Plenty of vehicles boast about their off-road capabilities. But how many will take you underground to back up those claims? And under Liverpool, no less?
But that’s precisely where we found ourselves in the new 2012 Range Rover Evoque, recently, cautiously piloting the maker’s new offering through a network of long-abandoned railroad tunnels deep beneath the old shipping town perhaps best known as the birthplace of the Beatles.
It was an unusual way to introduce a significant new offering from a brand that has traditionally defined the classic sport-utility vehicle. The 2012 Range Rover Evoque is the first major new product to emerge from the British marque since Land Rover – and sibling brand Jaguar – were sold to Indian automotive wannabe Tata Motors several years ago. It’s the newest model to share the top-line Range Rover badge. And, perhaps most notably, it’s Land Rover’s first crossover-utility vehicle.
That’s more than a subtle distinction. The 2012 Range Rover Evoque migrates to a car-like unibody platform, rather than Land Rover’s traditional body-on-frame truck chassis. It also adopts a funky, coupe-like design that styling chief Gerry McGovern confides will have a strong influence over the next generation of Land Rover products – whether truck or crossover.
The new model is both the smallest and, at just north of 3,500 pounds in base configuration, the lightest model ever to wear a Land Rover badge. That reflects the reality of today’s automotive market. Motorists are generally downsizing as they struggle to deal with crowded city streets and rising fuel prices. That doesn’t mean they want to give up style, performance, space or functionality, however.