It's not unusual for a Four Seasons vehicle to enjoy something of a honeymoon -- a blissful period before the daily grind exposes its every last design flaw. That said, the early praise for the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque has been particularly effusive.
Much of the positivity, not surprisingly, concerns the exterior styling.
"Whereas so many manufacturers of luxury SUVs struggle to imbue their compact offerings with a credible sense of premium-brand identity, I think Range Rover has done a terrific job of distilling the essence of the bigger Rovers into this much different, and much smaller, package," enthuses senior editor Joe Lorio. "The exterior design is not a 3/4-scale imitation of its bigger brothers, but it's recognizably Range Rover nonetheless."
Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht, who put 400 miles on the Evoque over a three-day weekend, takes the praise inside: "What has the potential to be a cramped and dark cabin comes to life thanks to that glorious glass roof and gray headliner fabric. The interior is finished in high-quality fabric, leather, plastics, real metal trim, and piano black accents. The dash in our base (aka "Pure") model is not covered leather, but its well-grained fabric/plastic material still feels quite rich -- as if it comes from an expensive running shoe. Also, my 6-foot-tall friend found plenty of legroom in the back seat and even had an inch or two of headroom to spare despite the chopped roof."
The biggest revelation for our editors, though, has been the way this compact crossover drives. "Wow, the Evoque is so composed in turns, especially when you remember it has some off-road capability," writes senior web editor Phil Floraday. The turbocharged, 240-hp four-cylinder is a big shift for an automaker known for large V-8s, but as Floraday notes, "The world is changing quickly and Range Rover was wise to use a smaller powerplant." It helps that the engine is more refined than what's in some notable competitors. "Compared to the 2.0-liter turbo in our Four Seasons BMW 328i, the 2.0-liter turbo in this Evoque feels positively creamy and silent," reports associate web editor Jake Holmes. "You can barely hear it at idle from outside the car, and I didn't notice any untoward shudders or vibrations."
Lest you think we've all gone soft, we have managed to come up with a few gripes. "I still dislike Land Rover's touch-screen infotainment system," writes Floraday. "It does respond much more quickly to commands than it did when it was first introduced, but the graphics still look cheap and the layout is still confused."
The rotary shifter, so controversial when it debuted on the Jaguar XF several years ago, remains unpopular so far, earning descriptors such as "hokey" and "contrived." In fairness, it seems to be better received than some other new-age shifters. "It flicks easily between park and drive, and reverse and drive - something that we have found challenging in other electronically actuated transmission levers," notes Nordlicht.
All in all, the Evoque could hardly have performed better in its first month in our fleet. Of course, it has a long road ahead of it -- thousands of miles of road trips and errand running. Will the honeymoon lead to a happy marriage?