People buy cars for many reasons. It could be for the badge, the design, or even the status. At Wanted, we often wonder how many people buy a car for what it is actually capable of, though. By that, we don’t mean the performance numbers or even the number of cup-holders or speakers, but rather, what it can actually do.
It’s fairly obvious that if you buy a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 then you have every intention of going way beyond the smooth tarmac highway and heading into the bush. But what about the Range Rover Sport? Do people buy it for its status, its performance, or its off-road ability? Do many owners even know about the latter? And what about the BMW X5? We doubt many ever venture off-road in that, despite the group’s efforts to push the all-terrain capabilities of its popular sports-utility vehicle (SUV).
We’ve just been to Greece to drive the next generation of the Range Rover Evoque. Since it first launched in 2011, more than 800 000 have been sold worldwide and even Land Rover’s chief designer Gerry McGovern told Wanted that the model probably saved the company at the time. It’s very popular but, beneath its new,
Velar-inspired design and luxurious interior, it’s still a Land Rover, so is capable of doing a great deal more than just climbing the pavement outside your local Woolies food.
“The design strategy has helped us move from 10 years ago being a manufacturer of 4x4 vehicles to one producing objects of desire,” McGovern says. But for McGovern, it’s not just about design. “I’ve no desire to design something that isn’t brilliantly engineered,” he says.
Like the original, that engineering has made the new Evoque very comfortable on the road around town and it even has a hidden sporty character if the road suits. But it’s off the black stuff where it comes into its own. We headed up a twisty, gravel mountain track, one of those where there are sheer drops down the side, and it provided superb levels of grip, as well as traction-control systems that clearly have been engineered for the rougher stuff.
It waded along a stream through an almost-dry riverbed and climbed over various rocky obstacles, all as though it were a Sunday afternoon drive in the countryside. There’s no doubt that the latest-generation Evoque, as with its predecessor, defines the modern-day Land Rover, at least until the new Defender comes along.
It’s packed with technology such as the new Terrain Response system and the Touch Duo Pro system, which features two screens: one for infotainment and the other for driving settings and climate control. It also has two big tricks up its sleeve in the form of the Clearsight Rear View and Clearsight Ground View. The first uses a camera on the back to display a live feed in the rear-view mirror, essential because McGovern refused to make the tiny rear window any larger. The latter makes the bonnet invisible by showing you the ground beneath your wheels, a little scary when you are driving along a narrow, disused railway bridge high above the Corinth Canal in Greece.
It’s all very clever stuff, but again, how many people will actually use it? South Africa has a vast network of gravel roads, which might be the closest many Evoques will get to off-roading — a pity given its ability. Then again, how many Toyota Rav4 owners venture beyond the regular school-run route? For that matter, how many Range Rover owners do the same? Do we love the fact that we know what a vehicle is capable of, even though we might never use it? Perhaps it’s like insurance: you have it, but you don’t think you will need it.
Whatever the reason people buy them, SUVs mean different things to different people, as, I suppose, do all cars. They reflect our personality and either our aspiration or our success. As McGovern says: “Do people need luxury Range Rovers? No, but we desire them.” And the Evoque is certainly desirable.
• From the May edition of Wanted 2019.