Evolution and revolution
Evolution? Or revolution? It’s the conundrum every automaker faces when redesigning a best seller. You want to keep your loyal customers happy, but you don’t want to make them feel like they’re driving yesterday’s car. Evolution? Or revolution? The 2020 Range Rover Evoque answers with an each-way bet.
The exterior is a smoother, sleeker, more reductive take on the existing Evoque’s pert proportions. Evolution. But the coolly minimalist interior, with its state-of-the-moment technology and haute couture materials, signals the Evoque is now a genuine luxury SUV in its own right, rather than simply the cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a Range Rover. Revolution.
The 2020 Evoque has been designed from the wheels up to be more efficient, more refined, and roomier. Jaguar Land Rover wants the new Evoque to deliver more of the character beloved by the almost 800,000 customers worldwide who’ve bought one since the baby Range Rover first went on sale in 2011, but also to surprise and delight in new and meaningful ways.
No easy task. Which explains why the automaker has invested about $1.3 billion USD in bringing the new Evoque to market, including a $140 million USD upgrade of its Halewood, England, manufacturing plant to ensure its top-selling Range Rover can be built more efficiently and to higher quality levels.
The 2020 Evoque debuts JLR’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA), a mixed-metal platform constructed of regular and high strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium. PTA, which will also underpin next generation versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Jaguar E-Pace, and the baby Defender due by the mid-2020s, has been designed to package 48-volt mild- and plug-in hybrid powertrains, along with the Ingenium family of three- and four-cylinder gas and diesel engines.
JLR says the all-new Evoque’s body structure—the only carryover parts are the door hinges—is 13 percent stiffer than that of the current model. The wheelbase has been extended 0.8 inches, but shorter overhangs front and rear mean overall length is unchanged. The MacPherson strut front suspension is attached to a die-cast aluminum subframe and features hollow cast front knuckles and fluid-filled bushings to reduce high-speed vibration. At the rear is a multi-link suspension shared with the bigger Velar. More compact and sophisticated than the current Evoque’s setup, it has allowed the rear loadspace to be made six percent larger—big enough to hold two golf bags—while improving ride and reducing transmitted road noise.
Although European buyers will be able to opt for diesels, North American market Evoques will only be offered with gasoline powertrains. The entry-level P250 features a 246-hp version of the 2.0-liter Ingenium four-banger, while the P300 is a 48-volt mild hybrid (MHEV) Ingenium variant that pumps out 296 horsepower. Both engines drive through a revised version of the ZF nine-speed automatic transmission.
JLR says the MHEV powertrain, which features a 14.7-hp belt-integrated starter generator, will deliver a six percent improvement in fuel efficiency and improved response courtesy of electric torque-fill. The system harvests energy during deceleration phases—the gasoline engine shuts down under braking once speeds dip below 11 mph (18 km/h)—and stores the energy in small underfloor battery. Touch the gas pedal, and the internal combustion engine restarts in less than 600 milliseconds, 20 percent faster than a regular start/stop system.
Though not yet confirmed for the North American, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant of the new Evoque will appear late next year. The PHEV powertrain comprises a 1.5-liter, 197-hp three-cylinder Ingenium engine with a 40.2-hp belt-integrated starter generator under the hood driving the front wheels, and a 106-hp e-motor mounted over the rear axle, driving the rear wheels and fed by an 11.3kW/hr battery pack. JLR gave no detail on performance or range, but hybrid system integration manager Dave Skipper says the PHEV Evoque will be “the most responsive and agile Range Rover to date.”
The Evoque is a Range Rover for the urban jungle; JLR says 75 percent of buyers of the current model live in cities or suburbs, and expects that trend to continue with the new model. But it’s a Land Rover, so of course it has to be more off-road capable than regular, run-of-the-mall crossovers. The new Evoque therefore boasts 8.3 inches of ground clearance, 20-degree approach and 30-degree departure angles, and can wade through water 23.6 inches deep. All-wheel drive is standard across the range, as is a new driveline disconnect feature that decouples the tailshaft at light throttle loads to help improve fuel efficiency. Terrain Response 2 is also standard, with improved algorithms to better detect road surface conditions and adjust the driveline characteristics accordingly.
Range Rover Velar exterior designer Massimo Frascella’s reductive re-imagining of the Evoque is predictable, right down to the copper accents on the R-Dynamic trim level. But the end result is no less spectacular for it; like its predecessor, this little Range Rover looks like it’s rolled straight out of the design studio and onto the road, especially Nolita Grey, a dense metallic soft grey with a cool blue travel, and one of two new colors debuting on the Evoque. And although all the familiar design cues are there—the falling roofline, the rising beltline, the wheels-out stance—the simple yet beautifully disciplined surfacing, exquisitely refined detailing, and tighter panel gaps give the 2020 Evoque a more expensively glamorous street presence. Think Armani meets Arc’teryx.
The outgoing Evoque interior looks like something out of a well-specced mid-priced hatchback, the poor relation of the Range Rover lineup. The 2020 Evoque interior, by contrast, is every bit as stylishly luxurious as those of its bigger, more expensive siblings. It has the sleek dual touchscreen interfaces first seen on the Velar—the infotainment system is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible—and the 12.3-inch TFT instrument panel is now available as an option. With fewer switches cluttering the surfaces, and a dash that angles away from the occupants, the cabin looks more open and airy. The 0.8-inch wheelbase stretch and new seats means there’s more knee room for rear passengers, and elegant new door trims deliver more elbow room, too.
As in the Velar, the new Evoque interior features a striking combination of tones and textures, curated by Land Rover’s color and materials director, American-born Amy Frascella. These include seats available with premium cloth coverings such as the Kvadrat 30-percent wool blend first seen in the Velar, and something called Eucalyptus Melange, which uses tensile material from sustainably farmed crops of the Australian native tree. New interior trim colors include Cloud, a mid-gray, and Deep Garnet, a modern dark red.
JLR gave us a brief drive of the 2020 Evoque around a tight obstacle course built under Victorian-era railway arches in the heart of London’s hip Shoreditch, Brooklyn with a British accent. We barely cracked 5mph (8 km/h), so we can’t tell you much about the new Evoque’s road manners. But it was enough to reveal a marked improvement in refinement, especially in terms of engine noise and vibration (the engine is mounted lower to reduce movement as torque loads change), and in low-speed ride quality. Our diesel tester was fitted with 20-inch wheels—21s are available—and the optional Adaptive Dynamics adjustable suspension, and its composure over the old cobblestones was significantly quieter and creamier than the outgoing Evoque on 20s.
The drive also gave us the opportunity to sample two cool new driver assistance technologies. The ClearSight Rear View Mirror uses a 1.7 megapixel HD camera mounted in the shark fin on the roof to send an image to the rear view mirror. The feature is activated by a flipper at the lower edge of the mirror housing that changes its angle, just as if you were switching an old-school mirror to lower headlight glare at night. The whole mirror then becomes a screen, offering twice the field of vision of the regular mirror, with a display three times brighter than a smartphone.
ClearSight Ground View is a world first. It combines slightly delayed images from a front mounted camera with real time images from downward facing cameras in each of the exterior mirrors to create a 180-degree view of the ground immediately ahead of the driver’s position. It means, effectively, you can look through the car, via the central screen, to see what’s actually under the front wheels. The first production application of the Transparent Bonnet concept previewed by Land Rover in 2014, it works brilliantly, enabling you accurately work the Evoque around gnarly obstacles off-road, or get it into tight parking spots without grazing a wall or kissing a curb.
It might be the smallest vehicle in the Range Rover lineup, but the 2020 Evoque is too big to fail. JLR needs it to maintain the sales momentum of the original to generate cash and profits. The good news is JLR has nailed the basics: This new Evoque amps up the concept-car exterior style, adds an interior with modernist luxury flair, and throws some impressive 21st century tech into the mix for good measure. If it drives as good as it looks on—and off—the road, and delivers the promised improvements in refinement and efficiency, it’s going to be a home run.