It may not immediately come to mind when groundbreaking vehicles are discussed, but the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is single-handedly responsible for one of the hottest trends in the industry right now. The diminutive Range started the trend of city-sized luxury SUVs, and extended the Range Rover name beyond big, expensive country-traversing models. It even came in 3-door “coupe” form initially and currently offers the only convertible top in the SUV market (good riddance, Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet).
Other luxury brands have since jumped on the bandwagon with offerings of many shapes and sizes, but the Evoque remains the most affordable entry to the world of Range Rovers, and now there’s finally a new one. Making its international debut this week, the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque borrows heavily from the style laden Velar for a sleek redesign that’s more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Look beyond the objectively attractive sheet metal, however, and the new Evoque offers a host of novel features that may help to set it apart among its increasingly-crowded competitive set.
Design clearly ‘Evoques’ the Velar
The new Evoque is redesigned from the ground up, but you may not be able to tell at first glance. It bears a striking resemblance to the outgoing model in terms of proportions and character lines, and looks very much like the long, sultry Velar released last year that was squished at both ends.
That’s not necessarily a negative, though, as the Evoque’s design is clean and sleek, with pronounced wheel arches and a sloping character line that gives it a forward-leaning stance. Faux skid plates front and rear remind onlookers that this is a Range Rover model, and therefore offers at least a modicum of off road ability, but sleek LED headlights and taillights that look like they could have been lifted straight off the Velar suggest otherwise.
Despite the abundance of sheet metal, this is still a small SUV, and the wheelbase grows by only 0.8 inches to accommodate occupants slightly more comfortably, while optional 21-inch wheels fill out those massive arches much like a concept car would. It’s a lot of design packed into a short space, but as usual for Range Rovers, it’s executed attractively.
Interior appointments fit for the Queen
The interior design is a mish-mash of other Range Rover styling elements but is executed beautifully with what is now likely the best cabin in its class. A clean, width-wise dashboard design incorporates a somewhat boxy hood over the gauge cluster that tapers down to a smooth line across the length of the dash. The foremost panel is swathed in contrasting leather and sandwiches two long, sleek vents front and center, resting right above a rounded-off infotainment screen that tilts upright when the Evoque is started.
Directly below, the graphic-heavy climate control system is lifted straight from the Velar and Jaguar’s all-electric i-Pace, and while it looks fantastic, raises concern about functionality, as many manufacturers have had trouble with touchscreen-heavy systems over traditional buttons and knobs. The gauge cluster also gets a fully-digital treatment, displaying a full-size navigation map if selected by the driver.
Naturally, the Evoque is available in a number of upholstery configurations depending on how much you’re willing to shell out, and the massive panoramic roof makes a return, helping open up the cabin’s atmosphere given the relatively tiny rear windows dictated by the high beltline. That longer wheelbase reportedly offers more interior space for both passengers and cargo, increasing the load area by 6 percent of volume to 21.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place and 50.5 with them folded flat.
Evolutionary looks, but near revolutionary capability
It’s no proper Range Rover in terms of go-anywhere capability, but the Evoque’s updated platform offers some impressive off-road credentials, at least on paper. All-wheel drive is standard, as is the Terrain Response 2 system that can automatically detect the type of surface the Evoque is being driven on, as well as the option to select traction settings for sand, gravel, snow, and more.
An 8.3-inch ground clearance and departure angles of 25 degrees in the front and 30.6 degrees in the back make this city-slicker capable of some country bumpin’, not to mention an impressive 23.6 inches of water fording ability, which is up nearly four inches over the outgoing model.
To combat difficulties with outward visibility, Land Rover has also given the Evoque a version of its “ClearSight Ground View” tech which projects a 180-degree view of the ground directly under the front bumper onto the infotainment screen, making both off-road maneuvers and particularly tricky parking situations more manageable. The first version of the technology made the hood of a 2014 Range Rover virtually transparent, and now the feature has made it to the brand’s smallest model.
Not a tree-hugger, but a mild hybrid system helps
Like almost any luxury SUV, the Evoque is still powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and an updated version of the ZF 9-speed automatic transmission in the outgoing model. This powertrain puts out a respectable 246 horsepower which is sure to be competitive, but the real news is a new 296-horsepower, 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain that uses regenerative braking to shut off the engine below 11 miles per hour and recharge the relatively small battery, saving fuel at a stop and making city traffic more manageable.
Sustainability is in vogue, and the Evoque makes the most of the trend, boasting 72.8 pounds total of natural and recycled material, including wool and synthetic suede upholstery that uses 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. A Eucalyptus-based textile is available as well, for those that have koala-like tastes.