Somewhere in an Austrian Alpine forest, a gravel track winds upwards. It’s about one-in-five steep, and this afternoon a few inches of fresh snow have fallen. We’re in an Evoque, and every so often there’s a blink from the traction-control light, but our progress up the mountain remains steadfast. So far, so Range Rover.
But this is a bit different, because only the front wheels are connected to the engine. This is the new 2WD economy Evoque: simpler, lighter, more economical. But very nearly as good.
There are now three versions of this 2.2-litre diesel engine. The eD4 is the 2WD, with manual transmission only, and it makes 150bhp. The TD4 is also 150bhp, for 4WD, and gets a little more mid-range torque. Then there’s the 190bhp SD4, which is the one we’ve driven in our previous Evoque diesel stories.
At low-to-medium speeds, the eD4 feels pretty well as sprightly as the 190 4WD auto. I’m confident of this judgement by the way, because I jumped straight out of one into the other. After all, the lower-powered car is usefully the lighter. By shedding drive to the rear, it does without a front take-off from the gearbox, a propshaft, a rear diff and rear halfshafts, plus one or two other bits. That takes the weight drop to 75kg. It’s only above 100kmph, for motorway hills and main-road overtaking, when power starts to be needed to overcome aero drag, that the SD4′s extra kick shows up. Sadly the eD4 is a bit of a slug in those situations.
It’s still a lot of automotive desirability for a small amount of company-car tax. With the efficiencies of a manual gearbox, idle-stop and lighter weight, the three-door Evoque eD4 gets in a 129g/km. Now just look at the design, and cast your eyes around the interior. Even in basic Pure spec (£27,955 (RM134,000, without taxes) for the five-door, another grand for the Coupe), it’s hardly spartan.
OK, what else do you lose along with the drive to the back wheels? Well, the handling is still mighty impressive and controlled, and the ride still supple. But it denies you the option of MagneRide damping, which means it’s both a little foggier in bends and a little less plush on straights compared with the 4WD with that option.
Ah, well, if you aren’t spending on mechanical goodies, that gives you more in hand for trim and entertainment add-ons. I suspect that given the 2WD looks the same and drives largely the same – in the suburbs at least – as the 4WD one, means it’s very well targeted for most people’s needs 50 weeks of the year. And, as I’ve just found out, if it’s wearing winter tyres, it’ll likely get them up to the ski village for the final two weeks.
2179cc, 4cyl, FWD, 150bhp, 280lb ft, 24.4kmpl, 129g/km CO2, 0-100kmph in 10.6secs, 180kmph, 1595kg
Not too far behind the 4WD’s astounding suite of talents – especially when on winter tyres – and usefully cheaper to buy and run