Skid Marks

Living like a celebrity with the Range Rover Evoque SD4 Coupe

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THE EVOQUE is meant to be a more style-conscious, and crucially environment-friendly sport utility vehicle, more at home on the high streets of Beverly Hills than on the Sahara.

Range Rover’s Evoque seems just like another pretty face—lacking depth of soul, real ability, and true talent—as any cynic, particularly someone who has loads of respect for the hallowed British brand, purveys  arguably the best 4X4 so far. But with more than 88,000 Evoques sold in the vehicle’s first full year of production in 2011, it seems like the Evoque has charmed not just me but many more throughout the world.

Thanks to Indian Tata Group buying both Jaguar and Land Rover, the two British firms have received considerable R&D budget to produce fine automobiles which, instead of simply living on past glories while tucking their coats further to hide old ugly scars, the Evoque is firmly in the present and looking boldly into the future.

The futuristic shape, particularly the coupe variant I got to drive, is a silhouette any grown man will have their pulses running wild on, heat growing underneath their collar, mouths getting wet, palms getting moist and eyes getting dilated: lean, mean, tough but stylish, in an Angelina Jolie’s “Lara Croft” character of Tomb Raider fame.

Style-conscious SUV

Sharing its basic platform with the Freelander, the Evoque is meant to be a more style-conscious, and crucially environment-friendly sport utility vehicle, more at home at the high streets of Beverly Hills than on the Sahara. It is also meant to be easier, friendlier to drive for women (lighter steering, throttle and brake pedals), with a more manageable exterior size yet still having decent luggage space for 24-hour shopping sprees, or quick getaways to Las Vegas, the Alps or the French Riviera. Powerful and influential women such as Victoria Beckham were its target market—the former Spice Girls singer having a specially designed, limited edition Evoque she helped conceptualize.

Beneath the storm-trooper-inspired armor is Range Rover’s revamped diesel engine, which it shares with corporate sibling Jaguar: a 2.2-liter common rail direct injection and turbocharged 4-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves that produces an astounding 190 ps and an even more mind-blowing 420 Newton-meters of torque. Yet, fuel consumption is an easy 10 km/liter, despite me driving like a hooligan. The Evoque, with its massive torque just keeps begging to be pushed and I gladly obliged each time. Perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye?

Attached to the impressive engine is Range Rover’s SpeedShift Command  6-speed automatic made by Aisin transmissions with all-wheel drive. Despite lacking a dedicated high/low transfer case, its highly-acclaimed Terrain Response System ensures supreme offroad ability, thanks to its four preset specifications for traction and suspension management on a variety of surfaces: muddy, snowy and grassy terrain, sand or rocky patches, allowing the vehicle’s all-wheel drive system, air suspension control system and traction-stability control systems to work in harmony for continuous forward progress in the most challenging terrains.

There’s more: Hill Descent Control, Roll Stability Control, Gradient Release Control and Hill Start Assist. Its Adaptive Dynamic/MagnaRide electronically adaptive suspension monitors vehicle movements 1,000 per second to give it better ride control and comfort, and can even sense when you’ve switched from tarmac to off-road terrain—impressive stuff, indeed. Its Electronic Power Steering is speed sensitive too.

 

Loaded like ‘bigger bro’

Despite relinquishing the typical Range Rover body-on-frame construction in favor of a more modern, lighter and more agile unibody construction, the Evoque still comes loaded with practically everything its “big brother” have.

You’d think that all these might make it complicated and inert to drive—with all the technology packed inside, the Range Rover can probably drive by itself to the moon and back. But behind the wheel, it feels fantastically simple.

Unlock the doors, and the Evoque’s silhouette beams from the side mirrors to the floor, acting as illumination at night. Inside, the most dominating, prominent feature of the interior are the chunky 10-way electronically adjustable RECARO Sportster CS seats clad in reach leather, with handsome stitching and side airbags, and the panoramic glass roof which stretches for most of the entire roof’s length. It gives you a clue to its active, ambitious and sporting intentions. An equally chunky three-spoke steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake, equipped with buttons for the multimedia system.

The Evoque also uses  Jaguar’s rotary gear selector which hides flush when the vehicle is parked, and is pleasing to the hand thanks to its burled/machined finish, like an expensive Swiss watch’s crown or bezel. Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel give it manual override control. Beneath the gear selector is the Evoque’s Drive Mode Selector.

Geared for entertainment

There’s soft LED mood lighting inside, a 5-inch touch-screen LCD screen and multimedia system which connects to your smart phone for Bluetooth Telephony, wireless music streaming, and the ability to display five camera angles—one on each corner of the car plus one up front. Overkill? It seems that way until you realize how low you sit in the Evoque, considering it’s still an SUV, and you have to knead your way through traffic.

Despite having packed with tech toys, the Evoque proudly carries the Range Rover badge of honor and ability. It has 215mm (8.5 inches) of ground clearance, 25-degree approach and 33-degree departure angles, a fording depth of 500mm, useful for Metro Manila flash floods.

Sadly, I never got a chance to try it off the beaten path. Though on a twisty drive going up Tagaytay, the Evoque behaves more like a proper hot hatch than a mini SUV. It storms up the Santa-Rosa Tagaytay Highway with ease, although the transmission sometimes gets confused and refuses to downshift cleanly. Even in manual mode, flapping through the paddles, the Evoque tends to get confused too, but after a few days, it seemed to gel much better.

On the other hand the brakes are pretty good: no hint of fade, but a slightly soft initial pedal pressure, followed by more consistent and firm modulation. Meanwhile, the steering feels mildly inert until speeds start piling up and feel improves significantly, you’re confident of sawing madly behind the wheel, yet cool and composed cruising at highway speeds.

Since I had the Coupe, I decided to load up and see just how much the 3-door can hold: 10 plastic stackable chairs, some office supplies for our project groundbreaking in Tagaytay and about 30 balloons with just me and the Missus. Even with 19-inch wheels and a suspension more set for sport than comfort, the Evoque is super smooth; it means you arrive looking fresh like a celebrity, regardless of where you are going.

There’s so much more fine detailing to be discovered and savored in the Range, but words fail to describe it. Schedule a test-drive, feel through all the intricate details inside and out, and be prepared to live like a celebrity!

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