When a bright white Land Rover Evoque Coupe turned up in my driveway the other day, it immediately began polarising opinion in the neighbourhood.
Some agreed with the luxury British marque's marketing blurb that describes the vehicle's sloping, low roofline-high waistline bodyshell design as a bold new interpretation of classic Range Rover design cues.
Others said the vehicle just looked plain stupid.
And me? After having since experienced the vehicle for a week, I think the Coupe can be described in just two words: Oh, my.
The same can't be said for the five-door version, which I drove during the vehicle's New Zealand launch through the central North Island late last year. That model is considerably more conventional in the traditional SUV sense, even though it also boasts very futuristic looks.
To my eyes that new Rangie is OK. But the Coupe makes me feel a little uncomfortable because I can't see it having much application in New Zealand apart from being a bit of a poseur.
An expensive one, too.
One of the features of the new Evoque range is that not only is it available in three design themes - the uncluttered Pure, sportier Dynamic and more luxurious Prestige - but there is a very wide range of options that can be specified in to each model, including various 'packs'.
In the case of the $106,490 Prestige Coupe SD4 I had for road test, the vehicle had been fitted with 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, and a Tech Pack that included satellite navigation, powered tailgate, illuminated tread plates, stowage rails in the load area, front parking aid, a rear-view mirror, and an advanced climate-control air conditioning system.
That took the price of the test car to $127,290 - a lot of money for a two-door coupe. And that's why I have to admit this vehicle sat outside my personal comfort zone.
The Range Rover Evoque is getting all sorts of rave reviews at present, and it is among seven finalists for this year's European Car of the Year. Gee, I hope the votes are for the very good five- door version, because as far as I'm concerned the Coupe is more an exercise in looks rather than substance.
However, it has to be said that the vehicle does look fantastic.
I first laid my eyes on it at some international car show somewhere when it was presented as the LRX concept car, and when I first saw the production version at the Australian Motor Show earlier last year I was fascinated that Land Rover had the courage to keep the final design so close to the lines of the concept.
This is particularly the case with the two-door Coupe.
Thanks to its very low roofline, very high waistline, wide body and big wheels and tyres, it has a presence like no other vehicle currently on the market.
Of course, it's up to the individual to decide whether those looks are good or bad. I do know that, during the week I had the Coupe for test, I was spotted by a large number of people - I know that because they contacted me and voiced their opinions on its looks. Incidentally, these opinions were about evenly split.
And that brings me to an important point. If the Coupe is intended as the so-called 'hero' model of the Evoque range with looks so distinctive that it will draw peoples' attention to the entire Evoque fleet and Range Rover brand, then it is doing a superb job. But if the intention is for it to be a proper SUV, then my personal jury remains very much out on that.
So that's the criticism of the Coupe's raison d'etre out of the way. Now let's talk about the driving experience itself.
In a word, it's great.
From the moment you open the Range Rover's big door, slide into its tan Oxford leather seats and find you're surrounded by a combination of ivory Oxford leather finishing and satin brushed aluminium on the instrument panel and centre console, you know this is going to be a luxurious drive.
Press the starter button and the Jaguar-like gear selector dial rises out of the centre console, ready for you to twist it out of Park and into Drive or Reverse. It's all very well laid out and beautifully built, and full electric adjustment of the driver's seat and the steering column means you can find yourself the ideal driving position.
Getting into the two individual rear seats is a relatively easy matter of folding down the front seats, and while there's a reasonable amount of room back there, headroom is fairly truncated and visibility is a little restricted because of the vehicle's high wasitline.
The load area at the rear is easily accessible via the optional power-operated tailgate, and loadspace with all seats in use is 550 litres, able to be increased to 1350 litres with both rear seats folded down.
Obviously, this is all quite a bit less than what's available in the five-door Evoque.
Powering the Coupe SD4 is the same PSA-sourced 2.2-litre turbodiesel that is aboard a wealth of other product including various Peugeot and Citroen vehicles, the Jaguar XF, Ford Territory, and Land Rover Freelander.
In this case, it offers 140 kilowatts of power and 420 Newton metres of torque, and it goes very well.
The Coupe handles very well too - in fact, this is one of the outstanding features of this vehicle. And, being a Range Rover, it has full off-road capability thanks to its all-wheel drive and a wide range of systems, including Terrain Response which sets up the vehicle for different off-road environments.
But the big question has to be whether the Range Rover Evoque Coupe would ever go off the road - apart from onto a urban beach.
I think it's simply too fashionable for that. Better to leave that sort of work up to the much more appropriate five-door version.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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