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The Range Rover Evoque, or 'baby Range', as we've affectionately dubbed it, is the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient vehicle Land Rover has ever built. It's also arguably the prettiest, aimed at a younger, more fashion-conscious audience than that which the company traditionally targets.
We went hands-on with the two-door coupé model -- the Evoque is also available in five-door guise -- to see whether it's just a pretty face or whether it can deliver the impeccable road manners and sensational off-road abilities of its big brothers.
Evoque prices start at £27,995. Our test model, a 4WD Dynamic with an Si4 2-litre petrol engine and all the trimmings, sells for £39,995.
Exterior and interior
The Evoque's aesthetic may not be to everybody's tastes -- we're thinking Land Rover traditionalists and the blind -- but we think it's gorgeous. Its aggressive, contemporary, coupé-like styling is extremely faithful to the LRX concept that was unveiled in 2008, which is a pleasant surprise, since most road cars are toned down dramatically by the time they reach production.
The Evoque's interior isn't quite as mental as that of the LRX concept, but it's comfortable, well appointed and, if you opt for the panoramic glass roof, light and airy.
Within moments of setting off, it becomes obvious that the Evoque drives as well as it looks. In motion, it feels every bit as luxurious as its larger brethren, cruising comfortably regardless of speed. It's smooth and well-mannered around town and remarkably quiet when hurtling along motorways -- so much so that you probably won't notice you've reached the car's 135mph top speed until you have a rear window full of flashing blue lights.
The Evoque handles well, too. Throw it into a corner and you can't fail to be impressed by its vice-like grip -- even in wet, treacherous conditions. It behaves in a very coupé-like manner, rewarding drivers who push it to the limit.
This car is surprisingly capable off road, too. Favourable weather conditions during our test meant we weren't able to push the car to its absolute limits, but it displayed an impressive range of abilities, scaling hills of up to 45 degrees, dredging through up to 500mm of water, and generally getting itself through situations that would leave ordinary road cars stranded.
The Evoque's dynamic handling comes courtesy of an optional £1,150 Adaptive Dynamics suspension-damping system, which behaves much like the T-1000 from the Terminator movies -- only it's less murderous.
The dampers, which form a part of the car's suspension system, are filled with a liquid metal. Under normal driving conditions, the fluid is viscous, delivering a comfortable ride. Drive the Evoque aggressively through corners, however, and sensors, which monitor your driving style 1,000 times per second, trigger an electromagnet. This sends a current to the fluid, firming it up to provide a more level ride when cornering.
The Evoque is available with standard suspension, which provides a good balance between comfort and dynamic handling, but we found the Adaptive Dynamics suspension system to be the better of the two, particularly when hooning around.