The baby Range Rover’s off-tarmac abilities have been largely ignored until now. With those coupé looks, it’s easy to forget that the Evoque is still a Land Rover and will be bought by a healthy share of owners for its prowess in the rough. Of course, you get a cockpit more like that of a sports saloon than a 4x4, but it still combines off-road capability with the sort of luxury that generations have come to expect from a Range Rover.
We know already that the Evoque will be great on the road – our first drive in Issue 1,160 confirmed it. But as it wears a Land Rover badge, it will have to be equally capable off it. So, to prove the car is a chip off the old block, we joined the marque’s off-road test team as it put an early pre-production model through its paces.
All Land Rovers have their rugged skills honed on the tortuous trails around Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire’s Malvern Hills. And the Evoque is no different, as these first pictures showing it getting its wheels dirty prove. Land Rover claims ability in the rough will be one of the core attributes of its small premium SUV. As a result, it’s spent six months ensuring that off-road traction and driveability aren’t compromised by giving the car the ride comfort, composure and handling owners will expect of a Range Rover.
Car group tests
Used car tests
Video: watch part one of our video review of the Range Rover Evoque
Sensors in each corner of the model tell the Terrain Response computer when to automatically switch to off-road settings.
And as you pull on to an unsealed surface, it becomes immediately obvious that the firm suspension which gives the Evoque its dynamic edge on tarmac isn’t suitable for a rough road. Our heads
are tossed about as we’re thrown around in our seats.
But once you’ve engaged the Terrain Response’s off-road setting, everything settles down instantly. The Evoque sits on Land Rover’s MagneRide suspension, and it’s this that the company’s engineers are fine-tuning. The set-up uses magnetic fluid to adjust the shock absorbers’ damping rate.
It enables the testers to alter the balance between front and rear axles, or make the ride softer but with better controlled body movement. So what’s the Evoque like in the rough? Our route around Eastnor’s mile-long Bircham’s Wood loop involves steep climbs, even steeper descents, hairpin bends, deep ruts, stones and a lot of mud. The model simply ploughs through it all with no indication that it’s struggling.
Traction is excellent and the 2.2-litre diesel engine provides plenty of low-down grunt to pull the car out of trouble. Plus, it does so in a refined, unfussed way.
But easily as impressive is the relaxed aura in the cockpit. When we hit submerged rocks, it’s the sound that gives them away, not a jolt through the cabin. Even if the Evoque is on three wheels going over a large dip, you would never know from the inside.
Considering the baby Range Rover’s looks, it’s no great shock that it impresses on tarmac. But judging by our experience, the real surprise is the ease with which it handles rough ground.