Range Rover Evoque eD4 Driven

There’s been a lot of commotion recently after Range Rover revealed their new flagship off-roader, and for good reason, too. It’s nearly half a ton lighter than before and will exhibit impressive eco-credentials for the behemoth it is. But we shouldn’t forget about the “smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever produced”, the Evoque, in a hurry and particularly not this variant – the eD4.

When Tata Group bought Jaguar Land Rover from Ford for over $2 billion in 2008, few realized the effect that meaningful, structured investment would have on two of Britain’s most famous, but ailing, exports.

Four years later and JLR are enjoying unprecedented success; this dramatic change in fortunes is perhaps best illustrated by JLR’s decision to move to 24-hour production on the Evoque’s lines earlier this year just to keep up with what is now worldwide demand. As of August, nearly 88,000 Evoques had been sold since it’s July 2011 launch. A minority of these will be the base eD4 model seen here, with most buyers opting for more powerful models that are driven at each corner rather than just the front axel, but after spending a week with this Evoque, we can’t see why.

Every Evoque that leaves the firm’s Gaydon factory in Warwickshire equipped with a 2.2-litre diesel engine, but there are four different states of tune. The engine found in the eD4 was the last variant to be offered and, as its nomenclature suggests, is also the most environmentally friendly. All things considered, the eD4 is pretty green for a Range Rover.

We were invited behind the scenes at Gaydon before the Evoque went on sale last year and learnt that Land Rover had thought long and hard about the Evoque as a statement of intent as well as a means of transport. Sustainability is more of a priority now and small efforts such as producing the Evoque’s headlining out of 100% recycled polyester and even using recycled bottles in the construction of the interior add up when production volumes run (as they surely will) into six figures. The roof and hood panels are both constructed from aluminium and the front fenders are made of plastic to save weight, too. That the eD4 emits just 129g/km CO2 brings the Evoque more into line with the car’s manufacturing ethos.

Much has been said of chief designer Gerry McGovern’s revolutionary design, and you can read about the Evoque’s high, raked belt line and dynamic stance in our design review from the car’s launch, but what is the least powerful baby Range Rover actually like to drive?

Much like a big Golf, is the answer, and I mean that in a good way. The driving position is excellent and the premium-feel cabin’s ergonomics are first-rate too. The touch-screen infotainment system feels a little outdated now but all the analogue controls are where you want them to be, including a comfortable steering wheel. At first it’s easy to feel a little claustrophobic in the close-fitting cabin, and it’s alien to the more commodious environments found in the Evoque’s larger siblings, but this feeling dissipates with familiarity and also with the touch of a roof-mounted button. Press said button and the panoramic glass roof, almost the length of the entire roof panel, reveals itself and floods the interior with natural light. Conversely, the Evoque offers a cosseted, protected feel with this glass panel covered. 

With 90bhp less than the range-topping Si4 you might worry that the eD4 is poorly endowed, and 150bhp certainly doesn’t look like much on the page, especially in a 1595kg car. But power means nothing in the real world without torque, and the Evoque does have that - lots of it. Generating 280lb ft from 1750rpm, put your foot down and the manual eD4 will have you swapping cogs at a fair old rate, and although the Evoque could never be described as fast, it does feel considerably more spritely than the figures suggest, and not only on the straights.

Range Rover has worked hard to give the Evoque an agility that belies its size. The Evoque is nearly two metres wide, but through the corners it feels like the aforementioned Golf, only with more grip. The steering rack is considerably quicker than you might expect, feel is excellent and, although most city-dwelling Evoque owners will only sparingly get a chance to experience it, even the base eD4 is surprisingly fun to drive fast. Do this, however, and you won’t stand a chance of achieving the otherwise eminently achievable 50mpg-plus that the greenest Evoque offers (albeit with the help of a stop/start system). Both the eD4’s economy and dynamics benefit from the 75kg diet the front-wheel drive models go on over four-wheel drive models.

What it comes down to is the question of how much Evoque you actually need. The eD4 is just as luxurious and striking as the top-end models but drinks less fuel, emits less carbon dioxide and is £11,000-or-so cheaper – all for the sake of a more powerful engine (150bhp is easily enough) and a drivetrain that will probably never be called into action.

McGovern said at the Evoque’s launch that it “really does give you the best of both worlds – concept car looks combined with day-to-day comfort and practicality”.  With the eD4, this rings truer than ever.

Range Rover Evoque eD4 Pure

Power: 150bhp @ 4000 Torque: 280lb ft @ 1760rpm 0-60mph: 10.6s Top Speed: 112mph CO2 emissions: 129g/km Economy: 57.6mpg combined Price: £29,695

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