IT MIGHT have a Land Rover badge on its grille, but rolling into a muddy field in Torphichen for a Scottish Land Rover Owners Club Driving Day in the Range Rover Evoque the other week felt like turning up at a dog fight with a perfumed and elaborately coiffured French poodle in tow.
Twice a year, the check-shirted, oil-daubed, oft-bearded men (and sometimes women) of the Scottish Land Rover Owners Club converge on a suitably rugged and blasted heath to let loose in their equally rugged and blasted off-road vehicles. Wizened old Defenders, battered and bruised Discoverys, not to mention a beige mid-1970s ex-Army 101 Forward Control (think of a breezeblock on wheels) – complete with pick-axe and shovel attachments – were assembled as our Scotsman Motoring long-term test vehicle, a £45,000 six-speed diesel Range Rover Evoque in “Mauritius Blue” – complete with digital TV, parking cameras and heated steering wheel – swanned in.
With its elegantly-styled, sexy curves, special Posh Spice editions and even two-wheel drive versions, it’s clear the Evoque’s main purpose in life isn’t to go yomping in the country. No, the Evoque is at home in town, shuttling kids to school, taking up one and a half spaces in the Waitrose carpark or cutting a dash outside nightclubs, hairdressers and footballers’ mansions.
But a Land Rover is a Land Rover, and it should be able to tackle some of the rough stuff. So, brushing off the gentle barbs and jibes of the doubting check-shirted ones, my co-pilot – fellow Scotsman Motoring writer and Land Rover-owning 4x4 anorak Tom Hunter – and I gamely plunged into the bracken and up the first hill.
The first few bumps were jarring, especially to Tom in the passenger seat, who ruefully noted that absence of Jesus handles as he nursed a freshly-bruised bonce. Of course, I hadn’t changed the vehicle set-up from the stiff-suspensioned, road-friendly Dynamic to Off-Road. Once that was done, we were fairly impressed by the comfort offered.
With ground clearance of just 215mm, we proceeded tentatively, worried about concealed boulders lurking in the bracken. Even in the clear, it was at times hard to see what was coming. The low seating position combined with the chunky front end makes for poor visibility over the sloping bonnet, especially to the corners – this meant we were often turning into the unknown. The Evoque’s excellent all-round camera system, a boon when parking in town, is no use here – the scenery was moving too fast for that.
The absence of low-ratio gears made for a couple of clutch-cooking ascents, while the minimum 5mph in hill-descent mode felt a little too fast on some of the more technical, loose descents. That said, we were surprised at how much of the course the Evoque managed, and its pluck in conquering some properly challenging loose gravel slopes won grudging nods of approval from the old-school observers.
However, a quick birl round the course in a rustic and timeworn 1986 Land Rover 90 was, frankly, a lot more fun. With its superior ground clearance, rough-and-ready solidity, not to mention its lack of a simply gorgeous Mauritius Blue paint job, tentative driving went out the rattly wind-up window. And when you’re off-roading, that’s a good thing.
It’s good to know that in an emergency, the Evoque is capable of going off-road and tackling some challenging terrain, but we think it’s too pretty – and expensive – to hash about in the hills of West Lothian.
Next month, we’ll be taking the Evoque to a foreign country England to see how it fares on the motorway.
Car Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 190 4WD Dynamic 3dr
Price £39,305 (£45,420 as tested)
Engine 2.2l diesel, 4cyl, 189bhp 310lb ft
Performance Max speed 124mph; 0-62mph 9.5s
Economy 49.6mpg combined
CO2 emissions 149g/km