This is it: Range Rover reveal new 'X-Ray Vision' Evoque
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It's been seven years since Land Rover launched its Range Rover Evoque. This little sport utility, which immediately defined its class, first appeared at the Detroit motor show in 2008 as the Land Rover LRX concept penned by Julian Thomson, now Jaguar's director of advanced design.
His quite brilliant styling was equally brilliantly marketed by not changing much for production, except by throwing a Range Rover interior at it. It was “a concept car for the road” they said and, despite the tiny interior and appalling rearward vision, buyers formed orderly queues paying quite eye-watering prices for this mid-sized SUV.
German car makers were stymied and the Evoque has sold an average of 125,000 a year since then, almost half a plant's worth every 12 months. But with sales starting to tail off it's high time for a Mk2 version.
Gerry McGovern, Land Rover's chief design officer, does a fair impression of a blustering martinet, but you must admit he has a point when he says that design needs to lead engineering. Or at least, you do until you remember what he’s done to the back of the most recent Discovery.
So it's a relief that his team hasn’t a) made it any bigger and b) has merely pumped up the panels a little. You need to put the two cars together to see the differences, but the new body is smoother, better put together and more slippery through the air with an aerodynamic benefit of 14 per cent from 0.37Cd to 0.32.
“Sometimes it’s just as important not to change as it is to change,” says McGovern. “It’s evolution but strong evolution.”
Wave goodbye, though, to the old three-door model, which never sold well. Instead the five-door has a dropped roof line, but with a 20mm wheelbase extension (the rear axle has been moved back), it's now a lot easier to get into the rear seats, which are more accommodating with more knee room and just enough head room for a six-footer.
The boot is also bigger thanks to the more efficient body structure, there's more storage space inside and even the fuel tank has been made larger.
“It’s a packaging masterclass,” says Pete Simkin, the Evoque’s affable chief engineer, with evident pride.
Under the skin they’ve finally changed the old Ford C1 chassis platform which can trace its lineage back to the 2004 Focus C-Max, various Volvos and Ford's Kuga, and, in stretched form, Volvo's S80 and Ford's Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy.
The significance of this change for Land Rover cannot be underestimated. The Evoque's new high-strength-steel and aluminium- rich, hybrid-capable platform will also underpin future updates on the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar's E-Pace. It's called the Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA – no jokes about concerned parents here) and has an all-new, lighter MacPherson-strut front suspension with bigger bushes, hydro-formed components and aluminium knuckles, as well as a new integral link rear set-up from the Range Rover Velar.
It's taken a while, but the integrated starter/generator mild hybrid system promised a decade ago with the LRX is finally a reality, too. All versions of the new Evoque will get such a 15kW system with the 8Ah lithium-ion battery mounted under the floor.
Before you ask, yes the new Evoque will wade through the water, with a new maximum depth of 600mm. Simkin claims overall savings of six per cent in fuel consumption, eight per cent in C02 emissions with engines shutting off and driving on the battery below 10.5mph, although the system isn't strong enough to power the Evoque from standstill on its own.
The engines will be a choice of JLR's Wolverhampton-built, four-cylinder turbo units, petrol with 200, 250 and 300PS and diesel with 150, 180 and 240PS. By 2020, Land Rover is promising a full plug-in hybrid using a three-cylinder version of the petrol engine.
There's also a change of automatic gearbox (hurrah!), with the ghastly ZF nine-speed, for which Land Rover signed the most terrible joint development contract, gone and in its place a new, erm ZF nine-speed which is promised to be a huge improvement.
All 4x4 automatic cars now get a dog-clutch rear axle disengagement system to save fuel when 4x4 isn't required and top models get an active twin multi-plate clutch system in the rear axle, which manages torque and wheelspin across the rear wheels.
That system, optional on other 4x4 models, promises to be a lot more refined than the noisy and jerky braking system which is used on the outgoing model. Torque management by braking will be retained for the front wheels, but Simkin says the improvement to refinement will be immediately noticeable on the road and off it.
The biggest changes have been wrought to the interior, with what amounts to the wholesale importation of a downsized Velar facia complete with Panasonic's Magic Knobs, twin touch-screen set-up.
Sadly, the centre capstan gear selector has gone (well, I liked it) in favour of a conventional gear lever, but the removal of switches will be welcome provided the access to functions is simple and quick.
A more sophisticated Terrain Response system is standard on high-power, top trim models and there's an intriguing use of a camera to introduce Land Rover's transparent bonnet system, which shows the ground under the front of the car in x-ray style, while the rear-view mirror can be switched to a virtual panoramic view to aid parking.
Trim and fabric choices have also migrated down from the Velar, especially the non-leather alternatives. The continuing collaboration with the unpronounceable furniture fabric supplier Kvadrat is one option, and a quite pleasant polyurethane leather (PU) another. There are 12 exterior colours and a couple of new wood trims, with First Edition models finished in white, silver or flat grey.
Amy Frascella, Land Rover's head of colour and trim, says: “We’ve seen for some time that the landscape is really changing.”
We’ve yet to drive the new Evoque, of course, but on this evidence we feel that if you liked the old car you’ll love this one; it doesn’t look so very different, but is improved in the areas where it counts.
If you aren’t keen on the current version, nothing has really changed either.
Depending on where you stand, the Evoque is an exquisitely designed or excruciatingly expensive small SUV. Perhaps the greatest significance of this new model is that there’s a new chassis underneath it.
- Telegraph UK