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June 22, 2021

The 2021 Range Rover Evoque Is A Sophisticated Explorer

The Range Rover brand has always struck a chord in me. Given its European roots and being the off-road vehicle of choice of royalty, I had been curious as to what made a “Rover” special and so distinguished that its name has become synonymous with luxury and ruggedness—two words that are rarely used in the same context, much less the same sentence. Color me excited and intimidated as I stepped into the Land Rover dealership to pick up what would be my first Range Rover experience: the new Range Rover Evoque, in its MHEV (mild hybrid) variant.

The Evoque is Range Rover’s baby of the bunch. As the brand’s compact SUV model, it is built to be decidedly smaller and, well, more compact than its bigger, more imposing brothers. Unlike the Velar, Sport, or the simply named Range Rover, the Evoque has a quieter disposition, making the most of its size to be less intimidating and more endearing to its driver. It has the same streamlined, rounded design that most of the modern Range Rovers are known for; nothing boxy, despite its DNA being rooted in the great outdoors.

Clearly, this was a vehicle made with the adventurous city driver in mind—one who thrives in a vast urban jungle, but has the heart of an explorer that appreciates the quiet of nature.

With this in mind, I slipped into the Evoque’s pristine cabin. The brochures do not lie. If you’re looking for a compact SUV that offers the most premium interior experience, the Evoque should be at the top of your list. Smooth duo-tone perforated Windsor leather covers the memory front seats, with the same material as the finishing of the steering wheel, dashboard, and door panels. Complementing this are chrome bezel details on the steering wheel and dark aluminum veneer.

Apart from the luxurious materials, what makes it stand out is the simplicity. The layout of the entire dashboard is uncomplicated and efficient—from the minimalist design, to the practical placement of the controls, to the ergonomic distance of the 10-inch infotainment touch screen from the driver/passenger seats, and the climate control panel. Each detail is well-thought of, including discreetly hidden USB charging ports, cup holders, and storage bins. Seamless connectivity is also taken care of, with the Evoque’s Bluetooth system able to quickly detect and connect to your smart device. Sorry to disappoint, though, the Evoque has neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto built-in as standard features.

In terms of comfort, the Evoque offered some of the best. The front seats have a 16-way memory function and, my favorite and an absolute must, great lumbar support that absorbs most of the impact from driving through Manila’s pothole-ridden, uneven streets. The practical placement of controls and storage meant that I could easily reach for what I needed without taking my eyes off the road for too long and with little discomfort. I also liked how the two-zone automatic climate control had directional options for people like me who do not agree with the year-round heat and humidity. What would have been perfect was if the seats had an optional cooling (or heating) function for indecisive weather days.

However, while we can go on about the details that make the Range Rover Evoque one of the most sophisticated in its class, the magic is in the driving experience. As a mild hybrid all-wheel drive 9-speed automatic, this variant was made to show off power and ability. The body itself has great heft, allowing the car to stay solidly grounded despite quick turns and maneuvering. It is decidedly stable, with a smooth suspension that easily rolls over speed bumps and uneven road, and a responsive braking system. It was also quiet, refined, and undoubtedly efficient in performance.

Acceleration is another story and takes some getting used to, especially if you are used to an immediate power surge. Stepping on the pedal, you can feel that there is a slight hesitation before the power actually kicks in. What’s good about it is that the power delivery is gradual; no sudden, jerking motions here. Once the car decides that it’s ready, its full personality shines through — speed builds quickly and consistently, with the stability of the car keeping it in the driver’s full control. You could even describe it as if you are part of the car, moving seamless together.

As a brand, Range Rover prides itself in its ability to bring together its pioneering sensibilities with expert engineering. On the other hand, driving the Evoque made it clear that a Range Rover was not made for stop-and-go traffic. When I finally took it out on a highway over that weekend, it was the only time that the car’s true personality shined the brightest. Without many obstacles in its way, the Evoque showed off its dynamic powertrain, beautiful handling, stable maneuvering, and smooth rolling suspension.

Considering this, it is not only the engine that’s a hybrid, but the Evoque’s personality itself is two-fold. It will serve its purpose as the sophisticated daily partner of the ambitious city dweller, then transform into bold, rugged companion of the adventurous explorer.

Words and Photos by Gen Tiu

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