So having taken our Evoque off-roading and been impressed by how well it coped in the rough, this month I decided it was time for an even more unlikely challenge. That’s right – the West Circuit at the Bedford Autodrome.
Definitely not the most natural environment for a diesel-fired soft-roader, and you’re unlikely to be seeing one at a trackday any time soon – unless it’s sitting in the paddock and lashed to a trailer. But, considering the baby Rangie’s high centre of gravity and the low limits of its chunky tyres, it managed to put in an impressively composed performance.
It’s no sports car, of course. The Evoque doesn’t appreciate being chucked around and – if you get too keen with steering inputs or too late with braking points – then there’s lean, squeal and understeer. The stability control system can only be partially de-energised, and beyond a certain slip threshold it steps back in to reassert control, twanging brakes and flashing its yellow light in what can only be described as an admonishing fashion.
But adjust your driving style to be more sympathetic, aim for smoothness and the Evoque becomes surprisingly composed. Like all JLR products, it was developed with extensive lappery at the Nürburgring, which probably explains the high-speed stability and willingness to stick to a chosen line on Bedford’s quicker corners. Gradually upping the pace also revealed a nicely balanced chassis. There’s even a sniff of oversteer with the chassis weighted up in a turn and the throttle eased slightly – at least, there is until nanny steps in again. Despite that, I was pleasantly surprised to see evidence on the back of Dean’s camera that it’s quite capable of lifting one of its rear wheels like an oversized hot hatch.
I went to Bedford expecting the Evoque to be all at sea. The fact it wasn’t makes me wonder if we should bring it back with some timing gear…