Twenty years and 5 months in the past, I took supply of my first Land Rover. It was a five-speed ’97 Discovery SD, black with tan inside, leased for $451 per 30 days, pushed to absolutely the restrict of its 15,000-mile-year contract provision as I criss-crossed the Midwest pursuing the bitter finish of my ur-career as an expert BMX racer and biking journalist.
These early US-market Discos had been notorious for giving bother however mine was nearly flawless regardless of enduring greater than its justifiable share of dust highway and winter-recovery stupidity. My father was so impressed by the truck that he promptly snagged a ’99 Vary Rover, which proved to be the nightmare embodiment of British high quality stereotypes. His expertise didn’t put me off. I changed the Discovery with a Freelander then traded it in 18 months later for the last word last Disco, a 2003 four.6-liter seven-seater in a fetching shade of inexperienced frost.
The place am I going with this, apart from into the gauze-covered abyss of nostalgia? Simply right here: I need you to grasp that I’ve real affection for, and never inconsiderable expertise with, correct Land Rovers and Vary Rovers. I used to be an unabashed fan of the model for a really very long time. I don’t use Land Rover or its merchandise because the punchline for an inexpensive auto-journo joke and I don’t mindlessly repeat stereotypes concerning the high quality or efficiency of merchandise from the previously British agency. I method each new product from Land Rover with the identical sense of fondness that some individuals reserve for reunions with distant however dearly missed household.
So after I let you know that the Vary Rover Evoque is an train in sloppily-executed cynicism that makes the Cadillac Cimarron appear like the 1995 Lexus ES300 by comparability, I hope you’ll perceive that it hurts me to let you know that. Need to hear why? Click on the leap and be a part of me on a less-than-solid Tennessee tour that ends with me returning a rental automobile just some hours after selecting it up.
My long-time readers understand how a lot I used to like visiting Nashville, and so they know why. Alas, these days I’m often simply utilizing town as a stopover between residence and elsewhere. Such was the case after I flew into BNA some time in the past. My plan was to choose up a rental automobile and head as much as NCM Motorsports Park to do some monitor testing of some totally different automobiles. I’d reserved a Malibu (or comparable!), however after I noticed the Evoque sitting there within the improve area I assumed it may be a superb time to present the littlest Rangie an opportunity.
Begin with the nice components: It clearly seems like some type of Vary Rover even when a lot of the design language originated in Spen King’s “100-inch wagon” has been borrowed or outright stolen within the 5 a long time between the arrival of the Mk I truck and now. Once I see it, I’m reminded of the nasty characterization of the first-generation SLK as a “stunted runt.” As the unique SLK was to the R129 SL, this Evoque is to a correct full-sized Rover.
The inside riffs on the final theme set in 2003 by the third-generation Rangie, which is to say that you simply sit a little bit increased than it’s good to and look down on a bunch of earth-toned soft-touch plastic. Correct Rovers are recognized for his or her ethereal cabins, which you don’t fairly get on this chop-top particular. Nor do you obtain a prime hat’s price of headroom, which is okay. The essential half is that it doesn’t really feel like a CR-V or Ford Escape from the driving force’s seat. As examined, that is a couple of $46,000 automobile, and there’s nothing within the high quality of the inside supplies to belie that value, for good or in poor health.
Except you’re already a Vary Rover proprietor, you’re going to search out the infotainment system to be a shock, and an disagreeable one at that. It’s decidedly third-rate. Every thing appears to require a minimum of another step than in, say, a Hyundai Sonata.
Cellphone integration with my Galaxy S7 was significantly poor, as was the audio high quality of any dialog utilizing the hands-free function. The buttons that decision up the assorted screens usually appear to have gone on strike. Maybe they’re simply sleepy. Evoque drivers whose In search of Association “daddies” are prepared to spring for the $62,600 Autobiography trim stage will get a 17-speaker Meridian sound system that’s most likely fairly good. The rental variations get no such factor.
They do, nonetheless, get the panorama roof, which units new requirements for this type of factor. Overhead glazing could be very a lot in step with Rover model historical past. My four.6 Discovery had 4 items of glass within the roof: first-row moonroof, second-row moonroof, and two “alpine home windows” over the rear seats via which our European cousins might hold monitor of the automobiles above them on, say, the Furkapass.
For those who’re accustomed to the Mercedes-Benz implementation of a “Pano roof,” you’ll be flat-out amazed by the uninterrupted sweep of overhead daylight offered to each rows within the Evoque. It’s superb, though there was a little bit of a rattle from the entrance pane of glass at any time when it was totally closed and no quantity of pushing or fussing might make it proper. For those who thought being owned by an Indian conglomerate was going to do what neither BMW nor Ford might handle in regard to preliminary high quality measurements, you had been deeply, hilariously unsuitable.
Along with an additional portion of daylight, second-row passengers in an Evoque get more room than they’d have gotten in an authentic Vary Rover or a Discovery. It’s nice sufficient and the seats are simply as fastidiously bolstered as their avant-garde counterparts.
Cargo room is greater than satisfactory for this class of auto; a CR-V may need a bit extra but it surely doesn’t actually matter. At coronary heart, the Evoque is a frivolous automobile, meant for wives and girlfriends and au pairs to trundle between manor and mall. Land Rover can’t make it too spacious as a result of they don’t need the Evoque to cannibalize the Vary Rover Sport, which has to endure with a a lot much less space-efficient platform. For those who’re critically measuring the out there cargo room towards what will be had in, say, the Lexus RX350, then maybe Sir can be greatest served going with the Japanese providing.
As driveway ornamentation, the Evoque ain’t half unhealthy, actually. When you begin to drive it, nonetheless, issues crumble sooner than you possibly can pronounce “Chinua Achebe.” The 237-horsepower two-liter turbo four-cylinder combines with a ZF nine-speed automated to supply pretty speedy tempo if you completely flat-foot demand it, served with only a mild dusting of torque steer to remind the driving force of the Evoque’s proletarian platform roots.
The remainder of the time, nonetheless, the transmission appears designed to catch the engine napping. A number of downshifts are frequent in regular driving conditions and they don’t seem to be executed with alacrity. Gasoline financial system can also be fairly dismal, however you don’t want me to let you know that. The Evoque is definitely fairly mild for a luxurious CUV at three,750 kilos, however the equal CR-V or RAV4 would nonetheless be just a few hundred kilos south of it.
Dealing with is about customary for one of these automobile, with a little bit of added lead-footed really feel offered by the huge working gear. For those who had been to develop up driving one thing like this, a plain Civic sedan would really feel like a Method One automobile against this. The comparatively excessive chairs don’t assist issues. I had extra religion in my ’97 Discovery as a fast-road gadget; it could bob and weave on the lengthy coil springs but it surely by no means stunned you with a sudden change in traction. This feels extra like a Ford Escape on aftermarket dubs.
Right here’s the underside line: For those who favored the Cadillac Cimarron, you’ll like this. Similar to the facelifted, V6-powered Cimarrons, this Evoque seems vaguely prestigious and it’s a bit faster than the store-brand competitors. It has not one of the virtues generally related to old-school Land Rovers, and it makes my previous Freelander really feel like a Collection IIa by comparability by way of usable floor clearance and maneuverability. I’m undecided why anyone would purchase it. Nor do I like to recommend it in any means, form, or kind.
Not that it issues. As I used to be making ready to take pleasure in a solitary lunch at an Outback steakhouse south of Nashville, a lady accosted me: “That’s your Evoque? I LOVE THEM SO MUCH I’M ASKING MY HUSBAND FOR ONE FOR CHRISTMAS!”
“I’m certain you’ll take pleasure in it,” was my apathetic reply, but it surely didn’t fail to register with me that I’ve by no means seen anyone that randomly passionate about, say, a Ford Flex. A little bit bit later within the day, I walked out of a music retailer solely to search out that there have been three black Evoques within the line of parked vehicles going through me. There’s clearly a marketplace for the automobile.
In the long run, nonetheless, I made a decision to return the Evoque to the rental company and take a Malibu for the remainder of my journey. The $23/day upcharge to drive a “Vary Rover” felt like an excessive amount of cash. There’s one thing unhappy about that. I spent quite a lot of my life deeply concerned with the Land Rover model. It’s not price a greenback an hour to me now. Not on this kind. And for the reason that previous Rovers are by no means coming again, I suppose it’s goodbye to all that. Land Rover doesn’t need my enterprise. They’ve the actual housewives of Nashville now, I suppose.
I want all of them the perfect of luck.
[Images: ©2017 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]