The 21st century luxury SUV consumer may wear Barbour jackets as an ironic fashion statement, but is also far more likely to be an entrepreneur pitching their one-person marketing agency rather than living off an inheritance and attending fox hunts. Range Rover knows which way the wind is blowing, and with the Evoque, it has adapted its formula accordingly.
2012 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
Gone is the big, boxy profile and the massive 5.0L Supercharged V8. The opulent cabin full of leather and aluminum remains, but the Evoque is compact, taut and almost futuristic looking, with a silhouette more like a MINI Countryman than a Defender 110. Sharing a platform with the Land Rover LR2 which in turn is based on the Ford Focus, allows for the Evoque to opt for a much smaller form factor, and makes it the kind of vehicle you want for darting in and out of traffic, or parking in tight downtown spaces.
Inside, it is clear to seasoned veterans that Land Rover which operates the Range Rover brand as its “premium” line has been dipping into the parts bin in a big way. The switchgear is an 80/20 mix of Land Rover and Volvo bits hardly a bad thing, but the common usages were immediately apparent. A few Jaguar parts are included for good measure, such as the rotary shift knob that rises from the center console, and the touch-screen HVAC and audio control system, which is one of the easiest and most intuitive systems out there. Our litmus test involves asking a passenger to operate the iPod interface without any direction, and most cars tend to frustrate our subjects. Not so with the Evoque, as multiple riders were able to easily and quickly navigate it without any annoyances.
The Evoque does many things really well the kind of things that most buyers of the full-size Range Rovers do already, but without the wretched excesses of massive fuel guzzling or conspicuous consumption. Range Rover will sell every Evoque it can produce
2012 AUDI TT-RS
This high-performance Audi rewards an aggressive handler. Powering the TT-RS is a turbocharged 2.5-liter 5-cylinder making an incredible 360-hp and 343 lb-ft of torque. For the record, that’s 160-hp more than a run of the mill TT, an increase of 80 percent.
A beast on the track, on the street its hard-edge character is perhaps more evident. Push the sport button and along with improved throttle response the magnetic ride shock absorbers firm up to chiropractic levels. Clutch engagement is immediate and even when not in S mode, just touch the gas and the car wants to fly. Most modern stick-shifts make driving manual a breeze. Not here. Even long-time manual-lovers should be warned not to drive the car in gridlock.
That said, no warning should be required. The TT-RS certainly puts its attitude on display. From the massive front grille to fixed rear spoiler and 19-inch wheels it looks half-way between a tuner car and a DTM racer. The rest of the cabin is also a bit less glamorous that expect from Audi’s RS division. Sure there is a thick rimmed steering wheel, embossed RS seats and RS logos. And it is generally very nice. It is just missing the cream leather and carbon fiber.