Across Europe in a Range Rover Evoque

The first 12,500 miles in a Range Rover Evoque: fantastic, right up until Route Napoleon.

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Coming up: the first 12,500 miles by Range Rover Evoque. Fantastic, right up until Route Napoleon.

Most people will not be surprised to learn the Range Rover Evoque is not at its best on a twisty mountain road. We were. Right up until the moment we took to the Route Napoleon, in the hills above Grasse in the South of France, it had been really enjoyable to drive. From fast and comfortable transcontinental blasts to manoeuvring around the supermarket car park, so far it had taken everything in its stride. Being as it feels so planted on the road, we didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t cope with a few sharp corners.

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It wasn’t that it was slow, or reluctant to change direction at short notice. Unusually, we could easily escape the clutches of usefully driven local super minis. The problem was that ‘sport mode’ hung on to the gear ratios for so long all enjoyment was blotted out by the screeching engine. Four pot 2.2 litre turbo diesels do not sound great at the rev limiter. Putting it back in normal mode meant the power was never there when it was needed. All-in-all a bit unsatisfactory, and unnecessary.

It's about the economy stupid: thanks to the nine speed auto gearbox - despite having some reservations, it's

Otherwise the gearbox has worked fantastically well. Thanks to the new nine speed automatic we’ve averaged a shade under 37mpg over 12,500 miles. Kick down is instant and the changes really are imperceptible. Almost best of all, a trick new transmission three years after launch shows Land Rover is ready to invest in this car where previously it might have rested on its laurels. That bodes really well for the future, especially as the upcoming Range Rover Sport SVR has just lapped the Nurburgring in 8m14.

Apart from sport mode, and too many tappy plastics, on the exterior especially, there really aren’t many faults to report. Nothing has broken or fallen off. The engine stop-start doesn’t always work but apparently that’s only when there are too many smartphones charging up. The only unforgivable omission – and it’s a biggie, considering - is the lack of an altimeter.

Apart from sport mode, and too many tappy plastics, on the exterior especially, there really aren’t many faults to report. Nothing has broken or fallen off. The engine stop-start doesn’t always work but apparently that’s only when there are too many smartphones charging up. The only unforgivable omission – and it’s a biggie, considering – is the lack of an altimeter.

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‘Are you going to do much off-roading?’ It was the dealer who first asked that and a few other people have followed up with it since. Crushing, especially as the short answer is, we weren’t planning to. It took months to book the complimentary Land Rover off-road course. The point about the Evoque is that it’s a smart all-rounder with a high driving position for good visibility. That said, its rugged nature has already enabled us to push further. Via Baltica between Kaunas and Tallinn turned out to be in excellent condition but we never worried about the state of the roads anyway. After anxious progress through the Balkans in our previous road pony we can tell you that saves a lot of time and energy.

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At 4355mm the Evoque is 3mm shorter than a Ford Focus. It’s also 333mm shorter than the dreaded Porsche Macan, an indisputable fact we cling to daily as it’s parked on the crowded street outside. The Macan was launched within a few days of our ordering the Evoque at the end of last year and even cost a few quid less. No doubt it would blitz Route Napoleon. To be honest we both get a slightly sick feeling whenever we think about it. There’s only one solution. In order to fully justify this purchase we will have to deploy the Evoque to the very edge of its capabilities. But where?

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