THE baby in the stroller is crying and mum and dad are trying to placate the child until their attention is distracted by the vision coming down the street. Like the Monaro, Mini (the first one) and E-Type Jag, Land Rover's baby Range Rover Evoque has the ability to distract passersby - even from crying babies - and evoke a mixture of envy and admiration. It is an icon on any street. But there is a price to pay for this adulation.
This is a capitalist's dream car and a consumer's nightmare with a choice of two body shapes, two drive systems, three trim levels, three engines and two transmissions. In all, 30 model variants, ranging in price from $53,395 to $77,395. And in July there will also be an entry level eD4 110kW diesel model available with two-wheel drive from $49,990. The price range overlaps the BMW X1 and X3, and starts cheaper than the slightly bigger Audi Q5.
The Pure trim level has 17-inch alloys, LED front fog lights, leather-trimmed seats colour audio display with eight-speaker sound, rear parking sensors, driver information centre, climate control airconditioning, push-button start, Bluetooth with audio streaming and an "Oxford leather" steering wheel with controls for phone, audio and cruise control.
Prestige adds full leather interior with real wood trim, xenon headlights and touchscreen for the 380-watt Meridian sound system with 11 speakers and two USB ports. Dynamic has a sporty feel outside and in, but has no extra equipment.
Just like the Germans, it's the added extras and sometimes even the most basic of options that sends the price soaring. Try $1300 for metallic paint, for starters. That's pretty steep when most charge about $500 and Subaru doesn't charge extra at all. And how about $1495 for keyless entry which is now standard with some small cars?
There are a couple of feature bundles which save on buying some of the items separately, but do you really need things like "mood lighting" and special mats? The only option box I would tick out of pure indulgence is the Meridian sound system. Meridian Audio is a British boutique hi-fi manufacturer and the aural results are simply stunning. One of the best in-car audio systems you can get.
We tested two models - Pure SD4 automatic at $59,875 and Dynamic SD4 automatic at $73,375 - but with various option packs, plus a few extras, the retail price (minus on-road costs) leapt to $68,375 and $94,284, respectively.
There are two turbo engines - petrol and diesel - but the 2.2-litre turbo diesel comes in a choice of 110kW peak power output or 140kW. They are available with either a six-speed manual transmission or the tried-and-true ZF six-speed automatic. The new 2.0-litre Si4 petrol engine has output of 177kW. It combines direct fuel injection, turbocharging and twin variable valve timing and comes only with the ZF transmission.
All are offered with all-wheel drive, which has the same Terrain Response electronic system used in the Freelander on which this car is based. This system is exceptionally effective and easy to use. Just dial in the terrain surface (gravel, snow etc) and away you go. Sort of four-wheel driving for dummies.
The two-wheel-drive model will be powered by the 110kW diesel engine. The touchscreen satnav is a bit cumbersome at first, but basically foolproof and the Bluetooth was easy to pair and reliably hooked up first time, every time. All controls have a quality feel.
Some vehicles are stunning only from certain angles or are let down by their interior. Evoque is simply stunning from ever angle and is supported by a modern but comfortable interior in all trim levels. Gone is the ostentatious "English country gentleman's club" feel. The three-door model looks sleeker and almost "pimped" with a sloping roof line and slitty rear windows.
Unfortunately, it's form over function with very difficult rear access and a claustrophobic rear compartment. The coupe comes with two back seats or a no-cost three-seater bench option.
This is a five-star safety car with seven airbags and a host of driver aids such as hill launch assist and hill descent control in the four-wheel-drive models, plus chassis electronics, corner stability, rollover stability and trailer sway control.
They come with reversing parking sensors which are vital as there is very little rear vision. A reversing camera does not come standard. However, you can get the $900 Surround Camera System with tow assist that helps you guide on to the hitch without getting out of the car or you can get it as part of the $5900 Tech Pack with the Prestige and Dynamic trims.
Vision out the front is no better with massive truck-sized wing mirrors that blot out the view of cyclists, bikers, pedestrians, dogs and street kerbing. Even if you don't run over a little old lady with a dog, you are likely to clip a kerb or two.
We first tested the petrol model in the Carsguide Car of the Year judging at Ford's You Yangs proving grounds in Victoria. It is a smooth, refined and lively unit that ably punts the car along the worst of the country's back roads.
Despite our best efforts, it was difficult to wrong-foot the SUV that doesn't have the lurching effect of many others in its class. It's not quite up to the X3's driving dynamics, but it isn't far off. Despite its commendable off-road characteristics, ride is still comfortable. The turbo engines are also quite potent and have minimum amounts of lag. When the boost does come on, it isn't uncontrollable. The diesel is very quiet, except for a gentle clatter at idle.
The cabin is also quiet and it is a pleasant place to be, especially when the Meridian sound system is cranking out some classic rock.
This is a decision for the heart, not the head. Turn your neighbours' heads and indulge your senses. If you hate your passengers, get the three-door model.
LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km, roadside assist
Service interval: 12 months/ 15,000km
Options: Meridian sound $2385, adaptive dynamics $1950, digital TV $1450, metallic paint $1300, dual-view touch screen $1270, park assist $1090, panoramic roof $1035, surround camera system $900, privacy glass $670, automatic high beam assist $335, 19" alloys $1000, clear view pack $1700
Engines: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/420Nm; 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 177kW/320Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto/manual, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 6.5-8.7L/100km, CO2 174-199g/km
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC
Body: 3 and 5-door, 4- and 5-seat coupe and wagon
Dimensions: 4365mm (L); 1965mm (W); 1635mm (H); 2660mm (WB), 1810kg
Wheels: 17- to 19-inch alloys, space-saver spare.
" high safety and simple cabin layout are highlights''