Motoring: Smallest Range Rover swirls fashion in with function

Nothing polarizes opinion more than a fashion risk: a sleek two-door with an off-road warrior.

The 2013 Range Rover Evoque Coupe

Snap judgments.

Any anthropologist will tell you that we humans are hardwired to make quick decisions, usually based on a fast look or first impression. It’s a survival trait honed over generations of learned experience as predators, and as prey.

And we still use those ancient instincts to make snap judgments every day.

About people we meet. About places and situations we’re going into. And, if you’ll bear with me, about the cars we might or might not be driving someday.

So, you’ve probably already made a decision, like many people I came across with this car, and based simply on a quick glimpse of the photo, as to whether the 2013 Range Rover Evoque Coupe is stupendous, or just plain stupid.

This is also where personal bias comes in.

And nothing polarizes opinion more than a fashion risk that attempts to combine seemingly opposing elements, like say, the sleek two-door style of a sports car and the utility and muscular machismo of an offroad warrior.

On the whole, however, judgment rendered on the Evoque has been positive.

Land Rover first explored the idea of the smallest Range Rover ever with an LRX concept in 2008 and it received acclaim and overwhelming demand to build it “just the way it is.”

To Land Rover’s credit, they did just that, carrying over the concept look—the big wheels and sleek, wedge-shaped unibody design along with a next generation adaptation of styling cues that harnessed Range Rover tradition in a whole new way.

Those cues made the Range Rover Evoque an instant hit for Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover group, winning more than 160 international awards and racking up 88,000 sales in its first year, with production at the Halewood plant still running 24/7 to meet demand from 160 global markets.

And, although a slightly more practical five-door model may be the mainstay of this lineup, those styling elements are strongest in the two-door coupe version, as tested here.

The Evoque Coupe stands on a choice of big 18- to 20-inch wheels that are pushed to the corners, anchoring a broad-shouldered body that features a rising beltline and a “floating” roof that tapers back with diminishing glass and a fastback slope to the rear.

With its near Mad Max styling, the Evoque Coupe brings to mind the early days of post-911 paranoia when designers started talking about the “gun-slit ratios” of metal versus glass and creating weird armoured car-inspired concepts like the Ford SYNus.

Judging from the Evoque Coupe’s exterior styling and teeny tiny rear windows, you’d expect a cramped and claustrophobic cabin inside.

But there’s plenty of room up front, comfortable seating and even a surprising amount of headroom in back, with the light admitted by the smallish second row windows getting a big assist from the huge, panoramic fixed glass roof on this tester.

Accessing the back seat is always harder in a two-door but flop handles and power seat buttons mounted high at the shoulder make it as easy as it can be and five-passenger family trips were successfully made with some compromise and a good deal of hilarity.

I’d opt for a lighter interior. The dark leather of my test vehicle made the interior feel almost dowdy compared to the exterior excitement.

But all the bells and whistles are there.

The Evoque Coupe comes in two trim levels—Pure ($48,095) and Dynamic ($61,595). A standard equipment includes an eight-inch touch screen with short cuts to home screen, audio/video, navigation and phone systems, an Oxford leather tilt/tele steering wheel with info, audio, cruise and connectivity controls, and a 380-watt 11-speaker Meridian audio system.

A standard Climate Comfort Package counters Canadian winters with heated windshield and washers, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Which is one of those seemingly unnecessary luxuries that is oh, so easy to get used to.

Some funky touches include colour-adjustable ambient lighting under the door pulls and illuminating a small, almost hidden storage niche under the floating console panel.

And puddle lamps on the heated exterior mirrors project drawn images of the Evoque onto the ground.

There are a variety of option packages between the two trim levels, best explored online. Most of these are encompassed by a move up to the Dynamic trim level but there are still plenty of accessory choices to further personalize a purchase.

Let’s get to some hardware. Under the trademark Range Rover clamshell hood, a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four, shared with the Land Rover LR2 and adapted from the Ford Ecotec engine that powers the Edge and Explorer. It makes 240 hp at 5500 rpm with 250 lb/ft of torque peaking early at 1750 rpm.

The engine pulls lustily enough. The Evoque Coupe boasts a 0-100 km/h time of 7.6 seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 10.6/7.1L/100km (city/hwy), which is a nice fantasy. My real world results, based on a variety of driving conditions and passenger loads, worked out to 13.2L/100km, on a tank refilled with the premium fuel demanded by the turbo engine.

That’s still better than the thirsty V8s in the rest of the Range Rover lineup. Your mileage may vary and, what the heck, considering it’s near $50K starting price, I assume that even entry-level Evoque customers have deep enough pockets not to penny-pinch on fuel costs.

Engine power is translated through a six-speed automatic and full-time all-wheel drive system with four selectable Terrain Response settings—General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand, and Mud & Ruts. Each setting uses its own particular set of parameters to enable the best engine and traction response to on-road or off-road conditions.

A fifth, optional Dynamic setting adapts a MagnaRide suspension for superior on-road control.

I could go on and on about the long list of included technologies that we’ve skipped over—Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Roll Stability Control, Trailer Stability Assist, Engine Drag Torque Control—not to mention some very real off-road attributes, even on this entry-level compact—sharp departure, ramp and approach angles and a 500 mm (19.7”) water fording depth.

But I think you get the picture.

The Range Rover Evoque Coupe, still fresh from its recent debut, carries over this year with a wealth of equipment and a few new additions for 2013—a new, optional hands-free parking assist and a new Land Rover Off-Road navigation program to help explore previously unmapped terrain.

It’s a pretty complete package that offers a youthful design, unique styling, along with the usual luxuries, cachet and prestige of the Range Rover brand.

Worth a test drive?

And then you be the judge.

Range Rover Evoque Coupe 2013

Body style: Compact luxury SUV/CUV

Drive method: front-engine, permanent all-wheel-drive.

Engine: 2.0-litre inline turbocharged four-cylinder (240 hp, 250 lb/ft)

Fuel economy: (Premium) 10.6/7.1L/100km (city/hwy)

Cargo: 550 litres (19.4 cu.ft.) behind back seat, 1,350 litres (47.6 cu.ft.) seats folded

Tow rating: Up to 1,585 kg (3,500 lb)

Prices: Pure $48,095; Dynamic $61,595



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