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Inside the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Mon, 11 Apr 2011

With many large and heavy luxury SUVs powered by 5.0-liter V8 engines in its lineup, Land Rover was likely to run headlong into stringent new carbon-reduction legislation around the globe. True, there are small utes, powered by V6 and four-cylinder turbodiesel engines, but these are entry-level models not completely representative of Land Rover's core image.

The Range Rover Evoque changes all that.

Although it's the smallest Range Rover ever (it's shorter than a Ford Focus), the new model benefits from revolutionary packaging techniques that provide surprising interior and baggage space within the modest exterior dimensions. Rear headroom in the coupe model is 38 inches, and there is 36 inches of legroom. A panoramic sunroof improves the situation, and even this six-foot-five writer fit comfortably.

Based on the LR2 platform but with significant changes in key areas, the Evoque will be made available in the U.S. market in coupe and five-door form, powered by a direct-injection 2.0-liter turbo inline-four producing 240 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain accelerates to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, according to Land Rover, and that's as fast as the company's V8-powered models. Top speed is said to be 135 mph.

In other markets, a specially adapted 2.2-liter turbodiesel is also offered, along with front-wheel-drive variants. Particular attention was paid to light-weighting the new vehicle, and selective use of aluminum (hood and roof) and plastic (fenders and tailgate) have resulted in a vehicle weighing about 3,500 pounds, fully 35 percent less than a 2010 Range Rover Sport.

Numerous fuel-economy techniques were adopted, among them electrical power-steering assist, a smart alternator that works hardest when the car is slowing down, an upshift indicator, early torque-convertor lockup, and stop-start capability. In combination, this provides a claimed 8 percent fuel-consumption improvement over the company's 3.2-liter V6.

To meet brand expectations, the new Evoque is packed with leading-edge technologies. The vehicle electronics network is fiber optic and coordinates the touch-screen and voice-command features that control the car's many entertainment and communications devices without needless control clutter. High-end audio with up to 17 speakers is supplied by Meridian, a company that claims to have invented surround sound, and it sounds brilliant.

To provide the on- and off-road agility necessary to a modern Range Rover, a new adaptive dynamics system with so-called Magneride was developed. Reading suspension status 1,000 times a second, the system uses dual coils at each shock to vary damping force in the rheological fluid. The Range Rover also claims better approach, departure and break-over angles than any other compact SUV, and offers a fully automated park-assist system that can parallel park the Evoque in a space 1.2 times its length.

We were allowed a brief drive in development vehicles at Land Rover's Gaydon works and found the new Evoque to be a responsive and nimble handler on the facility's bumpy and undulating course. The electric steering assist felt pretty lively and communicative, and the 2.0-liter turbo is clearly more than adequate for the task. With far less mass to control than the larger Range Rovers whose composure we've often marveled at, the Evoque tackles crests, dips, bumps and undulations with unflappable poise.

At the end of the day it's clear that smaller and lighter is not necessarily less. The new Evoque's overall roominess, performance, equipment and ambiance should all measure up to anyone's expectations of luxury and prestige, all the while providing the necessary CO2 reductions Europe is calling for. With the Evoque's expected price starting at about $45,000, it will need to.

By Barry Winfield