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First Sight: Range Rover Evoque

23 November 2018 | by Farah Alkhalisi

Like foxes, flocks of green parakeets, and seagulls which have never seen salt water, the Land Rover has adapted to life in London. The Evoque, smallest of the Range Rover genus, has become prevalent in the city’s leafier and more affluent areas, and its growing, diffusing population is also serving as a handy indicator for gentrification as it spreads to less salubrious postcodes.

In short, this aspirational and highly successful compact SUV has been an urban sales phenomenon – in London and elsewhere – since its launch in 2011. Few will feel mud under their wheels.

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Land Rover knows where its fans are, and chief design officer Gerry McGovern’s bellowed “HELLO LONDON!” greeting at the Evoque’s unveiling was justifiably confident. So too was the approach to exterior design: no major changes, just what McGovern called “a sophisticated evolution”, mainly to detailing.

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See more sketches in the second gallery to the right

The “falling roof, dramatic rising waistline and cheeky, characterful proportions” remain; the already minimal surfacing underpins new elements such as the pop-out door handles (as on the larger Velar), further streamlining. A single crease defines the beltline, running from the front wing to the top edge of each wraparound taillight; the higher horizontal divide comes from black pillars and roof, clearly delineating the glasshouse, which has a striking silhouette, thanks to the steep rake of the rear screen and pronounced overhang of the roof.

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The latest Land Rover 'premium transverse' architecture has allowed for a longer wheelbase, although overall, dimensions have changed little from the first-generation Evoque: this model is 4.37m long, yet increases in luggage space (up 10% to 591 litres), rear knee-room (an extra 20mm), and in glovebox and central console capacity are cited.

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Shiny metallic details (options include copper) are applied sparingly: the strakes in the front grille vents, for example; and the skid plates front and rear which add the requisite nod to underbody protection and off-roading potential. Instead, glossy black outlining is applied for visual interest and now looks more pronounced, most strikingly around the narrower strip of LED headlights, extending in a Cleopatra’s eye sweep over the wheel arch and around the strip of side repeater indicators.

The simplicity of the surfacing and bluntness of outline were set off by the matte, flat white and grey paint of the cars seen at the unveiling – a sharp contrast to the complex perceptual depth-effects seen recently from, for example, Mazda, with metallic and pearlescent shimmers which accentuate curves and movement.

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A much more comprehensive overhaul from the first-generation model has happened inside; “nothing short of a revolution,” McGovern said, “pursuing our strategy of reduction.” HMI hides behind black screens until activated (a large upper central touchscreen and a lower screen in the console with the ‘magic ring’ rotary dials, as in the Velar), and the unfussy IP, seats and door panels take solid, squared-off forms.

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The central screen shows an image-feed from the ClearSight Ground View cameras (mounted in the front grille and door mirrors to visualise what is ahead and under the car), and the rear-view mirror can switch to show imagery from a camera above the rear window; other new technology includes AI-informed 'smart settings' for driver preferences and the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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All the qualities of the Velar’s interior have transitioned to the smaller format – and a lot of the same materials are offered, such as the tweed-effect Kvadrat wool-mix textile. Upholstery options include plant-based Tencel (from eucalyptus wood fibres) in partnership with Ultrafabrics’ recycled anti-microbial polyurethane, and Kvadrat with Dinamica’s synthetic suede, as well as more traditional leathers.

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To push home the luxe vibe, partner projects for the launch include wireless headphones with Master & Dynamic; a Zenith watch; bags with Mulberry (from the same Tencel textile); and sunglasses with eyespace. The emphasis nonetheless appears to be much less on ‘Britishness’ and national identity than the global city – even if in Shoreditch, the East London area of the launch party venue, preferred modes of transport are Uber, push-bike or the regenerated Overground train line, and in London as a whole, around 40% of households own no vehicle at all.

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Range Rover buyers, of course, are probably unlikely to give up personal cars any time soon, but this is a city, like others, under increasing pressure to restrict usage of diesel and petrol vehicles, widening its low-emissions zones, and even currently introducing specific road closures to curb congestion on school runs (the archetypal use-case for the urban SUV). This well-judged design updating buys the Evoque more time, but – at least until electric versions arrive – it’s not an advance in urban mobility.

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