Appropriately enough, our shiny new Evoque turned up in the evo car park on the very day that Land Rover announced it was going to recruit 1000 new workers at the Halewood plant that built it. For proof of the way the premium car market is moving, look no further.
But behind the Evoque’s lifestyle message, and the over-played Victoria Beckham connection (she helped to design the interior), we know from previous drives that the Evoque is a fine handling thing with plenty of substance under the style. And, as a confirmed Land Rover fetishist since the age of 11 (when I first sat in a battered Series III Landie and saw nothing but sky through the windscreen as it crested a seemingly impossible rise), I jumped at the chance to run an Evoque for a year.
It had to be the three-door. I was a huge fan of the original LRX concept when it was first shown at the 2008 Detroit motor show, and the production Evoque ‘coupe’ has stuck impressively closely to the show car’s look, with the same low roofline and tight overhangs. We opted for the range-topping ‘Dynamic’ trim and – after a fair amount of internal debate – went for the 188bhp 2.2-litre ‘SD4’ diesel engine that Land Rover reckons will make up about 95 per cent of sales in the UK. There was an undeniable attraction to the punchier petrol turbo model, but not its sub-25mpg real-world thirst; the diesel (officially) manages 49.6mpg. Also, the petrol is only available with the slightly over-keen autobox, while I really wanted the six-speed manual.
Heading to the top of the range meant a similarly steep price tag: £38,380. I remember when you could buy a proper Range Rover for that. It does bring standard leather, power seats and a satnav system, which at least meant that optioning was easy – the only boxes ticked were for the stunning Mauritius Blue paint (£550) and the Lux pack (£4325) that brings a powered tailgate, audio upgrade and the – ahem – ‘must have’ full-length glass roof. Final reckoning, £43,255. Small wonder Land Rover is doing so well.
Two weeks in and first impressions are overwhelmingly positive. The Evoque drives with a well-engineered solidity that belies its Freelander underpinnings: it really does feel like a quality item, hiding its bulk with spot-on body control and the sort of linear responses to inputs no old-school SUV could get close to. I’ve even taken it off-road, but I’ll tell you about that next time…