A Lot In a Small Package

2020 Range Rover Evoque Review: Chic, Compact, and Capable


April 12, 2019 Cars By Photo by Eric Adams
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Land Rover’s Evoque — a compact SUV that’s branded as part of the Range Rover lineup — has become a breakout hit for the company. The wee scrapper offers bite-sized luxury and sharp styling along with a surprising range of off-road skills, allowing you to scramble along trails and slopes with enough grace to avoid dinging your reputation (or the brand’s). This is the model’s second generation, and the engineers pushed the car to the limit in order to stuff in more capability and technology.

The Good: The new Evoque takes its predecessor’s already-crisp design and fine-tunes its lines and proportions for a more modern effect. The miracle of the car’s look, however, is that while it’s still very much a city car, it nevertheless manages to not look ridiculous off-road. Also, there’s enough cool new tech here to make it a significant jump from the first generation, including optional “transparent hood technology” that lets you see the terrain in front of you as if the hood and engine weren’t present at all. It’s slick, useful—and endlessly entertaining.

Who It’s For: Like the Range Rover Velar above it, the Evoque is very much an urbane, high-design product—on the SUV spectrum; think day-tripper rather than expedition-leader, or night-on-the-town rather than overnight in Yosemite. But its compact dimensions also make it spry and nimble—and thus plenty of fun for those who enjoy driving, on-road or off. It’s ideal for city folk who still like to get out of town.

Watch Out For: You’d better be all-in on the Evoque’s looks, because the baby Range does sacrifice some functionality and practicality in pursuit of design purity. For instance, there’s limited trunk space, thanks to the almost-non-existent rear overhang (the space behind the rear axle). There’s precious little room around the gearshift for things like keys, smartphones, and the detritus of daily driving. And while the car comes with a massive glass moonroof, it’s all but invisible to front-seat occupants, since its front edge sits just over the front headrests. When you do notice it, you’re reminded that you’re missing out unless you’re in the back seat—which is overwhelmingly going to be occupied by children, if at all.

Alternatives: The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and GLC Coupe, the BMW X3 and X4, and the Audi Q5, amongst the Germans; the Cadillac XT4 and Lincoln Nautilus, among the Americans; and the Jaguar E-Pace, across the showroom.

Review: There’s something both startling and amusing about watching city cars tackle off-road terrain—like gawking at socialites who accidentally wander into the infield at the Indy 500. Most are immediately uncomfortable, fish out of water; others, however, pull it off, joining games of cornhole with an open can of Natty Ice in their manicured hand. That’s the Evoque: It’s classy, but it’s also game. Its angled lines, minimalist detailing, and tapering side windows give it an unmistakably clean-and-trim architectural vibe; on the flip side, its expert all-wheel-drive system, top-notch engineering, and assorted off-roading algorithms seem to generate a magnetic pull toward rocky creek beds and 45-degree inclines.

The same can probably be said of the other luxury SUVs in Land Rover’s luxury line, including the Velar and the just-call-it-the-Range Rover, but the Evoque is by far the most…well, delicate-looking of the three. You feel the urge to protect it while driving, only to have that urge dispensed with via every conquered challenge. On my evaluation route through southern Greece, the Evoque navigated said creek beds and raced up and down steep inclines, its enhanced gradient-release control tech now allowing for unlimited automatic hill-holding (instead of for just a few seconds at a time, as in old models), always restarting smoothly even as gravity press your body hard against the seat—or leaves it straining it against the seatbelt.

The redesigned model adds multiple new features for off-road agility, including the Terrain Response system that acts like all-terrain cruise control, allowing you to just steer while it manages the engine, transmission, and suspension settings. It also has the ClearSight Ground View system, which displays the terrain directly in front of—and even a little beneath—the vehicle on the central infotainment screen, allowing you to better monitor your progress over and around off-road obstacles. It does the “beneath” part by tweaking images taken in front of the car to how they would look from beneath it; you can see translucent images of the bumpers and wheels on the augmented-reality vision, and adjust your driving accordingly. It’s part of a 360-degree camera system that helps boost situational awareness at the wheel.

More problematically, the Evoque offers an optional digital rear-view mirror, which uses a high-mounted camera to project a wide-angle view from the back of the car on the rearview mirror itself, unhampered by rear-seat occupants or cargo. It works, but it’s best used on an as-needed basis rather than by default—it’s not better than a conventional mirror, at least in terms of resolution and clarity. (You can easily flick a switch to toggle between virtual and real views.)  That said, it’s well-suited to the Evoque’s unique geometry: The minuscule rear window is difficult to see through, while the digital rearview mirror offers, by comparison, a vast view.

Speaking of unique geometry, you do have to be a little patient with the Evoque at first. When I first climbed in, for instance, I found it hard to get comfortable. This, I realized, is because I’m a tall(ish) six-footer; with the seat adjusted back far enough to be comfortable, my shoulders were behind the B-pillar, making it impossible to rest my elbow on the window sill. That seems petty, but it’s a reflection of the design’s dominance over some basic nuances of comfort, just as the aforementioned moonroof is essentially nonexistent for front-seat passengers. I was eventually able to find a position that gave me a bit of elbow room, but it was never quite ideal.

Overall, though, the Evoque is overwhelmingly a comfortable place to be, with highly supportive seats for a small car and excellent visibility ahead and to the sides. Throw in high-quality interior materials and an easy-to-use touchscreen-based infotainment system—as minimalist as the exterior, with its near-total absence of physical buttons—and you have a very sophisticated, enjoyable product overall. It’s also surprisingly peppy; the 246-horsepower four-cylinder engine in the P250 I tested proved willing during spirited driving, and the taut suspension kept things in check as I tossed it into the turns on remote Greek roads.

A 296-hp variant, dubbed P300, will also be available, with presumably even more pep. That powertrain will also include an optional 48-volt electrical system—a first for Land Rover—giving the P300 engines mild-hybrid capability at low speeds, allowing the engine to shut off while braking in order to recoup power and re-apply said power while accelerating.

That’s just one potential payoff of a 48-volt system; this model won’t quite tap the system’s full potential, which the engineers readily acknowledge. It will, however, future-proof the car for next-generation electronics that require lots of power, particularly in the form of computing-intensive self-driving capability.With those rolling out at seemingly breakneck speeds, new features could come sooner or later—even before the next full redesign. If so, the Evoque will be ready for it. If not, the Evoque will ready for everything else.

Verdict: If you love the look, you’ll love the car—quirks be damned. If you’re on the fence about it and just want a compact luxury crossover, consider equivalent models from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, which all tend to be a bit more grounded in their designs. That said, none look quite as fantastic as the Evoque, and none have off-roading DNA woven into their genes the way the Evoque does. It’s a great (and surprising) little wonder that melds style and all-terrain capability better than pretty much anything on the road, short of perhaps its upmarket sibling, the Velar. Sure, it’s prim and proper—but it proves its mettle well enough to make sure it can travel far beyond any driveway in the Hamptons.

What Others Are Saying:

• “As a Land Rover, the Evoque can’t just be at home in the city, and indeed the Evoque is arguably the most off-road-capable vehicle in its class. Its 8.3 inches of ground clearance and steep approach and departure angles are buttressed by familiar off-road technologies including All-Terrain Progress Control, Hill Descent control, and a newly enhanced Gradient Release Control.” — Joe Lorio, Autoblog

• “f you’re the sort of person who wants to drag your family out of the safety and security of your civilization, thinking it would be refreshing to get away from it all for a bit, only to realize you’re going to put everyone through something they weren’t really prepared for, the Evoque can manage such excursions and still actually look good doing it.” — Justin Westbrook, Jalopnik

• “The latest Evoque takes all the great parts of the old version and makes it better with a slicker design and upgraded tech. Sadly some of it will never be used to its fullest potential (like the rest of the SUV), but it’s good to know it’s there if you ever need it.” — Roberto Baldwin, Engadget

2020 Range Rover Evoque P250 Specs

Engine: 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder
Transmission: nine-speed automatic
Power: 246 horsepower, 269 lb-ft of torque
Curb weight: 3,935 pounds
Ground clearance: 8.3 inches
Wading depth: 23.6 inches

Land Rover hosted us and provided this product for review.

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