The car's voice command system turned out to be a pretty good option for using phone, stereo, and navigation. Its most useful feature is the list of available commands that pops up on the screen, so I did not have to sit down for an evening with the manual, memorizing commands like "destination" and "call."
The navigation system's maps, stored on an internal hard drive, were clear and bright, and showed the most recent traffic data captured on FM radio waves. This system dealt with bad traffic situations along my route by popping up dialog boxes asking me to confirm a route change. In a city like Los Angeles, with its very fluid traffic situation, that dialog box would burn its image into the screen.
Although the navigation system gives both male and female voice prompts, it does not do text-to-speech. I got lost a bit because it was not telling me the name of the streets I needed to turn onto, and I was too lazy to look down at the turn graphic on the screen.
Land Rover gives the Evoque a rich collection of audio sources, including iPod integration and satellite radio, onboard hard-drive storage, Bluetooth streaming audio, and HD Radio. I was particularly impressed to see two USB ports in the console, one labeled for iPods and one for USB drives, a distinction that probably was not completely necessary.
CNET's Evoque came with the upgraded audio system, which raised my expectations with its metal speaker grilles stamped with the Meridian name. Given that it boasts 17 speakers, 2 of which are subwoofers, and an 825-watt amp, I was ready for some fine audiophile music reproduction. The system did well with instrumental separation and clarity, making for some nice detail. But it lacked rich tonality, the music playing through with an uninspired, flat sound.
At first I assumed the system lacked a subwoofer, but looking up the specs disabused me of that idea. The system features three different surround-sound profiles, and I got the feeling it was set up more for video accompaniment than for music reproduction. At volume, the speakers produced hum and rattled the door panels occasionally.
The Evoque may showcase Land Rover's latest technology, but one thing it lacks is any app integration, such as Pandora. It does have a Bluetooth phone system offering phone book integration with a paired phone and dial-by-name capability. But on some of the more tortuous mountain roads I could find, I was well out of cellular range.
Over these twisty roads the Evoque performed admirably. It did not balk at the sudden rises and was easily maneuverable around hairpin turns. With its sport-oriented suspension, it let me cover a lot of distance in a short time, the car never feeling tippy. And it felt narrow enough to share these thin roads with oncoming traffic.
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque's running gear is generally very good, featuring the high-tech and efficient EcoBoost engine from Ford and an all-wheel-drive system with multiple programs. But the transmission displayed awkwardness, hunting for gears and making unexpected downshifts.
The cabin electronics comprise good navigation, phone, and stereo systems, but nothing in this area pushes the car technology envelope. Land Rover has not implemented an app strategy.
The performance of the touch screen and the interface design were both somewhat problematic. But the car itself has all the practicality of a five-seat SUV, and Land Rover kept its design close to that of the concept LRX, making the Evoque one of the better-looking cars on the road.
|Model||2012 Range Rover Evoque|
|Power train||Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||18 mpg city/28 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||21.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based system with traffic data integration|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD/DVD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Meridian 825-watt 17-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Surround-view camera, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$50,695|