Can a manufacturer famous for its 4x4 models repeat its success with front-wheel drive? We took an early drive in the Range Rover Evoque 2WD, the cheapest and most efficient model in the range, to find out.
The arrival of two-wheel drive Evoque is a welcome one, especially if fuel economy and CO2 emissions savings are important to you. As Land Rover learnt with the Freelander 2WD though, it’s not just a case of removing half the drive system. With the Evoque 2WD, the 75kg weight reduction has prompted changes to the Evoque’s suspension settings to ensure it remained balanced and refined on the move.
In keeping with its greener image, the Evoque 2WD’s only engine option is the entry-spec 148bhp 2.2-litre eD4 diesel unit. Opt for the three-door Coupe bodystyle and it returns 57.6mpg and 129g/km CO2 - compared to 49.6mpg and 149g/km for the similarly powered 4x4 Coupe. Go for the five-door eD4, and efficiency falls slightly to 56.5mpg and 133g/km.
A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard and there’s no auto option. Thankfully, the accurate shift and smooth action clutch make light work of urban motoring. The engine stop-start feature, standard on all manual Evoques, is key to the car’s improved economy and CO2 performance.
On the road the frugal Evoque Coupe drives just like a regular model. The electric power steering, although light, is quick and accurate, while overall it feels more like a hatchback than an SUV to drive. Choose the optional MagneRide adaptive damper system and pitch and roll is constantly kept in check.
Motorway cruising at autobahn speeds reveals a little wind noise, although the engine stays whisper quiet. And despite the car’s modest 112mph top speed and 0-62mph sprint time of 11.2 seconds, it never feels slow when you’re driving enthusiastically.
On the gravel roads of the test route the front-drive Evoque impressed. Only on tight uphill sections did the traction light occasionally flicker proving that for the overwhelming majority, there’s plenty of grip on offer even without the Terrain Response system - absent from front-drive models. Although off-roading is unlikely to be on Evoque owner’s to-do lists, it reassuring to know that with the 2WD Evoque Land Rover hasn’t lost sight of its heritage.
* Price: £27,955
* Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 148bhp/380Nm
* 0-62/top speed: 11.2 seconds/112mph
* Economy/CO2: 57.6mpg/129g/km
* Equipment: Cruise control, climate control, eight inch display screen, starter button, engine stop-start, Bluetooth, electric park brake
* On sale: April 2012