The Range Rover Evoque will go on sale with the world's first nine-speed automatic gearbox on a road-going car. Here we assess the impact of Land Rover's clever new transmission.
Having nine speeds instead of six has allowed Land Rover both to decrease engine revs at cruising speeds, while also using a lower first gear for a degree of added off-road control, which goes some way to make up for the absence of a low-ratio 'box.
Other features include the ability to skip multiple gears during downshifts. If you ask for more downchanges than it's safe to deliver, it will remember your request and as soon as the speed and revs have dropped low enough, it will make the downshift.
The gearbox also knows when you’re cornering and if it decides you should keep the gear you’re in a little longer to avoid a mid-bend gearchange, it will postpone the shift until you're pointing in a straight line.
Land Rover says the new gearbox improves fuel efficiency by 4% on its own, while the overall improvement will be 10%, thanks to the addition of a stop-start system for the first time on an automatic Evoque.
What’s the 2013 Range Rover Evoque nine-speed auto like to drive?
If all you do is climb in and drive gently, you'll barely notice the difference. However, once you’re up to speed you should be aware of reduced engine noise and fewer revs on the clock, although that ninth gear is now so high you’ll rarely see it selected on anything other than a motorway or dual carriageway.
If you try a little harder you’ll become aware of how often the car chooses to change gear even when not in 'Sport’ mode and how little the revs fall between each gear. Frequent changes can be annoying in some cars, but the Evoque's new transmission is so smooth there’s no discernible pause between gears nor any disturbance to your travel.
Things only become irritating if you forget to deselect 'Sport’ mode when you no longer need it, because the transmission will try a little too hard to keep you in the technically optimum ratio when there’s really no need.
Our short test route meant we were unable to assess the new gearbox’s effect on off-road ability.
What’s the 2013 Range Rover Evoque nine-speed auto like inside?
Unchanged – unless you count the extra numbers on the gearshift indicator.
That means visibility is certainly compromised and is especially bad when negotiating tight hairpin bends thanks to those huge door mirrors. The view out of the tiny rear windows is pretty poor, too.
There’s plenty of room for four six-footers inside, although gaining access to the rear seats in the three-door version is rather tricky. The boot is a little on the miserly side, too, and the rear seats don’t fold down completely flat.
Still, at least the sports instruments and leather-covered dashboard look the part, while a large touch-screen gives you direct access to all the car's major infotainment functions.
You can’t fault equipment levels either; even entry-level Pure models get climate and cruise controls, heated leather seats, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors.
Should I buy one?
Two of the Evoque’s biggest failings are the adverse effect choosing an automatic gearbox has on CO2 emissions and fuel economy (on the SD4 model, mpg falls from 49.6mpg to 43.5mpg when you opt for an auto over a manual, with CO2 rising from 149g/km to 174g/km) and the car's inability to get close to its average economy figure in real-world driving conditions. The new gearbox is likely to improve the car substantially in both regards, with little or no penalty remaining for choosing an auto over a manual.
Whether Land Rover elects also to increase the price of the Evoque remains to be seen but, even if it does, the savings in fuel and company car tax are likely to be adequate compensation.
In fact, it’s hard to see the new gearbox as anything other than good news. If you have an Evoque on order or are about to sign on the dotted line, you’d be well advised to talk to your dealer and ensure that it arrives with the right number of cogs in its box.
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