Corporate motorists are expected to give Range Rover a significant boost in sales next year when eco versions of its latest model reach the showrooms.
Linking high fuel efficiency with low tailpipe emissions, the two-wheel drive Evoque range has the potential to be a favourite with fleet drivers who want their premium-badge sport utility travel to come with optimum operating costs.
Land Rover won only 500 registrations last year with a front wheel drive version of the Freelander, but officials at the iconic company behind half a century of ‘best 4x4xfar” mobility believe they will soon be getting a grip on the sector that now accounts for 23 per cent of Britain’s SUV market.
“This may be the lightest, most frugal Land Rover ever and the first front-drive Range Rover, but it is as relevant as any of our other models and we believe it is just as worthy of the Range Rover badge. We also think our customers will regard it as equally desirable,” said product engineer Peter Cockle when pre-production examples were made available for testing in the Austrian Alps.
Due to go on sale in March, the lead-in Evoque has limited capabilities for ultimate mud-plugging situations but inherits a surprising degree of the go-anywhere abilities of its all-drive sister cars as ESP traction control helps it tackle slippery surfaces with confidence. High ground clearance means it also shares the 500mm wading depth of 4x4 versions.
Dispensing with rear drivetrain components gives the car a 75kg weight advantage to make the lower-output eD4 engine a smooth, quiet and lively performer in a high sixth gear that gives it a refined cruising demeanour to fully justify the kerbside promise of its stylish appearance.
Thanks to an interior boasting design that’s as practical as it is pleasing, even the entry-level Pure offers an inviting, high comfort environment bolstered by generous equipment for relaxing, long distance travel.
Standing on 19-inch alloy wheels, the roomy five-door car has electronic steering, an electric parking brake with hill start assist, a split-fold rear seat, a range of mood lighting shades, leather seats heated at the front, attractive brushed aluminium finishers for the centre console, a parking aid, six airbags, steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons and a digital radio with MP3 connectivity and a Bluetooth phone system.