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Friday, 30 December 2011

Range Rover Evoque - Big Deal...


Last month, TopGear Magazine released its 2011 Awards issue. That in itself is not very interesting, but what is interesting is some of the winners. The McLaren MP4-12C (a mid-engined, Twin-Turbo supercar) won the GT Car Of The Year award, thanks to its clever hydraulic anti-roll system, the quirky Citroën DS5 won Family COTY and the Fisker Karma beat the likes of the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Mulsanne to be TopGear's Luxury Car of choice. So far, so mildly interesting, but the overall winner surprised me, and not in a good way...

If the title didn't give it away, it was the Range Rover Evoque. I was against this car when it first revealed itself. It's not the looks - it's almost identical to the LRX Concept, which looked great - it was the idea of Land Rover making what appeared to be an on-roader. Land Rover shouldn't make on-roaders. The involvement of Victoria Beckham and the option of Front-Wheel-Drive (a first for LR, and also an option now on the Freelander) made things worse on that front, and since its unveil I have always felt resistant to it. Now it's supposedly the best car of 2011, a year that gave us a V12 Ferrari shooting brake, the BAC Mono, BMW 1 M Coupé, a supercar that can ride properly and still outperform a Ferrari 458 Italia, and the Fisker Karma, which proves that an environmental conscience doesn't have to look cheap or ugly when you're behind the wheel, while further removing the engine from the equation of driving (it only runs to charge the batteries, like in a GM Volt, or TopGear's own electric car, the Hammerhead-i EagleThrust). I disagree.

After reading about it and seeing it cope pretty well with the Nevada Desert, however, I'm disappointed with this verdict for different reasons than all that. As it turns out, the 4WD version is more-or-less as good off-road as a proper Range Rover, which is something of a relief, but if it's just as good to drive and to use as the new Range Rover, why is that such an achievement? That means that, basically, it's just a Smaller Range Rover that looks more stylish and costs a bit less. Er... big deal.

The constant association with Posh Spice still annoys me, too. What constructive advice can a woman with the body of an ironing board, the face of that dragon thing from The Neverending Story and the IQ of a hat possibly give to the makers of some of the world's best off-roaders? It's the same mentality that probably came up with the name Evoque, which is just the word Evoke spelt like it's a new fragrance from Chanel. Thus, I shall pronounce it "évok" to make it sound Frenchy and flim-flammy like it should. What kind of name is that for a Land Rover? The kind you can slap onto the narrow-windowed behind of a cynically-conceived Chelsea Tractor designed to draw in the Chelsea Tractor crowd like magpies to a shiny set of keys, I suppose. The billboard ads for it in London don't even need a slogan, it just has a big side-on picture of it in an "urban environment" and says "The New Range Rover Evoque". Job done. They'll come running.

Because of that, I can see why they did it, and unfortunately it does have a place in the current world, even if the 3-door FWD version is essentially a giant hatchback with Range Rover written on it (which is all kinds of wrong), but you wouldn't catch me anywhere near one, and if you did, you can bet I wouldn't be paying it any attention. Certainly, it isn't the best or the most amazing or revolutionary car that came out this year, and I don't think it should be promoted and bigged up by winning the TG COTY award, because in the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. I would even prefer the Ferrari Four winning, despite not being all that keen on it, or the new Porsche 991, their Coupé of the Year that they described as, all things considered, "the world's best sports car". If it shouldn't be a sports car, then there's also the Karma.

Oh well. I can't change the outcome. As for next year's big winner, I think I know of one sure-fire candidate.

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