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MOM’S TAXI TEST - Range Rover Evoque SD4
At the Paris Motor Show almost exactly two years ago, I sat in the then brand-new Range Rover Evoque, minutes after its world debut. The unveiling had drawn oohs and aahs from the hundreds of international press at the show. Dramatically different from anything that had previously emerged from this stable, it marked a significant and progressive step for Land Rover's engineers and designers - and for fans of the brand, who'd become accustomed to a more boxy style of off-roader.
It's taken two years for me to score a drive in the Evoque - but it was certainly worth the wait.
This is easily the most memorable Range Rover I've driven; it's drop dead gorgeous - and that's not just my opinion, as a raft of awards shows.
Three months ago the 2012 MacRobert Award was presented to Land Rover for its innovative work in creating and manufacturing the Evoque. The most prestigious prize in its field in the UK, it served to underscore the success enjoyed by the Evoque, including more than 110 international awards as well as high customer demand.
“SPORTING AND STYLISH”
At that 2010 Paris show launch, Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr Ralph Speth described the Evoque as “defining a new segment for premium compact SUVs that are more sporting and stylish”.
He added: “The Evoque makes a strong statement about the future direction of the Range Rover brand and will have a powerful emotional appeal to a very broad range of premium car buyers.”
No question about that. Sales have gone through the roof, buyers magnetised by the whole package.
Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern said: “The dramatic rising belt line and distinctive falling roof profile, combined with its overall visual robustness and jewel-like quality, create the Evoque's unique and highly desirable personality,” and he was spot on. You can see an Evoque a mile away.
So what's it like to drive?
Even the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover yet made - the 140kW SD4 2.2-litre turbodiesel - still typifies the brand's DNA. Despite its gargantuan 20” tyres it's beautifully behaved, the ride refined and there's a lot more grunt than you'd expect from this baby Range Rover.
Naturally, the Evoque has class-leading all-weather, all-surface capabilities, thanks to Land Rover's proven Terrain Response - and off-roaders will want to know that, apart from extremely good ground clearance, the Evoque has significantly better breakover, approach and departure angles than other premium compact SUVs.
When I first sat in the car in Paris, I was concerned that the driver's rear vision might be hampered by the shallow rear window and chunky C pillars - But when I finally drove it I found that although the rear window area looked small and somewhat restricted, I didn't really have any problems. Besides, the side mirrors are so huge I couldn't miss a thing.
GO FIRST CLASS
The interior is to die for, doll, and that (optional) full glass fixed panoramic roof divine. And, of course, it's awash with glorious leather and immaculate attention to detail.
For those women who've always thought the Range Rover a little too large for them to pilot around comfortably, the smaller Evoque is just perfect: manageable, compact, capable and as luxurious as its beefier sibling.
Two years ago I thought that I would enjoy driving it. I wasn't wrong.
You can pick up an Evoque from R591 800.