Evoque: mud plugger or city slicker?

Off-road test: Range Rover Evoque

I might possibly have mentioned in an earlier road test that the Range Rover Evoque’s natural habitat is outside branches of John Lewis – and this may well be the case for many of the baby Range Rovers we’re starting to see on our roads. Today, though, I took a Prestige 4×4 model around Land Rover’s off-road test track at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire to see if it really is for the street poseurs or if it will command respect among the die-hard mud-plugging brigade.

The test course consists of 45 degree inclines, twist-overs, deep water sections, tight turns and is generally on loose gravel with a few slippery rocks thrown in for good measure. Earlier in the year I took a Series 2 Land Rover and one of the latest long-wheel-base Defenders round, appreciating their astounding off-road pedigree; the Evoque certainly looked like it would have its work cut out. In addition, it hasn’t stopped raining for days so the water sections are deep and traction is difficult everywhere else.

Land Rover Jaguar seems to employ only lovely people (a policy other firms would do well to copy) and today, amiable Peter accompanied me on the route. Peter’s not just friendly, he’s extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the fleet. So with a gentle pep talk on the important features, we hit the mud.

We tackled various ascents at differing speeds to understand how the electronics dealt with the different situations, including deliberately floundering (honest!) half way up one with the wheels scrabbling for grip. The traction control works wonders, putting the power to those wheels not spinning and on all but the deliberately flawed approach, the Evoque clamoured to the top of everything in its path. Taken with a little extra momentum, I pulled the Evoque up the one I’d previously chewed, despite making it even more slippery in the process.

Importantly, the Evoque has hill descent control, allowing fully-managed feet-off-the-pedals descents without drama. Occasionally I felt the braking should have started marginally earlier but there was never any danger. The other feature was the descent speed control which can be changed – but does need to be repeatedly reduced to the minimum speed for such extreme hills.

It’s worth noting that this vehicle is fitted with the same tyres as the Evoques found outside department stores. The only difference is the addition of a substantial sump/front bumper guard. I did hear the guard catch at a number of points on the circuit; the irony is that it removed some of the clearance so a naked-fronted model would probably have cleared most of the sections where the guard scraped.

The deep water sections didn’t pose too many challenges – I kept a sensible bow wave and although the bed was uneven and felt slimy, the Evoque ambled along as if the troughs were empty. The water level was well up the doors but I didn’t spot any ingress. Note the camera pictures, the front-mounted one on the left shows the camera submerged completely beneath the surface.

Land Rovers and Range Rovers alike are known for their excellent articulation over bumps. The Evoque doesn’t have the same amount of vertical wheel travel as its siblings but that doesn’t stop it traversing ground where the high points are at opposite corners. Whereas a Defender can keep all wheels on the ground, the Evoke merely lifts first the front, then the rear into the air and shows its undergarments to the world. It just means I had to take it a little more slowly and while not the most lady-like of poses, these bumps were not going to impede our progress.

In summary, the Evoke comes very close in off-road capability to its elder siblings but with added sophistication on-road; it can certainly wear the green oval with pride.

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