Exactly four decades after the birth of Range Rover, Land Rover is getting ready to launch the Range Rover Evoque the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient car it has ever made. Fortieth birthday presents dont come much better. The car will appear at the Paris motor show in three-door form.
The Evoque is more than just a smaller, cheaper (prices start at 30,000) addition to the Range Rover fold, however: its being described as the catalyst for change within the whole Land Rover business. Its vital to the companys plans to build cars that are more sustainable and relevant, and the start of a programme that will bring about greater differentiation between Range Rovers and Land Rovers in future.
Therell be two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions of the Evoque, petrol and diesel engines with fuel economy of up to 58mpg and CO2 emissions in some cases below 130g/km, and the kind of personalisation options you can get on a Mini or a Fiat 500. This vehicle will be to Range Rover what the iPhone is to Apple, says Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern.
Exterior photos of the Range Rover Evoque
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Range Rover Evoque 6If you think youve seen the Evoque somewhere before, youre not far wrong. Externally, its as close as legislation allows to the Land Rover LRX concept car unveiled at the Detroit auto show in 2009. The interior is much less futuristic than the show cars, but that was always going to be the case with safety regulations and production costs in mind. Even so, things such as the headlining and seats are made from 85% recycled materials, just like the LRXs. The Evoque is remarkably faithful to the appearance and philosophy of the concept car.
The LRX came about from a group getting together and looking for ways to stretch the brand, says McGovern. We came up with five or six different concepts, but we knew straight away which one was right. The catalyst for production was the reaction we got when we showed the car, and as the design matured we knew it had to be a Range Rover.
McGovern says Evoque takes a fresh approach to Land Rovers traditional functionality. It has greater sustainability because of its size. We wanted it to be cool, premium and glamorous, and to make more of an emotional connection with the customer. For us, it was about applying passion and conviction to something we knew was right.
Its a coup, he says. Even so, the rear package [space] is pretty good. Theres a level of compromise, but very little. The three-door model will come with the choice of individual rear bucket seats or a bench, but McGovern hints that theres another version to come. There may be one with a bit more rear headroom, he says.
From LRX to Evoque**Spot the difference: the final Evoque...**
Land Rover employees were asked to play spot the difference when they were first shown the finished version of the Evoque. The new car sat in a studio alongside the LRX concept model and the workforce was asked to pick out what was different about them.
One guy said that the Evoque had door handles and a fuel filler flap, but that was it, says Land Rovers head of programmes, Murray Dietsch.
Theres more to it than that, but from the outside the Evoque does appear, to all intents and purposes, the same as the concept car. There have been far bigger changes inside, but the LRXs base-less front seats mounted directly on the transmission tunnel, iPhone-linked central control system and vegetable-tanned leathers always did look a bit too fanciful for a volume-production car.
Throughout the project, design director Gerry McGovern insisted that if the LRX was to go into production it had to remain as faithful as possible to the original concept.
...the LRX concept carIve got to take my hat off to the engineers because it wasnt easy, he says. Weve had to put 20mm on the bonnet height and 20mm on the roof, but they were changes driven by legislation.
Land Rovers head of programmes, Murray Dietsch, says any new-car project can end up being a challenge between the designers and engineers, but for the Evoque there was consensus all round that the LRX should be changed as little as possible.
We saw it as a white-space opportunity, and one of the best things is that allowed Gerry some freedom to create a stunning product, he says. Packaging and crash protection always give you the biggest problems youve got to keep people safe but we overcame them.