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 DRIVING RANGE

Perfectly Formed

It’s easy to see why demand for the stylish new Range Rover Evoque has been colossal, writes Ben Oliver

around the world. Perhaps the clearest indication that we shouldn’t think of this SUV in the same way as others is that the firm is actually giving serious thought to a convertible version, and concept for which has already been shown at motor shows in China and New York. A car you really wouldn’t expect, from a car company many didn’t expect still to be here.

Cute concept: it might be the smallest Land Rover to date but the Evoque's handling rivals that of sports cars, with quick steering, plenty of grip and a comfortable ride

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ou might have thought, given straitened economic times and near-universal concern about global warming and oil supplies that expensive, thirsty SUVs and the companies that make them would be out of favour. But then you look at the recent financial and sales figures from Land Rover – a British marque that makes only off-roaders – and wonder if we’re all really as concerned as we say we are. The Indian Tata Group’s purchase of Jaguar-Land Rover (or JLR) for US$2.3 billion in 2008 looked badly mistimed. The global downturn added to the pre-existing financial woes: Tata sought UK Government aid for its British outpost, and the closure of factories seemed certain, and of one or both brands not unthinkable. But in the last financial year, JLR contributed an astonishing US$1.6 billion in profits to Tata’s coffers, with both brands posting strong sales growth. Land Rover provided the bulk of those profits, thanks partly to its popularity in emerging markets such as China where pockets are deep but roads are poor. An SUV makes perfect sense in such areas, and there’s little or none of the social opprobrium that European SUV drivers often feel. And Land Rover has bounced back without the aid of significant new product: those profits have been made by the existing but excellent Range Rover, Discovery, Freelander and venerable Defender. But they will now be joined by

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HK Golfer・FEB 2012

a Land Rover like no other before: one whose styling and off-road ability make it technically an SUV, but which Land Rover hopes you’ll consider alongside style-conscious coupes like the Audi TT. And if it sells in the numbers the hype seems to suggest, next year’s profits will be even healthier. The new Range Rover Evoque, like the TT, is little changed from the concept car that previewed it. It is the smallest Land Rover to date and available as a three- or five-door: the former less practical but the more striking of the two. It looks sharp and aggressive but its smaller size stops it looking arrogant, as many SUVs do. And it doesn’t drive like a typical SUV: those dimensions make it a cinch to navigate and park in tight urban environments, such as Hong Kong, but its extra SUV height aids visibility, and bigger SUV tyres smother the worst urban craters and prevent kerb damage. When the traffic clears you’ll find that HKGOLFER.COM

SCORECARD How much? From HK$668,000 Engine: 1999cc Turbo Petrol 240hp @ 5500rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Performance: 7.6sec 0-100kph. 217kph How heavy? 1,640kg

the handling somehow rivals sports cars too: quick steering, plenty of grip, a taut but comfortable ride and virtually none of the roll that usually afflicts tall off-roaders through bends. The two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine produces a prodigious 240hp with the aid of a turbocharger, enough to endow the Evoque with serious straight-line pace, but small enough to return very un-SUV-like fuel economy at a cruise. Demand for the Range Rover Evoque has been colossal as it makes its debut in markets HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・FEB 2012

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