Posh Spice - Now there’s a name I didn’t ever expect to be including in a car review, except perhaps as part of some probably entirely inappropriate simile involving…….well, let’s just not shall we. It’s too easy. So what is Mrs Beckham doing here then? Well 2011 was a rather busy year for Posh - Contributing to what was to become the SpiceGirls musical, probably already looking forward to closing the 2012 Olympics along with the other members of her spice-rack, readying her clothing collection for fashion shows...Oh!, and of course she was also designing a car. Whenever I think fashion designers and cars it’s the '80s Peugeot 205 LaCoste that springs to mind. Like one of the sportswear designer's tennis shirts, the diminutive hatchback was white with little green crocodiles on it. It seemed more likely they’d let the work experience loose with a packet of stickers than the automotive haute couture results of any actual involvement from Mr LaCoste himself - So it was with some scepticism that I approached the Range Rover Evoque designed in some part by Mrs Victoria Spice on Monday last. The launch in 2011 and subsequent success of Land Rover’s midrange 4x4 completely passed me by and this remains one of the few new cars of the past 10 years or so that I’d never actually had the opportunity to get close to. Today was also to be the first time I’d driven one then, albeit for this briefest of brief drives. Nevertheless, first thing’s always first no matter how short the experience - Seat to the floor, steering wheel to the lowest spot and immediately I can feel Mrs B’s influence - For my 6’2 and a bit plus optional extras frame, it was a tight fit. There’s plenty of room in the cabin, it’s just the base of the electric seat doesn’t seem to slide back quite far enough for my liking at least, leaving my arms, below and above my elbows, almost at 90 degrees to each other. It’s not cramped, don’t misunderstand me, but it doesn’t immediately feel quite right. Reclining the seat back a little improves things, but given the Evoque’s dimensions, quite understandably the seat is designed to give the driver a more upright position and outlook.
As with all current Land Rovers the dashboard is very nearly perfection in its layout. Everything’s close to hand and gives the driver the feeling they’re sitting in the middle of a control room. The 9 speed gearbox in the car I drove means the console does away with a traditional gearshift replaced instead with a selector wheel that sits flush until it glides up to your hand when the ignition button’s pressed, thereby giving the impression of even more space. It’s not clear from the bumf I’ve read about her involvement with the Evoque just what input Victoria Beckham actually had, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all it was at the very least in producing the overall effect it’s cabin has on the driver. My personal issues with the finding my usual low down, right back position aside, the driver really is made to feel rather special in the Evoque - Everything one touches feels of quality - The sculpting to the leather seats in the car I drove makes them a rare joy to spend time in. The ride on the move is just the right side of firm - Although I should point out that most of my hour long hack was spent on dual carriageways and A roads. And it’s here the Evoque really excels cruising along happily without the twitching about suffered by some similar sized 4x4s such as the Nissan Qashquai. Set a constant speed on the button and the car stretches its legs out with you. Midrange acceleration from the SD4 diesel engine is as impressive as the feeling you get off the mark from standstill leaving you on a constant wave of torque. To be fair, it feels quicker than it actually is, but let’s be honest, you’re not buying a car like this to match the latest record times around the ‘ring. This was the 4 wheel drive version and unless you count pulling onto a grass verge on the B6047 near Market Harborough to let a combine harvester carry on its journey to hibernation, there was no opportunity to test its 4 wheel driveness, but it’s a Land Rover. How it performs off road will have been the foundation of its design, of that I think we can be guaranteed.
Having dealt with the substance, what of style? Well, the Evoque up close is a very pretty car indeed. As with all cars one needs to pick colours and options such as wheels carefully but the lines have been drawn into the bodywork with much care and thought so a lot of that work’s been done for you. A short trip but an enlightening one. I really like the Evoque - Not that it needs my seal of approval - It’s one of Land Rover’s most successful cars to date and has already evolved from the original car launched 5 years ago. Here to stay then - Definitely no “Wannabe” (Sorry).