Words: Annie Ellum
A labyrinth of concealed railway arches made for the unlikely setting of New Range Rover Evoque’s first drives on the day of its reveal.
Discreetly tucked underneath the Shoreditch High Street Overground Station, the now vacated Bishopsgate Goods Yard – at one time the UK's biggest rail import hub – was rigged to the nines with eye-watering obstacles designed to test the capability of the New Evoque.
Evoque’s size makes it perfect for the confines of urban driving but it wouldn’t be a Range Rover if it couldn’t go off-road and so this ‘urban test course’ was purpose built with hurdles to show off New Evoque’s range and appeal.
Despite being kept to a strict 7mph speed limit in the echoey tunnels, and under the watchful eye of off-road specialists from Land Rover Experience, it was clear from the outset the scope of Evoque’s next-generation improvements.
Take it to the bridge
Waiting in a queue of journalists eagerly lined up to tackle the first obstacle in New Evoque, we take the opportunity to further explore the sleek and redefined interior of the next generation model.
As you’d expect, New Evoque is packed with interactive technology and in the dimly lit vaults, its key nerve centre, the Touch Pro Duo1 infotainment system, gives off an eerie glow.
Touch Pro Duo1 features not one but two screens; the top dealing with navigation and media, while the lower one operates driving and climate settings. Equipped with the very latest software, engineers have reduced the depths of the menus, bringing the key commands to the home screen for faster interaction.
Touch Pro Duo1 now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and critically, is enabled with software updates over the air, so you’ll always have the latest software edition on the go.
The stripped-back dashboard is entirely clutter free, and the breathtaking panoramic roof2 is unveiled in all its glory with a click of a button. New to Evoque comes the option of a 12” configurable TFT Instrument Cluster and full colour Head-Up Display, while the interior feels significantly roomier than previous models, thanks to a 21mm increase in the wheelbase.
Engineers took on a mission to convert every millimetre out of the design of this package into usable practical space, which they’ve certainly achieved; with the second row knee room packing an extra 20mm and a 10% larger bootspace. The re-sculpted seat posts and door casings give a real sense of space, and in the front row, the nifty 4.5 litre centre cubby storage is double the size of the current Evoque and comes with a split, folding and sliding centre armrest for better access to the storage.
As we move forward towards obstacle number one, Evoque feels seamless and smooth, even at such low speeds and the throttle is responsive without being over-sensitive. The camera view removes any anxiety about space around the vehicle for driver and passenger, capturing clear sight lines down both sides of the car, which are shown in the Touch Pro Duo’s1 top screen. I have a feeling the instructors are as thankful for this feature as we are.
As the nose of Evoque heads to the ceiling at the bridge’s peak, then sharply back down to the floor, we feel surprisingly at ease and in control.
Beckoned forward by the Experience instructors we then glide Evoque towards a raised set of railway tracks – not one to be tried at home – faced with the simple task of balancing this SUV on top before driving forward without slipping off the lines.
Not an easy feat for a car 4.37 metres in length and weighing 1.7 tonnes.
However much to our relief the task is made all the more simple thanks to the world-first ClearSight Ground View Technology3, a fantastic feature which takes a feed from cameras in the front grille and side mirrors, and translates it into a single image on the top interior screen.
It renders a 180-degree view of the front of the vehicle pretty much transparent, meaning we can see through the bonnet for a clear trajectory of the rail lines and the direction of the wheels underneath us. Mission accomplished.
- New Range Rover Evoque taking on the railway tracks
- Bottom Left
- ClearSight Ground View Technology3
- Bottom Right
- New Range Rover Evoque
While conducting our balancing act, Evoque is confident and composed, remaining remarkably responsive and agile.
This may have something to do with the incredibly handy Auto Terrain Response system – upgraded in New Evoque to the aptly named Terrain Response 2 – which uses sophisticated intelligence systems to change the suspension settings and accelerator response for maximum control.
As well as the fixed off-road modes: Grass/Gravel, Sand and Mud & Ruts, the algorithms in Auto Mode – which we are in the capable hands of today – have been re-engineered from the ground-up to give much more precise and faster response to changes in terrain, adapting entirely automatically.
Efforts by engineers to reduce the vibration of Evoque’s body structure are also put to the test here but it seems the unique composition of aluminium, magnesium and high strength steel has done the trick, improving Evoque’s overall body stiffness by 13% for better modal performance and alignment.
Scaling new heights
There’s nothing like the feeling of adrenaline when you can only see sky (or in this case the roof) as you head up a steep gradient but in keeping with the unfazed nature in which Evoque had taken on previous obstacles, a 21.2cm ground clearance and 22-degree breakover angle ensures we’re in the clear as we ascend a set of sharply inclined ramps, bringing us up and over and on top of an old railway carriage.
Following this, the improved Hill Descent Control gives us even more confidence by applying the brakes where necessary to each wheel, helping to control the vehicle down the somewhat precarious looking slopes.
If Evoque was ever to struggle, we anticipated it would be on the 25-degree ramp fixed alongside the towering internal walls of the railway arches. Teetering on the edge we had to invest our full confidence and sharp inhalation of breath in the compact SUV as we crept up the ramp, hanging in the balance.
A few slips down the ramp as we crawled forward were more to blame on our approach angle than anything else, but we were thankful for the low traction launch, which delivered a smooth and unfaltering start and the gradient release control which brought us back to flat surfaces with a cushioned bump.
In addition, the Generation 2 Adaptive Dynamics system features individual accelerometers on each wheel to adapt the damping force every 10 milliseconds; giving us optimised suspension and ensuring a smooth landing.
Jump in the pool
An improved wading depth of 600mm (up from 500mm in the previous model) was also called upon when we were instructed to drive head-first into a swimming pool. Reportedly an original fixture of the Bishopsgate Goods Yard, the Land Rover Experience specialists took great joy in bringing the swimming pool back to life to help us experience New Evoque’s 100mm increase in wading depth, even dying the water blue for ‘dramatic effect’.
While a 100mm increase may sound modest, it’s an additional depth you will certainly notice in an off-road environment, equating to more than a month of January’s average rainfall in the UK.
Optional Ultrasonic wade sensing provides a visual representation on the centre screen of the depth of the water we’re travelling through and will issue a warning as you approach the wade limit. Engineers credit a detailed repackaging of Evoque’s design in the ability to leverage this.
You’d expect the navigation through such deep water a near impossible feat, but Evoque’s All Wheel Drive system only needs 400 milliseconds to engage and the second generation Active Driveline4 system, pre-emptively distributes torque to the wheel with the most traction, to propel us smoothly out of the water and back to dry land.
While this first-drive of New Evoque was strictly controlled, even low speeds didn’t prevent the off-road capability from shining through, as it offered a well-balanced refined ride with the clear ability to tackle all obstacles put before it.
Models pictured are 20 Model Year Range Rover Evoque prototypes in Firenze Red and Indus Silver. Contact your local Land Rover Retailer for more information.
1 - Touch Pro Duo is an optional feature. Available on Automatic Transmission only. In car features should be used by drivers only when safe to do so. Drivers must ensure they are in full control of the vehicle at all times.
2 - Sliding Panoramic Roof not available before June 2019.
3 - ClearSight Ground View is available as part of the 360° Surround Camera. Only available with Auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with approach lights. Not available on First Edition.
4 - Active Driveline technology comes as standard on D240 and P300 engines. Not available on First Edition.
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