Larger-than-life styling, more than anything else, is the soul of the Evoque's appeal

Shah Rukh Khan driving down Marine Drive in an open top rickshaw would've probably got lesser attention than what we got when we were in the Range Rover Evoque. The gawkers can't be blamed at all — the Evoque is such a radical departure from the usually prudish regular Range Rovers. As a matter of fact, this is a radical departure from anything we've seen before. The slit-eye headlamps, muscular wheel-arches, protruding chin and tapering roofline — it's this larger-than-life styling, more than anything else that is the soul of the Evoque's appeal.

Looks aren't the only thing to like about the Evoque though. Step inside the cabin (the seats aren't high at all), and you'll find interiors that match the stunning exteriors. The grain on the dashboard in particular is phenomenal — the rubberised, high-quality surface embellished with subtle red stitching looks and feels fantastic. We also love the simple, uncomplicated dashboard design, typical of all Range/Land Rovers. The buttons are big (so you can operate them with your off-roading gloves on) and a lot of functions are controlled via the big screen centre console, simplifying the dashboard's layout. The important thing is, there's not one sub-standard bit in the cabin, and that's something we haven't said in a long time about any car.

The cabin is a truly special place to be. The front seats are genuinely supportive, the dials are attractive and there's a pervading sense of how everything has been so well thought-out and sorted.

That said, you sit in a low, very un-Range Rover-like position in the Evoque and don't get that ‘commander-of-all' seating position. And there's a huge blind spot created by those massive rear-view mirrors.

At the rear, you'll find more space than that tapering roofline/rising window-line suggest. There's enough legroom and headroom isn't bad if you're an average-sized person. What really helps rear passengers is the standard panoramic moon roof that makes the Evoque's interiors feel like an amphitheatre. There is an electrically operable shield for the roof, but we still couldn't help but wonder how practical it'd be in our tropical weather.

Unlike its revolutionary exteriors, the Evoque's underpinnings are rather evolutionary. Based on the Freelander, the Evoque is suspended at the front by MacPherson struts, with a multi-link setup (a strut, but with additional lateral and longitudinal control links) at the rear. The Evoque is up to 100kg lighter than the Freelander though, partly because it is much shorter and partly because of more extensive use of aluminium, both in its body panels and suspension, and plastics in the body.

This lighter weight is part of a drive for greater efficiency and includes the Evoque's electric power steering system, which is fixed to the front subframe rather than the chassis to improve steering feel.

Our test car came with the 2.2-litre, 187bhp four-cylinder diesel similar to the one in the Freelander 2. The 42.8kgm of torque it makes should be enough to make it move like it looks, but strangely it isn't like that. The Evoque is good at part throttle and when ambling along in traffic, but press on and you'll find that it isn't as quick as you expected it to be. The 0-100kph of 9.9sec seems quick, but never feels it. Part of the blame can be laid on the Evoque's six-speed automatic gearbox that is slow to kick down (even in ‘Sport' mode) and isn't particularly engaging when you want quick responses from the gearbox. When you floor the pedal suddenly, there's a curious hesitation before the engine spins to 2000rpm. To get around this, you have to hit the kickdown switch or tug at the paddleshifts repeatedly and this can get quite irritating.

The Evoque isn't the easiest to drive in traffic either — the low seats, the bulging sides and the rear-view mirror blind-spot make it quite intimidating initially. Still, the faster you go, the better it gets. It displays excellent body control and fantastic grip from the full-time all-wheel-drive system. But the steering isn't very involving.

On the flipside, the ride is nice. Indian cars get smaller 18-inch rims and the higher profile tyres no doubt do their part in cushioning you from the road. Only sharp edges catch the suspension out — the Evoque thumps over them. Still, overall, you won't be disappointed with the way it traverses over our roads.

Though we didn't get a chance to take it off-road, we're quite sure it will be more capable than any of its contemporaries. The Evoque comes with Land Rover's Terrain Response off-road system. What this does is adjust throttle response and gearshifts, and alter the ESP and ABS setting for different kinds of surfaces.

Which brings us to the Evoque's most shocking bit – it is priced at Rs. 51.37 lakh. Sure, it's well-equipped. Our ‘Dynamic' variant comes with the panoramic sunroof, keyless entry-and-go, climate control, interior mood lighting, Bluetooth connectivity, powered front seats, contrast-painted roof and a phenomenal 11-speaker Meridian sound system. The diesel is available in three trims — Pure, Dynamic and Prestige. The base Pure comes with most of the above-mentioned equipment. There's also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol. It costs Rs. 57 - Rs. 61 lakh and is available only in three-door, Dynamic spec. Range Rover isn't offering the front-wheel-drive versions in India either.

It's well finished, it's refined and it could fit into any modern art gallery. But, it's expensive. However, with the Evoque, it's not about sensibility or even objectivity. With the Evoque, you pay for the feeling that it evokes. It's a lot like designer wear in that sense.