ATHENS, Greece—Spring has sprung in Greece, providing a wonderfully scenic backdrop for a full day of driving in Range Rover’s all-new 2020 Evoque. The baby of the Range Rover lineup, the first-generation Evoque sold nearly 800,000 copies globally since its production launch eight years ago, but that’s not to say it wasn’t without its faults.
In fact, Land Rover queried select owners to determine the changes they’d like to see in the new model. Improvements to interior space, cabin noise, and ride quality were high on the list, and fairly well echo our own gripes about the first Evoque. What owners didn’t want was for overall size to increase, so while Land Rover spent plenty of money redoing the Evoque for the 2020 model year, its overall size has remained the same despite the only carry-over pieces being the door hinges.
Along the way, the wheelbase was lengthened by some 0.8 inch, an amount that was directly added to rear legroom. Climbing into the second row now feels like less of a contortionist’s challenge and anyone less than six feet tall should be plenty comfortable for even long durations. Land Rover also found room to make the cargo area a smidge wider.
The 2020 Evoque rides on the new aluminum and magnesium-intensive Land Rover Premium Transverse Architecture platform, which is some 13 percent stiffer than the outgoing version and uses rigid subframe mounts. The result is CUV that gets by with more relaxed damping and better mitigates vibration and harshness than the Evoque of old. The strut-type suspension also received a redesign with an eye toward improved body control. These changes also help reduce cabin noise levels, and we can say that in terms of quiet and ride comfort, the Evoque finally feels up to its Range Rover badging.
The redesigned cabin also helps with this impression, Land Rover reps eagerly pointing out the availability of upholstery made with the eco- and animal-friendly materials (including Kvadrat, made from wool and synthetic suede) so popular among contemporary luxury consumers. While our test vehicle was equipped with leather upholstery, the cabin looked and felt a class above the outgoing Evoque’s and featured Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro Duo screen setup. This includes two 10.0-inch center displays —the higher one controlling navigation and audio, the lower one climate and drive-mode selections—similar to the larger Range Rover Velar. An optional ClearSight camera-feed rearview mirror provides the driver with an unobstructed look out back when the rear seat is loaded with passengers and is especially helpful given the Evoque’s sloping roofline and stingy rear glass. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available, as is a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Power of the Thing
Our demonstrator was an ‘S’-spec P250 Evoque, which carries the entry-level 246-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ingenium engine. This is paired with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system via a belt-driven starter generator, a Land Rover brand first, which stores energy under deceleration in a subfloor battery. The electrified portion of the powertrain doesn’t actually add any muscle to the Evoque, instead working to smooth the engine’s stop-start process, which did feel quite seamless in our driving. Land Rover also plans a plug-in-hybrid Evoque down the line (though it’s currently unclear if this will reach U.S. shores), as well as a P300 version of the engine with 296 horsepower. A ZF nine-speed automatic gearbox is fitted to all Evoques and features a Sport mode on the console-mounted shifter, as well as wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual gearswaps.
Range Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system is standard on all 2020 Evoque models for the U.S. market and features five drive modes: Auto, Eco, Sand, Grass-Gravel-Snow, and Mud & Ruts. The latter we used extensively on an off-road course, and we found the all-wheel-drive Evoque to be quite capable of tackling the medium-depth water crossings and moderately rocky and loose terrain prepared by Land Rover precisely to see the Evoque succeed. Hill-descent control, Gradient Release Control, and All-Terrain Progress Control were also deployed, and they provide throttle and brake assistance on particularly steep climbs and descents on unstable ground. Our Evoque rode on 235-width Pirelli Scorpion tires, and cynicism aside, it’s clear that the model is capable of much more than just fire-road soft-roading.
Peaceful, Easy Evoquing
While the Evoque just may lay claim to being the quietest, most comfortable, and most off-road-ready vehicle in its class, those looking for equal canyon-carving ability will be let down. We quickly tired of the Evoque’s lazy handling every time we asked it to play sports car. Once we got around slower traffic on the picturesque downhill switchbacks that lead into the ancient coastal town of Nafplio, we realized that the Evoque wasn’t enjoying the quicker pace. Despite surprisingly pleasant and feelsome steering, solid brakes, and quick responses to paddle-actuated shifts, the Evoque gives up grip early and understeers in a cacophony of tire squeal. Nor is the engine particularly inspiring; the little turbocharged four-cylinder thrashes further up the rev range and provides merely adequate acceleration.
Still we find it difficult to harsh on the Evoque, as it’s custom fit for its intended market and has now morphed into the baby Range Rover it should have been all along. It’s capable of multi-hundred-mile jaunts in comfort and quiet, and it can tackle light-to-medium off-road conditions with composure and grace. If sporty is what you’re after, you’re probably already looking at the Porsche Macan anyway.
|2020 Range Rover Evoque S|
|ON SALE||April 2019|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4; 246 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 269 lb-ft @ 1,350 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front -engine, AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||24/30 mpg (city/hwy, est)|
|L x W x H||172.1 x 64.9 x 75.0 in|
|0–60 MPH||7.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||143 mph|