Saturday – Image Problem

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I have a problem with things that pretend to be something they are not. Cars with paddle shift gear change which are really family hatchbacks, 2+2 coupes that have no rear legroom at all, and seven-seat MPVs that are only suitable for elves, or very small mammals.

And then we come to cars that look like SUVs but actually have no off-road capability at all. It probably started with the Rover Streetwise and let’s hope it ends with the Volvo V40 Cross Country.

I have to admit, the V40 Cross Country fooled me. Even the Volvo website suggests 4×4 ability with the offer of all-wheel drive ‘available’ on this model. It is – but only on the top of the range petrol version for around £35,000. Are you going to pay that or opt for a two-year-old Range Rover Evoque I wonder?

You certainly can’t buy a diesel-powered all-wheel drive V40 – that won’t be available until around 2016 when the XC version is launched.

So, all that plastic trim to beef up the car’s image and make it look more robust is just for show – you are paying a £1000-plus premium for no off-road ability at all.

Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer to offer this, Nissan, Kia and several others all do the same. Which makes that secondhand Evoque look even more attractive…

Tuesday – Knickerbocker Glory

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Jessica I know it isn’t all about colour or indeed size, however, a Range Rover in cherry red that looks like it should be proudly sitting on top of a Knickerbocker Glory is somewhat of an anomaly.

Colour does matter and how the colour ranges are put together for any car manufacturer is a mystery to me, colour has its own visual language and interpretations, it speaks volumes.

Driving around in a red Range Rover Evoque was a little disconcerting, I didn’t feel a proud moment when I met it for the first time at the station en route to (rainy) Cornwall, I wanted to get in quickly and drive away before anyone would stop and wonder what I had been thinking when I chose that colour for that car.

Colour aside what does the Evoque evoke, what is it trying to be, is what I found myself asking.

Well, it’s sporty in an urban, I want a four wheel drive way, the lines are stylish and it does say Range Rover on the bonnet!  The price tag suggests a deep pocket so I found myself wondering on the target demographic …
Too small to fit a family and their luggage, too urban to warrant having one if you lived in a rural area where winters are a problem.  So that leaves a school run car for a 2.2 family or a weekend run around for a professional person or professional couple who want to play at sporty country pursuits (not polo as you would have trouble fitting the kit in!) still not really sure as the week comes to a close.
Either way it leaves me wishing that the handling on the motorway was more refined, although it drives well in town and on B roads, but the exterior does not fit with the driving experience for me and I would be prepared to bet that professional sporty types might want a more refined motorway experience too.
There was a rather strange rubberised covering on the dash area and sorry to mention colour again but red perforated leather look seats (not matching the exterior colour ) which although comfortable were looking a little worse for wear after only one week of use.
Overall, because the Evoque looks good so I  was very much looking forward to a dash down to Cornwall, despite the colour,  but for the £40,000 I found this Range Rover a little disappointing.

Monday – Riding The Range

Jeremy The Range Rover Evoque may be packed with technology but there wasn’t much it could do when CarCouture ran out of signal to write our blog entry in Cornwall on Sunday.  Installed at an organic dairy farm, we had to turn our hands to making ice cream instead.

I did offer the Evoque for carry six churns from the milking parlour to ice cream unit but the boot is so small, we  could only hope to squeeze three churns in at at time.

The general feeling among the farming community around Tintagel is that this Range Rover is really best used by city folk. You certainly wouldn’t want to splatter the chrome wheels and leather interior with too much cow dung.

The Evoque did cope admirably with the farm track – and that was without touching the terrain settings button once. The farm staff thought that so much technology only meant that more was likely to go wrong. They may be right but I’ve enjoyed my week with the Evoque.

It does fidget a little on high speed motorway journeys and noise levels from the 20-inch wheels are high but Evoque does look fantastic, drives beautifully and has returned 31.2mpg during a week of hard driving. Not bad for a permanent 4×4 designed for city folk.

Saturday – Evoque Illuminations

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Jeremy I’ve just returned from a horribly early, Saturday morning drop off at Bath railway station. It’s the first time I’ve driven the Evoque in the dark but two contrasting points have now surfaced.

The first is that I was flashed countless times on the trip by irate, oncoming drivers who though my headlights were on full beam. They were not but still worried that I might have my fogs on, I pulled over in the morning mist to check those too. If the wheels od the SD4 are blingtastic, wait until you see the lights! I feel like one of those juggernaut drivers who adorn the front of their cab with a spectacular display.

The second point is that the Evoque has the funkiest door tread plates I’ve seen in a long time. They illuminate in blue in the dark – brilliant!

And finally, have you ever seen larger door mirrors on a car? My neighbour’s young son has decided to call the Evoque  the ‘Range Rover Elephant’ because they look like giant ears. Not bad for a five-year-old.

CarCouture is heading off to Cornwall this afternoon, to an organic Dairy Ice Cream farm, near Tintagel. The lane to the farm should prove a good test for all those off-road buttons on the centre console…

Friday – Style At A Price

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Jeremy Anyone who thinks the Evoque is just a squashed Range Rover should consider this – despite the low roofline, I’ve discovered that there is enough room inside for five adults to sit comfortably.

Admittedly, the glass, full-length glass roof (a £1300 option) helps reduce the feeling of claustrophia if your rear-seat passengers are over 6ft tall and don’t like the narrow side windows. But overall, the leather-clad cabin in the SD4 is a very relaxing place to be.

If you are wondering how Land Rover designers managed that, well, it’s probably at the expense of a decent-sized boot. It’s best described as adequate – but as Malin the Viszla will tell you, it’s nowhere near as big as a Freelander either.

And then there is rear visibility. The small back window really does hinder vision, not helped by the sloping roofline at the back. (a standard issue Labrador will have his head pressed hard against the roof).

Loving the Evoque but all this style does have to come at a price…

Thursday – A Range Rover For The New Generation

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Jeremy My late friend Tom Love was one of the first people in the country to own a Range Rover. He began a lifelong obsession with the 4×4 in 1970, when the original Rangey was only offered with three-doors and vinyl matting on the floor to make it easier to wash clean with a hose pipe!

Back then, Tom would be invited down from his home in Scotland to collect his new Range Rover from the factory. He would stay for lunch with one of the directors and then drive back home. The top brass would often ask how Tom thought they could improve the Rangey – to which Tom told them ‘add two more doors and an automatic gearbox‘. Strangely, enough, it wasn’t long before Land Rover did just that…

I’m not sure what Tom would have made of the Evoque. He certainly wouldn’t have fitted in it, being a large man who liked red wine and only ate steak, just steak – without potato or salad. I’m pretty sure he would have disapproved of the bling wheels and red seats but he would also fully understand how a brand like Range Rover needed to evolve to survive.

With starting prices at around £30,000, the Evoque has truly brought Range Rover ownership to a whole new market. It is beautifully put together too – with a first class interior, quality fittings and doors that shut with a reassuring clunk. Tom would have liked that, if he could have squeezed in…

Wednesday – Fishing For Compliments

wheelJeremy Why is it fisherman drive weird cars? I shouldn’t put them all in the same pool but walking around my favourite lake this morning, there was an oddball collection of vehicles surrounding the Range Rover. Think Mitsubishi Pajero, 4×4 Nissan vanette and the obligatory Subaru Impreza import.

Quite what people get out of watching a lifeless float on a grey, April day is beyond me but when I returned to the Evoque later, two of them were admiring my wheels instead. By that I mean the fully chromed, 20-inch alloys that come as standard on the SD4 Dynamic.

I’m not a huge fan of sparkly wheels – even chrome spokes look naff on an E-Type – but I am starting to warm to the Evoque’s set of four. You would expect them on a BMW X5 but on a more introverted Range Rover, it doesn’t smack too much of horrifying bling.

Maybe it is because the Evoque sits so low, or possibly the Firenze red paintwork but I’m with the fishermen in living them.

Tuesday – In The Mode

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Jeremy My 1972 Series 3 Land Rover has a lot of metal rods poking up from the floor. Apart from a rather vague gearstick, there’s one for overdrive, two for high and low ratio gears, with a handbrake position in a pretty awkward spot too.

I mention this because the Evoque has none – not even a conventional handbrake. Gears are selected via a rotating dial, the handbrake is push button, and to select different suspension settings, a selection of buttons is provided. It’s totally foolproof – provided you read the instruction manual.

This is all designed to make using the baby Range Rover on various terrains a much simpler process. Pressing a button is easier than wrestling with a stick but for some reason, it doesn’t feel as intuitive. Jump in the Evoque and you might want to know what everything does before attempting to go off-road.

Despite its short dimensions, the Evoque is comfortable on city streets in ‘Normal’ suspension mode but for more spirited driving, the ‘Dynamic’ setting is better. I imagine most drivers won’t even touch these buttons unless they are going off-road proper but the choice is there.

So far, the Evoque is proving the perfect vehicle for all driving conditions. Only Malin the Hungarian Viszla is finding the boot a bit small – but then he has been used to a Series 3 for five years…

Monday – The Evoque Has Landed

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Jeremy Let’s face it, SUVs don’t often come out of the design studio eye-catchingly beautiful. The need for all-round ability means good looks often have to be sacrificed for load capacity and extra ground clearance.

Which is why the Range Rover Evoque has genuinely broken the mould. At last, here is a compact SUV that you don’t need children, dogs or an interesting sport involving Lycra to justify ownership.

Our Firenze red Evoque has just arrived and already I’m looking for excuses to drive it. Low, squat and purposeful, the slim side windows and low roof give this Range Rover a thoroughly modern appeal.

The contemporary shape makes other SUVs look positively old-fashioned by comparison. We also have some suitably bling chrome wheels on our test car – let’s see how they look after seven days of Wiltshire mud and dirt…

Not quite so sure about the red leather interior but I’ll let Jessica have her say on that later in the week.