First drive: 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque [Video review]

Land Rover builds a better small Range Rover.

The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque was one of those SUVs that stirred controversy when it was first introduced. The Evoque wasn't on the same level as the BMW X5 or the Porsche Cayenne, but still, people were hesitant to embrace the idea of a Range Rover in an entry-level segment.

But as with the X5 and Cayenne, it didn't take long for the buying public to get past their initial trepidation when it came to the Evoque. The baby Range Rover quickly shot up the sales charts and has consistently been one of Land Rover's best-selling models since it hit the market in 2011.

But now it's time for the dreaded second album. Will the second-generation Evoque continue to top the charts, or is it destined to flop? Read on to find out.

What's old is new

Land Rover design head Gerry McGovern takes exception when people say the new Evoque looks just like the last one. But truth be told, unless you're a Land Rover expert, you probably won't be able to immediately spot the changes. But they are there and those subtle changes make for a more attractive package.

At the front, the Evoque's headlights have been thinned out for a more modern look. The Evoque's body work has been smoothed, including door handles that only pop out when you need them. The Evoque's wheelbase has increased but overhangs shortened, resulting in a more planted stance. And at the back, the tailgate is now mostly flush with wrap-around taillights.

The end result is an Evoque that still looks like an Evoque, just a more refined version. And with sales as strong as they are, you can hardly blame Land Rover for not wanting to mess with a good thing.

The inside of the new Evoque is largely the same story -- the same general layout is there, but everything has just been made better.

That starts with a new twin-screen setup for the infotainment system and vehicle settings. The former is handled by a high-mounted screen that slips into the dash when not in use while the latter is a similar setup to the Range Rover Velar. Thanks to those touchscreen interfaces, the Evoque's center stack has been significantly decluttered and now only houses a couple of knobs and buttons.

A few other parts of the Evoque have also gone digital. You can now order your pint-sized Range Rover with a camera-fed rear-view mirror, an LCD gauge cluster and a trick camera system know as Clear Sight Ground View that gives you a "see through” hood (more on that later).

Back in the physical world, Land Rover has given the Evoque a more spacious cabin that now includes a rear bench big enough to ferry around adults. You'll also notice that Land Rover has swapped out the Evoque's rotary gear selector for a more conventional shifter design.

Embracing electrification

The Evoque's jump from Version 1.0 to 2.0 is most apparent when it comes to powertrains. The compact SUV still uses a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, but this time around it can be paired with an optional mild hybrid system for better performance and economy. Total system output for the 48V system is nearly 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, which is a fair bit for a vehicle of the Evoque's size.

In about a year Land Rover will rollout a plug-in hybrid version of the Evoque. However, Land Rover hasn't announced specs for that model.

For those hesitant to make the jump to partial electric power, you can still buy a version of the Evoque with only a gas engine. Without the help of the hybrid system, the Evoque makes 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque.

All-wheel drive is standard across all Evoque models, as is a revised nine-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy figures have not been announced.

On-road dynamics

After just a few miles behind the wheel it became plainly apparent that the 2020 Evoque is far better suited for the Range Rover badge than its predecessor.

Whereas the old Evoque was choppy over anything but perfect tarmac, the new model is smooth no matter the road surface. That's thanks in part to an all-new suspension system, but some credit for the Evoque's improved ride should also be given to the vehicle's longer wheelbase.

The Evoque is also much quieter than before. Road and wind noise are largely kept at bay, with the only notable sound able to penetrate the Evoque's cabin being the pleasing engine note of the four-cylinder at full chat. At a stop the Evoque is dead silent thanks to a new start-stop system.

Naturally the Evoque is best enjoyed as a boulevard cruiser, but it's not incompetent when it comes to winding roads. The Evoque's suspension, though comfortable, also keeps the vehicle flat and provides confident handling. Steering is light, but still direct and accurate. The Evoque's ZF-sourced nine-speed remains far from perfect, but you can tell efforts have been made to improve the unit's shift qualities. The revised nine-speed isn't as eager to upshift, but we'd still like to see crisper gear changes, especially when using the paddle shifters.

Off-road abilities

Of course being comfortable on-road is only half of the Range Rover equation. Anything with that iconic badge must be good off-road, and the Evoque certainly is.

Even with its street-oriented tires, we couldn't stump the Evoque across a wide range of off-road obstacles. From stream fording to rock crawling to mountain climbing, the Evoque proved time and time again that it's a true Range Rover.

As you'd expect, the Evoque's off-road prowess comes courtesy of Land Rover's arsenal of off-road settings -- there's seemingly a specific setting for every type of terrain you might encounter. That kind of electronic wizardry is common in modern Land Rovers, but the Evoque has one high-tech tool you won't find in other Rover models -- at least not yet.

It's called Clear Sight Ground View and it's designed to give you a virtual view of what's going on under your car. The system works by stitching together a delayed view from the Evoque's grille-mounted camera with real-time feeds from the side cameras. That patchwork is displayed on the Evoque's center screen and gives you an accurate representation of what's directly under your front axle.

Obviously the Clear Sight Ground View was designed with off-roading in mind (it's a great tool for finding the perfect line), but it also has real world applications. Say for instance a road has a deep pothole or a grate that protrudes from the road surface -- you can use Clear Sight Ground View to avoid that obstacle.

Leftlane's bottom line

With the 2020 Evoque, Land Rover has a new small Range Rover that should be another a big hit.

The 2020 Evoque isn't radically different from its predecessor, and that's the point. Land Rover simply took what was already a popular design and made it better in every single way. And the result is a vehicle that's truly worthy of its Range Rover badge.

Photos courtesy of Land Rover.

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