So, we have already discovered that the Evoque is a real Range Rover, with plenty of rugged off-road appeal and a luxurious cabin. However, it blends these qualities with sleek style, agile handling and family friendly versatility. By blurring these class boundaries, the British firm has designed one of the most innovative machines since it pulled the wraps off the original Range Rover in 1970.
Yet it isn’t the only maker playing fast and loose with traditional sectors. Audi is a master of exploiting new niches – and the A5 Sportback is a prime example. By merging rakish coupé style with saloon comfort and hatchback versatility, the German model appears to offer the best of all worlds. Add the firm’s famed quattro four-wheel drive, and the A5 can even rival the Range Rover for all-weather ability.
Order one in range-topping S line trim, with the impressively smooth 3.2-litre FSI petrol engine, and you’ll pay £38,755 – that’s £240 less than the Evoque in Dynamic specification. So which of these sleek and stylish four-wheel-drive machines makes more sense?
Lined up next to the chunky Range Rover, the Audi looks a little subdued. It’s much lower and longer, while the sharply creased shoulder line and curved roof work well together to give an elegant profile. Our S line gains extra kerb appeal courtesy of its subtle bodykit and eyecatching 18-inch alloy wheels. Once inside, it’s immediately clear the Sportback can mix it with the best when it comes to classy cabins.
Top-notch materials are used throughout, and the neatly laid-out dash boasts an upmarket look and feel. While the Audi doesn’t have the Range Rover’s lofty view of the road, the driving position is excellent and the tactile multifunction wheel is great to hold. And if the cabin lacks the Evoque’s bold, fresh design, for fit and finish it narrowly upstages the newcomer.
You’ll get more kit in the Brit, though. Prestige and Dynamic models boast desirable features such as sat-nav, cruise control, Bluetooth and a DAB radio; you’ll pay extra for all of this on the Audi.
The Evoque also takes the honours for practicality. Unlike the strictly four-seater Sportback, the Range Rover will comfortably hold five adults. Open the tailgate and you’ll discover a generous 575-litre load bay, which is 95 litres more than the A5’s.
However, it’s the driving experience that really makes the Evoque feel special, as there’s a keenness to the controls you just wouldn’t expect from a car that wears a Range Rover badge. There is some body roll, but it’s well controlled and the Evoque never feels wayward or cumbersome.
In fact, the steering is extremely sharp and there’s plenty of grip – both of which help to give the Evoque a car-like feel through a series of corners. Our early production model did without the Adaptive Dynamics magnetic dampers that will be fitted to all petrol turbos. This set-up promises tauter handling and a more supple ride; the standard system copes well
with bumps at speed, but feels a little firm around town.
The sporty A5 has an even stiffer ride, causing the car to crash and thump over imperfections. The upshot is strong body control when cornering hard. Elsewhere, the Audi benefits from weighty steering and strong grip, while the quattro AWD serves up unbreakable traction.
However, the A5 does without the Land Rover’s elevated ride height and clever Terrain Response system, so its off-road excursions will be limited to the odd muddy car park. In terms of straight-line pace, there’s little to separate our two contenders. At the test track the normally aspirated Audi held a narrow advantage, but its silky smooth V6 needs to be worked hard to give its best.
At least accessing this pace is easy; the A5 features a slick seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox in contrast to the Range Rover’s occasionally hesitant six-ratio automatic. In the real world, the differences are hard to detect, although the Evoque feels more lively at low speeds thanks to its punchy turbocharged delivery.
What this test shows is that the Range Rover has the A5 covered for style, driving dynamics and premium appeal. Add in its off-road ability and longer list of standard kit, and the Evoque scores a well earned victory in this bruising encounter.
WHY: The mixture of sleek good looks, Audi quality, a premium image and grippy quattro four-wheel drive makes the A5 a very appealing proposition.