It’s hard to believe it is nearly 12 years since the Range Rover Evoque was previewed by the show-stopping LRX concept. This was Land Rover’s equivalent of the Audi TT, and it similarly went into production virtually unchanged.
The Evoque went on to become a sales sensation and spawn a raft of designer SUVs from luxury brands from Audi (Q2) to Volvo (XC40).
The bad news is that the Evoque now carries a proper designer price tag with the arrival of the second-generation version. Whereas the original was once available for just below $50,000, the latest Evoque costs from $62,670.
That’s for the P200 S we’re testing here, which kicks off yet another mind-bogglingly lengthy list of Evoque variants: 26.
Our test car is specifically the $65,650 2020 Range Rover Evoque P200 R-Dynamic S that garnishes the exterior with Dark Atlas scripts and grille, Burnished Copper exhaust tips, side vents and bonnet louvres, a body-coloured lower front bumper, and gloss-black side mirrors.
Customisation doesn’t stop there, as further options include a black contrast roof ($970), a Black Exterior Pack ($1680), and 20-inch wheels ($2120) instead of the standard 18s.
They’re natural options for a model that has become something of a style icon, and it’s hardly surprising the overall design of the Evoque MkII is an evolution considering its predecessor’s commercial success.
Yet, while the Evoque has influenced other Land Rover designs, this time it’s another Range Rover that provides some inspiration in return. The Evoque’s flush door handles and headlights are directly from the Velar.
Climb into the Evoque – after pressing the key fob to smoothly eject the door handles – and bigger changes are afoot.
While there’s another evolutionary design link for the interior with the indented mid-dash touchscreen display, Land Rover has dialled up the posh factor. Pliable surfaces seem to be almost everywhere you touch in the cabin, including the lower sections of the doors that are typically hard plastic in premium compact SUV rivals.
Many of the materials used for the dash, doors and roof-lining also look suitably expensive. S and SE models come with grained leather upholstery as standard, in a choice of two colours, and they’re comfortable and supportive. Windsor leather is available as an option or choose to have your seats with a sustainable twist.
A Eucalyptus textile made from natural fibres paired with non-animal-derived Ultrafabric is a no-cost option, or for $4188 there’s a Danish wool blend (Kvadrat) matched with a Dinamica suedecloth made from 53 recycled plastic bottles. Land Rover claims up to 33kg of natural or recycled material is used in every Evoque.
More Velar nods come in the form of the steering wheel’s capacitive control pads, while the Touch Pro Duo dual-touchscreen set-up that debuted on that Rangie is available as an option on the Evoque.
Wireless charging, however, isn’t available even as an option or on higher trim grades.
In standard form, the Evoque’s lower gloss-black control panel features physical dials and touch buttons for heating/ventilation functions, and a smaller physical dial for volume control.
Whereas the Velar continues with a rotary controller, the Evoque moves to a conventional gear lever. (The former was a nice idea when it debuted on the 2008 Jaguar XF, but the latter is ergonomically and visually better.)
There are a couple of other ergonomic improvements up front. The door handles have been positioned further forward, and the dual centre console cupholders are now positioned side by side rather than in a line (making it less awkward if both front occupants reach for their drinks at the same time). The console bin has also increased in size, complementing the sizeable door pockets.
There’s minimal change to the Evoque’s 4.4m length, but Land Rover has squeezed an extra 20mm of knee room into the rear seat – and it’s noticeable. Head room remains plentiful, leaving only toe space that could be more generous. Back-seaters also get ventilation, a centre armrest and good storage options.
An auto tailgate is among options you would expect to be standard, though at least boot space has increased, mainly in width. It’s only by 10 per cent, to 591L, but visually it seems to be a bigger difference.
You sit higher in the Evoque than many of its rivals, including the Lexus UX and Volvo XC40.
That provides for good visibility out front. Rear vision is quite narrow owing to the Evoque’s design, though if that becomes significantly obscured by piled-up luggage in the boot, there’s the option of Clearsight technology. With a flick of a switch, this turns your rear-view mirror into a video of the road behind (via a wide-angle camera built into the rear roof pod).
Seems fair enough that the Clearsight Rear View Mirror is an option (forming part of the Surround Camera), though there’s plenty of technology Land Rover charges for (in various bundle packs) that is standard on key rivals – including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry, and tyre pressure monitoring. There is speed-sign notification, front/rear parking sensors and lane-keep assist.
On the road, there’s increased refinement to match the upgraded plushness of the Evoque’s cabin. Whether you’re considering wind, tyre or engine noise, the Evoque is a quiet cruiser, even on more coarsely surfaced roads. And that’s despite our P200 S’s large optional wheels. The Range Rover’s country-road ride is also superb, feeling relaxed without getting wallowy.
An XC40 has a more absorbent urban ride, though sticking with the Evoque’s smaller standard wheels (or even no-cost-option 17s) might remove some of the lumpiness and thumpiness we experienced on our 20-inch-wheeled test car.
Those big tyres provide good grip even in damp conditions, though, even if the Evoque isn’t going to be the first choice for buyers seeking a keen driver’s kind of SUV. The steering’s lightness works more in its favour around town, while there’s inevitably some lean through corners, if not excessive, for this high-rider.
On the mention of which, if there’s a chance you may be looking to clear some obstacles, few premium compact SUVs are as well equipped to venture off-road. The Evoque comes standard with low-speed cruise control, a 600mm wading depth (up 100mm), and Terrain Response 2 that – either automatically or manually – adjusts for whatever particular surface is beneath the wheels.
You can even see beneath the front wheels by paying extra for Land Rover’s Ground View technology, which uses cameras on the side mirrors and grille to provide an x-ray-style vision of the path ahead via the central dash display – effectively making the bonnet ‘invisible’.
There are four engine options for the Evoque in S spec, including two turbo diesels. Our P200 badge means we have the lesser-powered 2.0-litre four-cylinder of two petrol options.
The 147kW/320Nm petrol doesn’t have the low-rev grunt of either diesels (430Nm D180/500Nm D240), in case towing is a consideration, though it is quicker. A more powerful P250 (183kW/365Nm) engine is available, but if you want significant performance, you’ll need the 221kW P300 available in SE or HSE guise, along with a budget in excess of $82,000.
Otherwise, there’s a perkiness to the Evoque P200’s initial acceleration and adequate pulling power for most buyers.
The nine-speed automatic is at its best when the Evoque is well up to speed, if guilty of sometimes hanging onto a gear too long, but it can stumble when taking off and the stop-start system is tardy when it comes to re-engaging the engine.
Our testing suggests the Evoque P200 isn’t great at conserving fuel, either, with an indicated 13.8L/100km – more than 50 per cent higher than the model’s official consumption of 8.1L/100km. Either that or the Evoque has a very pessimistic trip computer.
The Evoque is one of those vehicles that will sell purely on the basis of its design, with many buyers happy to overlook some questionable aspects of the model’s value – considering this P200 S not only costs more than some direct rivals, but doesn’t offer as much standard gear.
Yet, there is more substance to the baby Rangie second time around. It’s roomier and more luxurious inside, making it an SUV that could also be compared with models in the next segment up.