Land Rover lore has it that 67 years ago a man called Maurice Wilks crouched down in the sand on his farm at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey and sketched the first Land Rover design right there in the dirt. He was using an American Army surplus Willys Jeep at the time and with his brother decided it was high time the British automotive industry used some of its excess manufacturing capacity after the end of World War II to create a utilitarian workhorse for farmers.
It was 1947, and his design was so successful that if you buy a Land Rover Defender today you are, to all intents and purposes, buying nothing more than a refinement of Wilks’s original sand sketch.
Sometime between 60 and 70 years later, Victoria Beckham sat down and sketched out her ideas for the interior of the new Range Rover Evoque. I suspect Posh Spice didn’t use a stick and some sand, she probably used an iPad, or maybe some mascara on the back of a napkin, or perhaps a team of designers.
Either way, Maurice Wilks came up with a design classic 65 years ago, probably the most recognisable car in the world and the only car of which it can be said two-thirds of all those ever built since 1948 are still on the road. Now, Victoria Beckham and the Range Rover team have come up with a new doozy.
On first impression, in white the two-door Range Rover Evoque looks like a Star Wars Imperial Storm Trooper’s helmet, which is a very, very good thing indeed. We’ve all seen them on the roads of Britain since they first hit the dealers this summer and, admit it, you’ve stared, haven’t you? Because the Range Rover Evoque is, like Victoria Beckham, certainly a head-turner.
Mine was silver, but you’ll get no complaints here, with a massive glass sunroof, side mirrors like elephants’ ears (one of the very few quibbles) and an attitude that makes the Spice Girls look like a bunch of Methodist librarians.
The Range Rover Evoque is sexy, that’s the bottom line. Over the past year I’ve driven review cars from Bentleys to Jaguars – and no car has grabbed people’s attention like this puppy.
First burn on our weekend of fun was a quick spin across the New Forest to the Spitfire Shoot, a clay shooting range near Winchester. The Evoque made a tasty job of the twisting country roads, sticking to the wet leaf-laden tarmac like a tram on rails and gliding through the bends with such little roll my father-in-law in the passenger seat (a diehard XK fan and motorracing competitor) was heard to mutter, “It’s coping with your driving very well.” I took this as a compliment and threw the Evoque into another tree-lined bend in the hope of dislodging his cool, to no avail.
Technically, this smoothness of ride is down to the same technology they use in the Audi R8 (dampers filled with a fluid rich in magnetised iron filings that react to adjust the firmness of the ride). The fact that the Evoque’s dampers react twice as fast as those in the R8 is a pleasing fact to rub in the face of Audi owners.
Naturally the car park at the clay shooting range was populated by the usual handful of Defenders, three Range Rovers, two Discoverys and a Freelander (to which the Evoque is loosely related – they share some DNA), but still the site of Land Rover’s latest offering coming tearing into the car park in a spray of wood chips brought the Landie, Rangie, Disco and Freelander owners piling out of the clubhouse to check out Vicky Beckham’s work first hand.
All agreed that the interior is, if anything, even smarter than the outside. The seats give a leather-upholstered driving position which sits somewhere between ‘aggressive’ and ‘d’you want some?’, the dash has a sensible layout and the comfort, for those in the front, is as good as a Range Rover Sport.
I didn’t take the Evoque off road in the time I had it (which is something I will probably have in common with most people who eventually own one) but I do know there’s no low range, just an electronic terrain response which (judging by James May’s Top Gear review earlier year in Death Valley) actually takes care of business far better than the Posh interior would ever have you suspect.
On the treacherous terrain of London streets the Evoque made an admirable urban 4x4: sturdy enough to see off rioters and cool enough to make a fashion model happy in Chelsea. On the less demanding surface of the M3, she took the 70-mile run at a skip.
Get the five-door if you plan on ferrying many backseat passengers around, the two door starts at a frankly not bad £28k, my particular model pushed it up to nearer £40k, but in uncertain times there are some things you don’t want to economise on – and a stylish set of wheels, from the world’s best marque, that could plough through a burning urban riot with ease, might just be the best investment you can make.
The Range Rover Evoque is available from £27,995 from Lookers. www.lookers.parkroyal.landrover.co.uk 152 Dukes Rd, W3; 0844 649 2112
www.lookers.battersea.landrover.co.uk 50 Lombard Rd, SW11; 0844 649 5028