It seems bonkers to have a hugely popular car like the Range Rover Evoque – global sales at over 785,000 to date – equipped with so much underused off-road capability. In most cases it rarely sees a muddy verge, which is also the case for most other SUVs on our roads.
Maybe owners who take the kids to school or drive to the shops don’t really appreciate just what their refined and stylish four-wheel drive machine can do. That’s a huge shame because the second incarnation of the newly unveiled Range Rover Evoque has even more cool tech than before.
A prime example of this is ClearSight Ground View technology. The system works by projecting camera imagery onto the upper touchscreen located in the middle of the dashboard. If that sounds cool, it's because it is. We recently got to give it a whirl inside the grounds of Peckforton Castle, situated on a hill in thick woodlands where Cheshire overlooks Wales.
Our challenge was to do a circuit with the windscreen blanked out using just the camera view to get round. A bit like the Bird Box challenge, but not dangerous or mind-numbingly stupid. The clever bit is how you can see which way the wheels are pointing and these move dynamically as you steer. It’s quite a weird experience; obviously driving blind isn’t the way you’re meant to use it, but the exercise certainly proved a point.
The view is a full 180 degrees under the front of the vehicle, which is more useful than you might think. In real-world use, it's going to be great for avoiding obstacles you might have otherwise not seen, especially because of your lofty driving position. Bollards, sleeping policemen, dozing cats and so on can all be safely circumnavigated with the help of the system.
And that’s all just on the road. If you’re actually going to head off-road into the wilds, then it’s going to be a godsend for spotting otherwise hidden perils under the car. Potholes, pits, fallen trees, angry bears and suchlike will be no problem using what is effectively a pretty simple piece of tech.
Another great addition to the tech arsenal inside the Range Rover Evoque is the ClearSight rear-view mirror. To look at, it's a bog-standard mirror that gives you a standard view out of the back of the car. Initially you think there’s ‘nothing to see here’. Look again, though, and when it’s switched on the mirror is actually an HD video screen. It delivers a super-crisp view of what’s behind you.
The day after the Bird Box-style challenge, we got the opportunity to take Evoque out on the road and, later, do a lap or two around the challenging off-road Land Rover Experience. This place is open to the public, although we were told that it’s so popular they’re booked up months in advance. Thankfully we got to jump the queue.
We kicked off proceedings by taking a dip into a deep muddy pool – the Evoque can wade through water up to 600mm deep, which is up 100mm from the previous generation model. The all-wheel-drive system is already well proven, but the second-generation Active Driveline and Adaptive Dynamics means the revised Evoque feels more agile than ever through all kinds of tough terrain.
It’s easy to see why the Land Rover Experience is so popular – you get to drive a selection of vehicles including the Defender, Range Rover, Discovery, Range Rover Sport and Velar into the very same quarry that was excavated to get the stone to build Peckforton Castle next door. But for our drive, the Evoque showed why it’s also a great addition to the off-roader portfolio. The things this car can do, especially with a set of road tyres on all four corners, is hugely impressive.
We ambled our way through some truly tortuous off-road tracks. There are scary inclines, poo-inducing declines, crazy cambers where at least one wheel is off the ground plus lots of deep water and gungy mud into the bargain. Put the window down as you go and you’ll smell an infectious cocktail of fresh mud and steam as the deep water sizzles around the car's hot parts.
The real bonus is the way that you can set the Evoque up to suit the terrain, weather conditions and your own driving prowess. If you’re not at all confident, then the car can do all of the thinking for you. You’ll need to put some faith in the Evoque as it teeters on the edge of a seemingly vertical drop because its onboard systems can work out what’s coming next and the SUV eases itself down silly slopes with ease.
As you’d expect from a Range Rover, the car feels premium all the way though, even when it’s slathered in wet mud. The interior is a real high point, with an abundance of leather on offer if that’s your thing. However, in response to increasing numbers of vegan customers, the Range Rover Evoque comes with alternatives to using animal skins for the interior. Yup, now you can order an Evoque so that it arrives on your drive featuring ‘technical textiles’.
These make use of recycled plastics and seat and door coverings can be finished in Kvadrat wool blend and Miko Dinamica suedecloth. Not enough for you? Well, try out the Eucalyptus and Ultrafabrics options instead. We didn’t miss the leather in the vehicle we drove, with the soft-furnishings-department feel of the seat covers making a welcome change from the often too hot or too cold cowhide stuff.
Other tech packed into the Evoque includes the twin touchscreen, which features the Touch Pro Duo system where you can manage many of the features and functions of the Evoque. As is the case with many new cars, artificial intelligence is being used by the Evoque to gradually personalise itself to suit your driver and passenger preferences. There are no less than 16 different seat controls, for example, along with cabin air ionisation.
We also reckon the satellite navigation in the car is spot-on and works really well. There are plenty of cars out there where that’s definitely not the case. For once, it felt like we didn’t need to resort to Google Maps, and that’s true praise indeed. Prices for the new Range Rover Evoque start out at just over £31,000, which seemed pretty good to us. However, the model we drove was over £50k, which is a lot. But, what a way to arrive: whether you’re on the road or, indeed, off it.