Some days you get out of bed and you think it’s Groundhog Day, as in you’re stuck in a time warp.
Item: You pick up the paper and some columnist is writing about the Scarborough subway and you swear you’ve been reading about this forever, which you have. That and the Downtown Relief Line.
Item: You turn to sports and read that the Maple Leafs have high hopes for the playoffs. You have read this every year for the past 52 and nothing ever comes of this optimism. You also see where there was a Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton won. Lewis Hamilton always wins.
Item: You stop at Ellie. Some woman thinks her husband has a girlfriend. Ellie suggest counselling. So did Ann Landers, six days a week, beginning in 1955.
Like I said: A warp.
In November, I flew to England for the introduction of the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. We learned all about the car and got to drive it over an obstacle course laid out in an abandoned freight shed in east-end London. When I got back to my hotel, I turned on BBC-TV and here was the Prime Minister, Theresa May, trying to convince the House of Commons to vote for her Brexit deal.
Last week, which was four months later, I flew to Athens, Greece, to actually drive the Evoque, to stretch its legs, as it were. No indoor obstacle course this time; hill and dale and mountain and valley and rivers and streams were more like it.
When I got back to my hotel and turned on CNN International, here was the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, trying to convince the House of Commons to vote for her (apparently new) Brexit deal.
Thank goodness for the Range Rover, which really is new and different and exciting, because everything else, it seems, is same old, same old.
This story originally was published in Toronto Star Wheels on April 5, 2019
An aside: The Brexit thing is no joke. Ford warned this week it will reconsiders its investments in the U.K. if the people who run the place don’t get their act together. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), manufacturers of the Evoque, is the largest automaker in the U.K. and S & P dropped its credit rating to B-plus from Double B last week because of the uncertainty. No wonder that Dr. Ralf Dieter Speth, CEO of JLR, told a group of Canadian journalists several months ago that thousands of manufacturing jobs in Britain are at risk because of Brexit. “If we don’t get it right, I’m afraid the fridges of some people will be empty,” he said.
We will have to wait and see on much of that but of this I am certain: the 2020 Evoque is a great car. For a day and a half in Greece, starting and returning to the international airport in Athens, my driving partner and I had it going 130 kmh (sometimes faster) on expressways; much slower up and much-much slower down mountainsides on both paved and unpaved roads; through the countryside on gravel (being careful not to run into shepherds guarding their flocks of sheep and goats), and ve-e-e-r-r-r-y slow-w-w-w-ly almost straight up and almost straight down the sides of steep hills.
We also – and I always get a great kick out of this little exercise that Range Rover always includes in every global drive I’ve been on – drove the Evoque through and along the beds of streams and rivers. I always say, and I will say it again, that in my long life I have never driven a car or truck I’ve owned into a river. Never. But every time I’m in a Land Rover product, into the water we go.
Now, I know why they have us do this and that is to illustrate that whatever JLR product we’re driving, and in this case it was the 2020 Evoque (the P250 gas and the P300 mild hybrid EV were both on hand), it would be – is, in fact – capable of making its way through any terrain and over any obstacle. I am pleased to report that the Range Rover handled every task confronted with ease. The ride was smooth as silk on the expressways and as comfortable as could be everywhere else.
Yes, as drivers, we had help. If we were looking ahead at a rock-strewn path going straight up a steep hill, with a U-turn at the top that would take us straight down, we would push a button (an icon, really) that would activate one of the technological off-road management systems. Then we would just cross our arms and enjoy the ride. Same when we got to water. Wade sensing estimates the depth ahead so you won’t inadvertently drive into a sinkhole.
Now, as I said at the beginning of this piece, I attended the global launch of this car in London late last year, and wrote extensively about it at the time. (If you still have a copy of the Dec. 1 Wheels section around, everything you would want to know about this car – or just about everything – is there. If you haven’t kept the paper, just Google “Norris McDonald Evoque” and it will pop up on your computer screen.)
In that article, I told you how it was “a stunning advance in automobile design and technology (my words),” and that it promised a smoother ride than previous Range Rovers, more leg-and-foot room and an increase in interior space in which to put cargo and small-item stuff like purses (which is a big deal for some people).
Here are some other highlights:
The ClearSight Rear View Mirror, in which the touch of a toggle switch will turn the rear-view mirror into a rear-view camera.
The ClearSight Ground View (no mirror; it uses a screen), which lets you see what’s underneath the front of the car. This is an aide primarily for when you’re off-road and driving over large rocks. At times like those, it’s a good idea to know what’s underneath the vehicle. The batteries are under the floor and you don’t want to blindly do something that might damage them.
There’s another reason for it, however. Many ancient – or just plain old – cities in Europe (but think of some parts of old Montreal or Quebec City, too) have streets that are very narrow. The car wasn’t yet a concern when they built those roads and streets. So the Ground View camera lets you know if you are about to crumple a front fender on a curb. It’s the little things like those that set apart the Evoque.
The frame of the car has been strengthened (high strength, advanced and ultra-high strength steel with some aluminum has been used) and the laser-welded roof joints reduce the possibility of manufacturing faults.
The new Evoque boasts an intelligent all-wheel drive system that controls torque distribution between the front axle and each rear-wheel independently, whether you’re driving on-road or off. On road, more torque is distributed to the outside wheel when cornering, helping to keep the car stable. Off road, the Evoque is capable of locking the rear differential, thus minimizing wheel slip on the unloaded rear wheel, which is what can happen if you’re driving over large rocks.
The world is changing, and Land Rover is changing with it. This Evoque introduces JLR’s first 48V mild hybrid. This MHEV is designed for urban driving – people who live downtown, primarily – and it lowers CO2 emissions. The battery provides up to 200w/h of power without compromising the cabin space.
As I reported in my story in December, energy is captured during braking and stored in a battery under the floor. And the engine shuts off when the car is going less than 17 km/h (as when you’re coasting to a stop). When you get back on the throttle, as in when a light turns green, that stored energy assists the engine while it gets up to cruising speed.
Driver benefits? Up to a 6 per cent reduction in fuel consumption.
Gerry McGovern is Land Rover’s chief designer. I always ask him to tell me the best thing about the latest Range Rover product and he always answers, “the whole car.” He was at it again in Greece, suggesting there is a preoccupation in the automobile industry to come up with something different when simpler is often better.
Talking about the Evoque, he said: “It’s as much about what you don’t do as what you do do. Look at how clean that car is (referencing the Evoque); there is no over-ornamentation, there are fewer lines.”
He pointed to the flush door handles as an example of simple sleekness. “It’s (the Evoque) cleaner, more sophisticated and it’s grown up. The interior is different in that we’ve introduced the latest technology and its very relevant in terms of its connectivity. When you sit in it, you feel engaged.
“This car will appeal to younger people.”
My driving partner is younger than me but was as knocked out by the car’s performance on and off-road as I was. We had a number of conversations while on expressways while driving at a good clip and were impressed by the lack of interior noise.
She was a little nervous when I was behind the wheel and the JLR folks had us drive across an abandoned rail bridge which traversed the Corinth Canal. I don’t think she was particularly worried about my driving; it was the height of the span that had her a little on edge.
The following day, it was raining and foggy and we drove high into the mountains outside Athens. You could not really see very well at all and my nerves were on edge, not because she was driving but because there are no guardrails on some of those roads and if you happened to miss a turn and went over the edge, we’re talking about thousands of feet before something would stop the fall of the car.
Fortunately, all’s well that ended well and she did a superlative job.
Two things stood out for me while driving around Greece, which is a beautiful country for scenery.
First, graffiti is everywhere. In the cities and in the country. If you happened to drive past an abandoned factory, or an uninhabited house, they would be covered with drawings and designs. I know there is graffiti everywhere you go, including Toronto, where I live, but usually it’s confined to railway corridors or back alleys. Not there. It’s all over.
The other thing is cairns that people erect on the side of the road, where a family member or close friend has met his or her end. In Canada, in my experience, there are expressions of sympathy where there has been a fatal accident in the form of flowers, or Teddy bears. Sometimes crosses. But they are usually temporary. The cairns in Greece seem to be permanent, which I found to be nice.
It was a pleasure to travel around that country in that car. You will be able to buy the 2020 Evoque here in Canada soon – in a month or six weeks, to be exact. The P250 can be yours starting at $47,000, going up to $51,500. The P300 MHEV will go for between $52,500 and $62,500