The new Evoque is the smallest car Range Rover has ever sold, and we use the word "car" deliberately.
The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque skews far more toward what most people expect from a passenger car than it does the go-anywhere, climb-anything luxury sport utility vehicles that Range Rover has sold since 1970.
It's the first four-cylinder Range Rover, using a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged engine that it calls "Si4" but Americans might know better as the EcoBoost option newly offered this year in Ford Edge and Ford Explorer models.
The engine puts out plenty of punch through the six-speed automatic transmission, though there's enough whistle and turbo lag that drivers will be aware that this Range Rover no longer sleeps with torquey sixes and V-8s.
For fuel economy, the results are mixed: The estimated EPA ratings for the 2012 Evoque are 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 22 or 23 mpg.
And the entire car's been built around the four; no six-cylinder option is envisioned, meaning it can stay light enough to tip the scales at just 3,600 pounds--including all-wheel drive hardware.
Driving the Evoque only reinforces the car aspect. The electric power steering and all-independent suspension let you toss it around corners in a way that would have larger Land Rovers dragging their doorhandles on the pavement.
Only the higher-end versions get the magnetically-controlled shock absorbers that smooth the ride even further.
Which isn't to say that the 2012 Evoque doesn't have off-road chops. Like all Land Rovers, it includes the four-mode Terrain Response system that manages the engine, transmission, braking, and suspension differently based on what the driver has dialed in via a console button (the modes are Normal, Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand).
In the end, its trail performance will match most American SUVs--if not the ultimate capabilities of its tree-climbing Land Rover cousins.
On the outside, the Evoque is a sort of stylish station wagon, in two-door or four-door forms. Its short overhangs and high ground clearance give it a butch look, and the contrasting roof color makes it look like the biggest, butchest, off-road Mini you've ever seen. (The AWD Mini Countryman looks cute and cuddly in comparison.)
Inside, it's all about luxury. From warm wood to matte-finish metallics, from leather seats to a twin-stitched dash covering, the Evoque says "expensive" in subtle ways that show smaller can be just as soothing as bigger. The metal inside is actual metal, and it also shares the Ford trick of user-settable ambient LED lighting colors.
Prices start at less than $44,000 for the five-door and $45,000 for the sportier three-door. The base trim level is called Pure, with Prestige as the mid-level, and Dynamic as the high end.
The three-door, incidentally, can be ordered with either a rear bench seat or two individual buckets, a nice touch for a vehicle that may spend much of its life as a two-seat hatchback.
Lengthy lists of standard and optional equipment tick most of the boxes in the luxury category, including an eight-inch touchscreen navigation system, technical goodies like blind-spot monitoring and a surround-view camera, steering-wheel audio and navigation controls, and and those magnetic shocks.
Finally, in the green column, Land Rover says each Evoque includes about 35 pounds of recycled plastics. But while a diesel version of the Evoque is a standard offering outside North America, it carries only the turbo four here in the U.S.
For more details, see the full review of the 2012 Range Rover Evoque on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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