This publication's attitude toward the so-called crossover-coupe segment is best summarized with a one-word question: Why? Why take a perfectly good utility vehicle and compromise it with a steeply raked roof? Why not buy a more efficient and better driving coupe -- or sedan, or hatchback -- instead?
The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque was one of the first vehicles of its kind to break through our skepticism. Fun to drive, relatively efficient, and, above all, fantastic to look at, the Evoque made it onto our list of All-Stars shortly after its 2011 debut.
And yet, the questions persisted. Would we really be willing to deal with the Evoque's compromises day in and day out? Why buy a sporty, four-cylinder crossover with limited utility when the same money can buy a nicely equipped sport sedan or luxury crossover? We sought answers in a Four Seasons test.
Before we dive further into existential crossover-coupe questions, we bring you this important announcement: Land Rover has built a reliable vehicle. Our four-door Evoque Pure Premium posted a delightfully dull dealer-service record over 32,552 miles. The only item of any significance was a defective coolant-level sensor fixed under warranty. Although one well-built test vehicle can't transform the brand's infamous reputation, it is nonetheless very encouraging.
"I finally feel confident in recommending a Land Rover to friends," said associate web editor Donny Nordlicht.
We certainly didn't baby the Evoque. Within weeks of its arrival, staffers absconded with it for long trips to Chicago, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Over the course of the year, it climbed to Jackson Hole in Wyoming and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The miles kept piling up during the wet winter. "The Evoque tracks through the worst snow like a guided missile," reported editor-in-chief Jean Jennings after a January drive to New Hampshire. Like its bigger Land Rover brethren, the Evoque comes standard with an all-wheel-drive system that has sophisticated settings for snow, mud, and sand. The heated front seats, heated windshield, and heated steering wheel (part of a $1000 climate comfort package) came in handy, too.
The Evoque also impresses on dry, curvy roads. "The Evoque feels nimble, and nicely weighted steering makes it easy to precisely guide this machine along busy, narrow parkways," noted senior editor Joe Lorio. "If I were blindfolded, I'd think I was driving a hot hatch," added associate web editor Evan McCausland.
We were generally less enthused when we had to drive the Evoque in traffic, where it often felt slow and sluggish. One editor even lost a 0-to-30-mph stoplight drag race against a Fiat 500. The culprit is not the Ford-sourced 2.0-liter turbo engine, which most of us found sufficiently powerful and refined. "The sound of a turbo four isn't exactly what I'd expect from a Range Rover, but the world is changing quickly and Land Rover was wise to put forth a better powerplant," said senior web editor Phil Floraday. Rather, we directed our scorn at the Evoque's six-speed automatic, which seems to be tuned more for an EPA fuel-economy test cycle than for real driving. It short-shifts into higher gears and then declines to downshift even when the engine begins to lug. When the downshifts finally arrive, they can be harsh. For the most part, we worked around the recalcitrant programming by either leaving the transmission in Sport mode or by using the shift paddles, which, according to one editor, "are nicely placed, feel like they're made out of real metal, and, oddly, seem to smooth out the gearchanges." Perhaps that's why we fell short of the EPA's 22-mpg combined rating, achieving 21 mpg for the year. We expect better from a small, four-cylinder crossover.
We knew from the outset that there would be trade-offs for the Evoque's styling. The most obvious one is outward visibility, a victim of the chopped roof. "It can feel like a wartime pillbox," said associate web editor Jake Holmes. We frequently found ourselves at the mercy of the rearview camera to the point that on one winter day, deputy editor Joe DeMatio repeatedly climbed out of the car to wipe grime off of the lens. "Here's an idea: when you can barely see out the back window, how about an automatic washer mechanism for the rearview camera lens?" he grumbled. Big sideview mirrors help when changing lanes but create new blind spots at the base of the A-pillars and also were a source of wind noise at highway speeds. The only unobstructed view was straight up. "The giant fixed-glass roof kept my passengers entertained as I drove through downtown Chicago," said Holmes.
On that point, drivers and passengers were generally happy to while away the miles in the Evoque's cabin. "For a styling exercise that went from concept to production with essentially no changes, the Evoque is incredibly comfortable," said McCausland. Headroom is much better than the roofline suggests and, crucially, better than in other coupe crossovers, such as the discontinued Acura ZDX. The rear door openings are narrow -- we struggled to load baby seats and medium-size dog crates -- but at least back-seat ingress is easier than in the two-door Evoque. Editors praised the comfortably sculpted seats and the overall quality of materials -- they looked and felt special relative to the Evoque's $41,995 base price. We lifted that price to $49,635, mostly with the climate package as well as a $5890 premium package that added navigation, surround-view cameras, passive entry, swiveling xenon headlamps, and a seventeen-speaker sound system that, according to one commenter, "is so crisp you'd think Dr. Dre is riding shotgun."
Jaguar Land Rover's trademark rotary shifter initially tortured drivers and still irritated a few of us. But most agreed with DeMatio, who remarked, "It makes a lot more sense than some of the other shift mechanisms we've been subjected to in recent years." No one got used to the Evoque's touchscreen infotainment system, which seemed to become slower as the year progressed. Land Rover designers wisely retained simple knobs and buttons for climate-control and radio functions. They worked perfectly, of course.
As good as the Evoque is at coddling passengers, it doesn't like to haul much of their stuff. "It doesn't look or feel like a typical crossover. Not surprisingly, it doesn't have the utility of one, either," noted copy editor Rusty Blackwell. The small hatch opening chokes off bulkier items, and loading anything more than a few suitcases requires folding the rear seats. Mind you, we're not saying it's useless -- bicycles, barbecues, hockey sticks, and strollers all found their way into the rear hold. But then, a Volkswagen GTI could probably carry all that, too.
But no GTI -- and certainly no crossover -- has drawn the sort of stares that our Fuji white Evoque regularly received. Wherever we went, from Nashville to Milwaukee to the Detroit suburbs, people wanted to know about the cool-looking car with the big glass roof. "A shirtless Michael Fassbender nursing an injured puppy back to health while humming Harry Connick Jr.'s entire discography wouldn't have as much sex appeal as this car," proclaimed road test editor Christopher Nelson. We ourselves never tired of the Evoque's muscular stance and hot-rod profile. Whereas most crossover coupes resemble a patchwork of car and truck elements, the Evoque looks like something new altogether.
Which brings us back to our original question: "Why?" A few editors were still asking that as the Evoque concluded its stay with us. "Why do I want to sit up high in a vehicle that doesn't have the utility or off-road capability of an SUV?" demanded executive editor Todd Lassa. Although the Evoque proved more practical and more comfortable than most of the swoopy crossovers that have come before, it still doesn't add up to a purely sensible choice. And yet, that's precisely the point. Here at last is a crossover that we love for all the silly, emotional reasons we love cars in general. Because we love looking at it. Because we love driving it. Because in a sea of sensible sameness, it's different. That's why.
|OUR TEST RESULTS|
|0-60 mph||7.1 sec|
|0-100 mph||19.6 sec|
|1/4-mile||15.4 sec @ 92 mph|
|30-70 mph passing||7.6 sec|
|Peak acceleration||0.66 g|
|Speed in gears||1) 38; 2) 66; 3) 101; 4)126; 5) ---; 6) --- mph|
|Cornering L/R||0.84/0.83 g|
|70-0 mph braking||168 ft|
|Peak braking||1.05 g|
|4-yr/50,000-mile roadside assistance|
|SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE||16,828 mi: $0.00|
|WARRANTY REPAIRS||19,741 mi: Replace faulty coolant-level sensor|
|OUT-OF-POCKET||9960 mi: Replace cracked windshield, $1115.00|
|119,743 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires, $986.74|
|31,794 mi: Remount Continental all-season tires, $100.00|
|EPA city/hwy/combined||18/28/22 mpg|
|COST PER MILE||(Fuel, service, tires) $0.21 ($0.56 including depreciation)|
|Pure Premium Xenon package||$5,890||Keyless entry Surround camera system HDD navigation w/voice control 17-speaker Meridian audio system 10-disc CD hard drive Adaptive Xenon headlights LED signature lights Cargo storage rails|
|Climate Comfort package||$1,000||Heated front seats, steering wheel, windshield, and washer nozzles|
|SiriusXM satellite radio and HD radio||$750|