Vancouver, BC ? I like going to new vehicle launches because I get to talk to the engineers and designers of the new vehicle plus its nice to see my auto writer friends and travel to interesting places.?
Land Rover picked one of my favorite cities, Vancouver, B.C., for the launch of the new 2012 Range Rover Evoque.? Our drive route would take us from downtown Vancouver, BC to North Vancouver then north on highway 99 to the Whistler Ski Resort.? I have driven the route on many other vehicle launches and even on vacation.? It?s a magnificent drive with great views of the Canadian mountain peaks and beautiful Howe Sound.? The only problem with the drive is the Lions Gate Bridge, which crosses the narrows of Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.? The bridge and the road leading to it through Stanley Park is only three lanes wide and traffic always backs up.
?????????? However, Land Rover, decided to make this launch a little more challenging than slow moving cars on an overcrowded street.? First, I boarded a small cabin cruiser on the Vancouver waterfront and rode out to a barge in the middle of the harbor.? The barge was filled with colorful new Range Rover Evoques.? I climbed aboard the barge as it was towed toward the North Shore.? When we were nearly to the beach, they dropped the ramp told all the auto journalists to drive to shore in what was the first true new car ?launch? I had been on.
Like all Range Rovers, the Evoque is designed to handle water (up to 20-inches deep) and while I was a bit anxious as my Evoque dropped into the shallow bay water and carried me ashore to begin my drive to Whistler.
?????????????? All of the Land Rover and Range Rover models are stylish and classically trendy, but the Evoque is a different breed, for several reasons.? The most noticeable difference is the design.? While all the other models look like they might belong on safari on Serengeti, the Evoque has the look of urban sophistication like a cool cousin from the city.
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque pioneers several new areas for Land Rover, too.? It?s the smallest, lightest and most efficient vehicle they?ve ever built.? Rather than a big V-8 engine under the bonnet (that?s what the British call the hood), a little turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers Evoque.
Derived from the Land Rover LRX concept, first shown in Detroit show in 2008, the Evoque follows the unique lines and rear slopping roofline with little deviation from the concept.? Even though it has a presence of a much larger vehicle, the Evoque is small, about 172-inches long, which makes it about the same length as a Jeep Wrangler or Porsche Boxster.? The looks leave no doubt that this vehicle is a Range Rover, but with a new contemporary twist and with no compromise to the elevated driving position.
Available in coupe and five-door configurations, Evoque seats five in comfortable luxury. ?The interior looks rich, filled with stitched panels on the dash and door panels along with a tasteful amount of brushed aluminum trim.? The handsomely organized center console and center stack put the controls easily at hand. ??At dash level at the top of the center stack is an eight-inch touch screen used to control climate, audio and phone functions, plus the optional navigation system and cameras.? The Evoque control system doesn?t get caught up in the levels of menus and sub menus used by many manufacturers with similar systems, rather, nearly every system has redundant controls either on the wheel or the center stack in addition to the on the screen controls.
Getting in to drive the 2012 Range Rover Evoque is like a Hollywood production, especially in the dark.? As the driver approaches and hits the key fob, puddle lights shine down from the side mirrors in an outline sketch of the vehicle.? Once inside, the driver pushes the start button and interior displays and ambient lighting activate as in a choreographed start-up sequence, and the solid aluminum shift control rises from the console.? The driver can even select the color scheme, however when the Dynamic Mode is selected, they change to red.
Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Design Director explained, ?The luxurious, contemporary feel to the cabin is the perfect complement to the concept car exterior. The exquisite materials and craftsmanship, and the pure, elegant design, tell you that this is a true Range Rover interior, but one with a more sporting flavor.?
Like all Range Rovers, the Evoque is a full-time all-wheel-drive system with the Terrain Response System. The driver simply presses a button, just to the rear of the shifter, to set the vehicle up for general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts or sand.
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque is fun to drive with its agile handling and surprisingly responsive drivetrain.? The 240-hp Ford-built turbocharged 2.0-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted using paddles mounted on the rear of the steering wheel.? As expected, the 3,900-pound Evoque doesn?t have near the performance level of the big V-8 and supercharged models, but it?s still impressive with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 7.1 seconds.? It has a top speed limited to 135 mph.? EPA fuel economy estimates are 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
Evoque?s all-new four-wheel independent suspension produces a solid controlled ride with little body roll and a comfortable sporty feel.? It?s also equipped with all the latest electronic enhancements to maximize stability and handling.? Standard equipment on all versions is Dynamic Stability Control, hill descent control, Gradient Release Control, electronic traction control, Hill Hold, Roll Stability Control and Trailer Stability Assist.
One of the available options, Adaptive Dynamics Featuring MagneRide? ($1,250) uses advanced continuously variable magneto-rheological dampers, which is like the magnetic suspensions fitted on many high performance sports cars, according to my auto writer husband, Bill. ?The system reads the vehicle movements at least 1000 times/second, reacting to driver or road inputs virtually instantaneously.
When I arrived at the Whistler Ski area I got to try out the Evoque?s off road prowess when I drove up the ski hill on the rugged maintenance roads.? I even got a little snow driving time while at the top.?? I?m told the Evoque doesn?t have quite the off-road capabilities as its bigger brothers, but it can certain handle anything I would ever do.
Evoque comes in three design themes: Pure which is cleaner, more contemporary and elegant, Prestige with is more luxurious and Dynamic with is sportier look and functions.
Five-door Evoque pricing starts at $43,995, including the destination charge for the Pure and goes to $51,495 for the Dynamic version.? The Coupe is only available in the Pure and Dynamic versions, which are priced at $44,995 and $52,895 respectively.? With all the available options, the Dynamic Coupe is priced at just over $58,000.
Land Rover officials believe the Evoque could make up as much as 50 percent of their sales within the next two years.?? Based on my experiences, they could be right on target.? The Evoque is significantly less than the other models and much more efficient.? It also bridges the gap between a sport sedan or coupe and an SUV better than any other vehicle currently on the market.? I think the Evoque is a winner, and I?m looking forward to spending more time in one.
By Barbara Schaffer