Designing a luxury vehicle is a tricky thing. Simply slapping a premium badge on something doesn’t necessarily make it luxurious.
What does is the experience it provides and whether or not that lines up with the expectations of the intended buyer.
Land Rover is an undeniably premium brand, and the refreshed-for-2020 Range Rover Evoque, as the starting point in the tony lineup of posh yet rugged SUVs, has a lot riding on its shoulders.
Not only must it help lure new buyers to the brand, it also must deliver on Land Rover’s dual promises of off-road capability and unmistakable luxury.
Big SUV, Small Package
When compared to the many other mini-utes in the subcompact-crossover segment, the Evoque is a rare entrant that looks and drives like a larger SUV.
Despite an H-point of 28.3 inches, which is just 0.3 inch higher than a Mazda CX-5, the driving position imparts an elevated sense that makes it feel like less of a lifted hatchback, such as the BMW X2 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
A vault-like cabin and well-damped suspension also contribute to the Evoque’s sense of solidity and mass.
We’ve already sampled the Evoque’s less powerful P250 variant, both on and off the road, in Greece during its initial launch.
The upper-level R-Dynamic HSE P300 model tested here utilizes a 48-volt hybrid system in conjunction with the standard turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four to produce a combined 296 horsepower, up from the nonhybrid P250’s 246 ponies.
At the test track, our test car required 6.6 seconds to reach 60 mph. While that’s a merely average result for the segment, there’s ample grunt for zipping around town and merging onto highways.
The standard nine-speed automatic transmission goes about its business seamlessly, even if it’s a bit leisurely for spirited driving.
The Evoque’s suspension does a reasonable job of keeping the SUV’s tall body level when cornering up to its modest 0.83-g handling limit.
But the Rover’s German competitors, particularly the BMW X2 M35i, provide a more engaging driving experience if that is what luxury means to you.
Arguably more important here is that the Evoque looks as expensive as it is. It’s an automotive style item, and Land Rover provides plenty of ways to dress it up further.
Our test vehicle wore optional 21-inch wheels (18s are standard; 20s also are available) that look sharp yet allow minimal compliance over pockmarked pavement.
Our car also was slathered in a coat of chalky silver paint that Land Rover calls Seoul Pearl Silver, which, when combined with copper accents and gloss-black wheels, gives the Evoque a striking appearance.
Inside, the Evoque’s cabin is roomy for two in the front and a bit tight for riders in the back, and it lacks some of the practicality of more traditionally styled crossovers.
It’s a form-over-function affair, augmented by Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and its dominating dual display panels.
We haven’t been a big fan of this system in other Land Rovers because of its often slow responses and somewhat unintuitive layout, but tech-obsessed buyers may find its contemporary presentation harder to dismiss.
Curiously, our well-equipped $67,190 Range Rover made do without the otherwise standard Windsor leather upholstery and instead came equipped with eucalyptus textile seat covers, a leather-wrapped dash pad, and a faux-suede headliner.
For a luxury car, not having supple leather for the seats may initially seem like a misstep, but the texture and appearance of this no-cost optional fabric helps break up the surface treatments by adding depth to the materials.
While the second-generation Range Rover Evoque may not satisfy enthusiast drivers in the same way some of its smaller, more hatchback-like rivals do, it speaks directly to buyers who value more traditional SUV hallmarks in a small vehicle.
How successfully it delivers on its luxury promise depends on your definition.