The most design-led product ever to emerge from the Range Rover studios, the forthcoming Evoque is intended to take Range Rover into upmarket city streets, finally shaking off any lingering SUV-style stigma attached to the urbanised four wheel drive vehicle.
The latter quality might be Land Rover's stock in trade, but things are changing fast. For the first time in the company's 60 year history all wheel drive has been dropped, and the recent Land Rover Freelander eD4 has only two driven wheels, placing the emphasis on saving weight and fuel rather than the ability to shimmy up a steep slope (although it's still a league ahead of its competitors off road).
Although the Evoque is a very different beast to the Freelander it's pitched at much the same market, albeit more at those who like their cars to be slightly more styled and statement-driven. The Evoque has always been a fashion-focused machine, ever since the design debuted as 2008's elegant LRX concept. The road to production-readiness has been remarkably smooth, and only the eagle-eyed will spot key differences between the original LRX and the showroom Evoque (try a similar exercise with the Range Stormer concept and the Range Rover Sport model it eventually sired and you'll get a very different result).
Kicking off sales with a two-door version, the defining feature of the Evoque is the slit-like glasshouse that wraps around the bodywork like a visor. In the concept, this concealed a striking innovation and its here that design-led fantasies have had to be toned down for technical reasons. Even so, the production interior is far from unattractive, with a cosseting feel and a slanting centre console that takes the flagship Range Rover's majesterial command post and makes it a bit more accessible.
A five door Evoque will surface some time next year and could be a better bet for more practically minded buyers. Right now, the two-door is set to storm the showrooms on a blaze of novelty, pitched directly at the likes of MINI's Countryman and BMW's X3. Gerry McGovern and his design team have done a distinctive job of turning the 'best four x four x far' into something with an undeniable feminine edge, a sleight of hand that uses hard-edged design while still softening up the perception of the car.