 seconds. The EPA has rated its fuel economy at 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

The power generated by the small yet mighty 4-cylinder engine is sent to all four wheels through a Haldex intelligent electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. Although not quite as off-road capable as other Range Rover models, the Evoque is just as competent in severe terrain as many small luxury SUVs currently on the market.

Safety

The Evoque is loaded with many advanced safety technologies, including ABS, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake lights and emergency brake assist, corner brake control, dynamic stability control and roll stability control, trailer stability and hill start assist systems, hill descent control and gradient release control and engine drag torque control.

Driving Impressions

Drivers familiar with the driving characteristics of Land Rovers, even the LR2, will find the Evoque atypical. The Evoque is noticeably stiffer over bumps and through the corners than one might expect. On the brighter side, the suspension and chassis aren't overly stiff but simply handle with firm precision.

The power produced by the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is nearly overwhelming. Even with little throttle input, the Evoque eagerly rockets forward in a relentless show of horsepower and torque. Typically, we love peppy, energetic vehicles, but in the Evoque it almost feels like overkill. It's not the performance that bothers us but the fact that whenever the turbocharger kicks in, we know fuel economy suffers. Very tender throttle input is needed to keep the Evoque from getting ahead of itself.

The interior of the Evoque is a visual masterpiece and extremely comfortable. Surprisingly, though, the cabin does suffer from road noise pollution, especially on the highway. In small SUVs, this might be acceptable, but at the $43,995 mark, we would hope for better sound deadening. Additionally, at idle, the 4-cylinder does cause a slight vibration within the cabin through the seats, which makes it feel as if it had been fitted with a less refined diesel instead of a gasoline engine.

Other Cars to Consider

Volvo XC60-Starting at $33,300, the XC60 has the same 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder that Land Rover licensed for the Evoque's cousin, the LR2. With equally striking bodylines, the same horsepower rating, and a six-speed automatic gearbox, the XC60 is a strong competitor for the Evoque.

BMW X5-With a base price of $47,500, the X5 is fitted with a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The interior of the X5 might not be as stunning as the Evoque's, but it is slightly larger and more livable.

Audi Q5-Starting at $35,600, the Q5 only has 211 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine. Like the X5, the Q5 has a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, and it's paired with Audi's world-renowned Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

AutoTrader Recommends

At the $43,995 base price, the Evoque is fitted with essentially everything a luxury buyer could want. We recommend an upgrade to get the one important thing it's missing, a satellite navigation system, without stepping up too far in the trim packages. The Dynamic package does add leather on the dash and wood trim, but the standard trim is fantastic in its own right.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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