Range Rover Evoque: LRX concept becomes production reality

  • 09-Sep-2011 11:37 EDT
Evoque8-114 Ipanema_Sand_025.jpg

The five-door version of the Range Rover Evoque shares the same aluminum roof pressing with the three-door.

In the automotive world there are makeovers, facelifts, midlife updates, and allegedly “all-new” models—although a vast majority of these will use powertrains or various aspects of architecture that belong to other vehicles. And some are more convincing than others.

The new Range Rover Evoque belongs to the former. Although partially based on the Land Rover Freelander architecture, this stylish, compact SUV is very much a new model that takes the company into a fresh market sector and has been designed to establish high dynamic on-road standards (far superior to those of the Freelander) but also to accomplish an all-surface capability. It is not just another “s-off-t roader,” claims Land Rover.

All this would be a challenge for any OEM, but Land Rover gave itself what might have been an absurd complication: to make its look and dimensions almost exactly similar to the 2008 LRX concept and to keep a coupe-like signature in both its three- and five-door forms.

“We did just that,” said Chief Program Engineer, Product Development, David Mitchell. “And less than 20% of the Evoque as a whole is Freelander.”

However, creating a production LRX was not easy. The Evoque is lower, wider, and 100 kg (220 lb) lighter than a Freelander. It makes extensive use of aluminum and magnesium, the latter for the track-rod ends to reduce unsprung weight in its suspension. An SMC tailgate saves 6 kg (13 lb).

Aluminum is used for the roof—using expertise from Jaguar's application of the material—to help lower the car’s center-of-gravity and save about 5 kg (11 lb) against steel. The same pressing is used for the three- and five-door versions, the roof riveted and double bead glued to the steel bodyside. A panoramic glass roof is an option for both Evoque versions. Aluminum is also used for the hood.

Further weight saving is achieved via a magnesium crossbar beam and plastic front fenders. Ultrahigh-strength boron steels are used in the A- and B-pillars to allow slim profiles while meeting required safety performance.

Engine choice is either a vigorous four-cylinder 177-kW (237-hp) 2.0-L gasoline unit weighing some 40 kg (88 lb) less than Land Rover’s V6 for similar power output and having a Mahle sound generator or a 2.2-L 110-kW (158-hp) diesel. Both are turbocharged, can be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and specified with either lightweight four-wheel—saving 75 kg (165 lb)—or two-wheel drive.

Both the Evoque and Freelander are built down the same line at Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) Halewood factory near Liverpool in northwest England. Most Evoques are built with a different color roof to the rest of the body. Although it has plastic fenders, the Evoque bodyshell is clean-dipped at 180°C (356°F) and moves on the line in harmony with the Freelander.

Creating a production model so closely based on a concept caused some unforeseen difficulties, “such as the chord angle of the front windshield and its effect on the positioning of the wipers to meet European, U.K., and Federal legislation,” said Mitchell. “We nearly had to use a ‘claphands’ configuration, but eventually, using what we regard as some clever engineering, managed to use a conventional system. It is such things that may not be initially considered when looking at a concept that is to become a production model.”

Another difficulty with the rigid cross-linking of concept to production was the rising waistline and lowering roof of the Evoque, which gives it a distinctive side elevation. “This results in quite a narrow glass area on both versions of the car, but it is where we would normally install all the car’s antennas for radio, TV, and navigation," explained Mitchell. "There simply was not sufficient glass area, but this had not been considered at concept stage, so they had to go into the rear spoiler.

“But then there was the rear windshield wiper to consider," he said. "Range Rover DNA dictates that it is placed high—and so its electric motor was then close to the antennas, creating electrical interference. These are very important issues that had to be resolved.”

The concept did not have door handles or legal exterior mirrors. It was also 100 mm (3.9 in) lower than the production three-door version, which is 1605 mm (63.2 in) tall [the five-door 1635 mm (64.4 in)], 4355 mm (171.5 in) long, and 1965 mm (77.4 in) wide. Curb mass starts at 1600 kg (3530 lb). Ground clearance is 212 mm (8.3 in), and the car’s platform is 27 mm (1.1 in) lower than that of the Freelander.

Generation 3 MagneRide continuously variable damping is available for the Evoque, marking a first off-road application for the technology. It automatically senses off-road conditions. An intensive development program achieved the required on-road performance and the ability to cope with extended wheel travel off-road.

The Evoque uses coil springs and has isolated subframes front and rear. Its four-wheel drive is a full-time intelligent system with electronically controlled Haldex center coupling to control torque split. Electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) is fitted, solidly mounted on the front subframe to improve precision and feedback.

Detailed optimization of the car’s interior package included pedal positions, fuel tank height, and door structures to create both required head and legroom within the coupe roof profile. The driver sits lower than in an established Range Rover in what Land Rover describes as a “Sports Command” driving position. It succeeds in making the driver feel more integrated within the vehicle than is often the situation with SUVs.

Special attention has been paid to achieving noise levels that complement the high-end fittings and trim of the Evoque’s cabin. A special acoustic windshield lamination of the type used on larger Range Rovers reduces interior wind noise and high-frequency combustion noise. Road noise is also kept low via carefully optimized bushes, lightweight suspension components, and sprayed-on insulation material.

The Evoque has undergone an extensive proving program with 16,700 tests across all components and systems. A race driver completed 8000 km (4970 mi) of high-speed work on the Nürburgring. Durability testing in sand and on dirt roads in the Middle East was complemented by testing at MIRA and Gaydon circuits, together with the deep mud and clay of Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle facility.

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