The Range Rover Evoque has been a smash sales success for Land Rover, both here in the UK and across the globe. But does it have the tech chops to match its concept car looks?
It certainly packs some novel features in the form of its Dual-View touchscreen and Meridian sound system. Time for TechRadar to investigate.
The Evoque, for the uninitiated, is Range Rover's new compact SUV. It's based on the Land Rover Freelander, which in turn uses a modified version of the Ford Mondeo platform.
Engines wise, the Evoque looks relatively modest, too, with a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel units. There are no six or eight-cylinder models nor any fancy hybrid options, currently.
Range Rover Evoque: Premium pricing
That said, thanks to turbocharging, outputs are healthy enough. Our test Evoque is the top Si4 2.0-litre petrol model, which cranks out 240hp.
In that context, you could argue that list pricing that starts as high as £40,995 for the Si4 three-door model in Dynamic trim is pretty rum. Indeed, hitting £50,000 with some extras is all to easy.
But the Evoque undeniably cuts a premium dash, inside and out. And more than anything, it's a serious head turner. Everyone loves the Evoque. Anyway, perhaps the in-car tech can help with the value proposition.
Range Rover Evoque: Infotainment
The basics of the Evoque's infotainment clobber involves an eight-inch touchscreen front and centre in the main console.
At £600 it's either good value compared to some equivalent systems or a bit rich when you've just forked out over £40,000 for a four-cylinder mid-sized SUV. Functionality covers the usual retinue of in-car features.
That means navigation, Bluetooth telephony, audio and video. At least it does if you tick enough options boxes. On top of the £600 for the touchscreen, the HDD Premium Navigation System adds another £1,430.
The DVB and analogue TV tuner, meanwhile, is another £510 and the optional Meridian Surround Sound System is another £995. At this stage, you're probably beginning to appreciate how racking up £10,000 of options is awfully easy.
That said, you do at least get some standard kit on most models, including Bluetooth, USB connectivity, DAB radio and a five-inch LCD display in the driver's instruments.
As we'll see, however, what the Evoque's infotainment isn't, at least not for the most part, is cutting edge. There's no internet connectivity. No apps. No remote services.
Range Rover Evoque: Navigation
Without internet connectivity, there's a limit to how fancy the Evoque's navigation system is going to be. There's no HD Traffic service, no Google searching nor Send to Car.
What you do get is a pretty comprehensive offline navigation system that supports seven-digit postcodes. What you'd hope for, then, is for something simple but extremely easy to use.
At first glance, you get just that. The maps are clean and unfussy and there's a split-screen mode to help you track both your overall position from a bird's eye view while you negotiate a trick junction with a close-eye view on the other side.
In practice, however, it doesn't work that well. The refresh rate of the mapping is pretty clunky for starters. And the close-in map can be slow to update and hard to follow.
Quite frankly, even a basic aftermarket unit from the likes of TomTom or Garmin is far superior. And far cheaper. But then that's often the case. What you're paying for is the convenience and neatness of an integrated nav solution.
As for the POI database, as with most pre-loaded efforts, it's of marginal utility at best. We doubt you'll use it much, especially if someone on board has any kind of smartphone with them for online searching.
Range Rover Evoque: Comms and connectivity
Settings up Bluetooth on the Evoque is smooth and slick. It not only allows for hands-free telephony, including phonebook support, it also does music streaming, including track data.
You also have the option of hooking up devices via the USB and line-in ports located in the centre arm rest. The USB port supports iPod and iPhone for easy access to your music library via the touchscreen. The line-in or auxiliary port, meanwhile, provides a failsafe that works with any devices with a headphone jack.
In truth, we'd like to see wider support for other smartphone platforms beyond those of Apple. It's something other manufacturers are beginning to pick up on and with the rising popularity of Android and the potential for Windows 8 to reboot Microsoft's chances in ultramobile devices, the Evoque is already looking a little old hat.
Range Rover Evoque: Audio and video
You can read more about the optional Meridian Surround Sound System here. But suffice to say that the combination of 17 speakers, including a centre speaker, 825 watts and some fancy digital sound processing makes for one of the most impressive in-car audio solutions we've ever experienced.
In fact, in some ways, it's the Evoque's saving grace in terms of infotainment. But it does have one other trick up its sleeve. The Dual-View capability of the main touchscreen.
First seen in cars from sister company Jaguar, Dual-View is essentially two screens in one and allows the driver and passenger to see two entirely independent images based on viewing angle.
The video below gives you a quick idea of how it works. What it essentially allows for is a passenger to watch TV while the driver retains navigation and other functionality. And we can confirm it functions precisely as advertised.
Oh, and on a final note, the HDD storage that comes with the Premium Navigation system is fairly redundant. When it comes to digital audio, the world has moved on from local HDD storage.
You've either got it on your smartphone or flash storage device, which the Evoque caters for, or you're streaming it from the cloud, which it doesn't do directly, but can by way of connecting a third-party device.
Range Rover Evoque: Interface and usability
The car industry is currently in a state of flux when it comes to user interfaces. The Range Rover Evoque's touchscreen certainly has advantages over wheel-input infotainment platforms, for instance. But it also has downsides.
When it comes to inputting addresses, for instance, touchscreens can be much quicker. The virtual on-screen keyboard means you can tap text straight in.
On the other hand, generally connecting with on-screen buttons when you're on the move can be tricky. It's just not terribly ergonomic to hold your hand up to a screen while driving and it requires significant periods of eyes-away-from-the-road distraction. You've really got to look at the screen to hit those buttons.
The Evoque does mitigate this to a degree with its shortcut keys around the screen. But there's little doubt that a wheel controller located lower down in the centre console is more ergonomic and also allows for briefer glances at the screen.
And what of the interface itself? Land Rover describes the screen as "high resolution" but it's clearly much lower res than the latest screens from the likes of BMW iDrive or Audi MMI. So, while the graphics are generally attractive enough, the general feel is a little dated.
The Evoque can also be had with a full voice-control system. It's decent as these things go. But like any other voice-control system, it's not quite as natural or as responsive as we'd like. The reality is that the alternative control methods, including the handy steering-wheel short cuts, are more effective.
Range Rover Evoque: Infotainment verdict
The Evoque is a seriously desirable car. There's absolutely no doubt about that. But from an in-car tech perspective, it's adequate at best. Most of what it does, it does pretty well.
Bluetooth and USB connectivity, for instance, is well executed. There are plenty of media playback options. And when you factor in standard DAB, optional DVB TV and that Dual-View screen, the broadcast entertainment options are well covered.
The interface is also well presented and logical, albeit on a screen of modest resolution and quality. However, there are one or two areas where the Evoque's in-car kit both surprises and disappoints.
On the downside, the navigation is pretty clunky. The lack of internet connectivity and apps leaves the whole platform feeling a little dated and out of step with the Evoque's stunning, futuristic styling.
But then it counters with that awesome Meridian sound system. So, here's how it stacks up. It is possible to use the features the Evoque delivers and very much enjoy the ownership experience.
You'll jump in and connect your smartphone via Bluetooth or the USB port. You'll enjoy your music on the outstanding sound system. And you'll learn to live with the navigation. As long as the Evoque's styling pulls in the crowds, that's probably good enough.