Hot-weather testing: can the car cope?
* Range Rover Evoque on sale September * The best Evoque stories from What Car? archive * From concept car to production...
It's 43C in the desert and the rolling sand dunes in Dubai feel a million miles from the shiny, air-conditioned showrooms where most customers will see their first Range Rover Evoque.
The hot-weather testing taking place now, even at this late stage in the day, can have an effect on the cars that will hit the forecourts in September.
As well as experiencing its off-road capabilities on sandy slopes like these, we've also gained an insight into the work that Land Rover engineers put in to ensure that the Evoque is suited to all climates across the world.
Most of us try to avoid sitting in traffic in hot weather, but John Winchester does the opposite. He's manager for Land Rover's Vehicle Engineering and Verifications programme in the Middle East, Asia and South Africa and part of his job is making sure that new models such as the Evoque can withstand the unique demands of everyday driving in hot climates like this.
One of the tests involves leaving the car to 'soak' in the sunlight for an hour or more, allowing the cabin temperature to reach up to 70c. The car is then driven in stop-start traffic, to ensure that the climate control and engine cooling systems can cope.
Logging systems monitor just about everything you can think of, and data can be emailed back to Land Rover's UK headquarters in an instant. If adjustments need to be made, a software upgrade can be sent back just as easily.
Evoque feels like a finished car
The car we're in is two weeks old and came straight off the production line at Halewood, Liverpool. It's completely unfazed by the sweltering conditions and the cabin remains cool and quiet. John says that this car is still three stages away from production standard, but it's hard to tell.
Neater door seals and exterior pillar trim will be the main difference, which means the smart, modern cabin we're in is representative of what buyers can expect. It's a great place to be; the quality and design are such that you often have to remind yourself that this is Range Rover's cheapest, smallest model.
There's plenty of legroom and headroom up front, despite the Evoque's low roofline. Rear-seat space is less generous, although our five-door car has more rear headroom than the three-door version, which has a roofline that slopes down at the rear.
Up close, it's the Evoque's squat stance and compact dimensions that are most surprising. Maybe Range Rover's claims that this car is a rival for the Audi TT and Mini don't seem so far-fetched after all.