PELSOR, Ark. -- Chunky sandstone and granite rocks -- worn smooth and slick over time by the incessant but shallow current rushing down Hurricane Creek in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas -- set up a bumpy ride as we ford the waterway in the elegant yet trail-capable compact crossover wagon from Britain's Land Rover: The 2014 Range Rover Evoque 5-Door.
As the newest vehicle in the Land Rover motor pool, the Evoque offers a daring sheetmetal package with back-slanting roofline and elevated beltline, a fancy passenger compartment fitted with premium trappings of luxury and a 4-wheel-drive system that automatically distributes turbocharged engine torque to front or rear axles to maintain tire traction on pavement, sand and dirt and snow, or even slick river rocks.
Stretching over 14 feet long with a boxy profile and the rear-sloping roof appearing to float above a wrap of tinted windows, Evoke presents a toothy grille capping the stub-nosed prow with LED signature running lights and optional xenon headlamps.
Structure for the Evoque combines a ladder-type chassis with a stiff monocoque body. Big wheels tie to the platform through a fully independent suspension system with optional MagneRide continuously variable dampers.
Evoque carries serious hardware like a forceful turbocharged engine and electronics governing the vehicle's dynamic movements as well as communications, navigation and comfort.
The engine is a dual-cam 2.0-liter in-line-4 with turbocharging via Bosch, direct injection and variable valve timing. It develops 240 hp at 5500 rpm plus torque peaking to 250 lb-ft at 1750 rpm.
The 2014 issues of Evoque come with a new 9-speed electronically controlled ZF automatic transmission.
EPA-estimated fuel economy figures for the Evoque powertrain climb to 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
The Evoque models of 2014 also gain a new Active Driveline 4-wheel-drive system with active differentials and torque vectoring. The new 4WD system decouples 4WD during steady driving at speeds above 22 mph, but automatically re-engages instantly when needed.
All versions also employ Land Rover's Terrain Response system to manage the 4WD system. On the console is a rotary dial for selecting different terrain settings that match various vehicle dynamic systems to the terrain. Settings include General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand.
Active vehicle safety equipment on-board includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA), emergency brake lights (EBL) and corner brake control (CBC), hill descent control (HDC), 4-wheel electronic traction control (4ETC) and dynamic stability control (DSC).
Evoque's cabin layout consists of a pair of bucket seats on the front row and a 3-seat rear bench with seatback split 60/40 that folds down flat, and a rear cargo area accessed from a back hatch door.
The 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is available in two body styles and five trims. The 5-door wagon trims as Pure, Pure Plus, Pure Premium, Prestige and Dynamic. The 3-door coupe hatchback skews to Pure Plus, Pure Premium and Dynamic, then lists an optional 4-seat package featuring individual rear seats.
The 5-door entry edition Evoque Pure wears an aluminum alloy roof while all other versions tote a panoramic laminated glass roof.
Standard equipment for the 5-door Evoque Pure includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, front/rear parking sensors, keyless ignition, rearview camera, twin-zone automatic climate system, tilting-telescoping steering wheel, power controls for front seats (6-way driver, 4-way rider), Bluetooth connectivity, 8-inch touchscreen electronics interface and 11-speaker audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB.
Pure Plus adds 19-inch wheels, front/rear foglamps, a power liftgate and leather upholstery. Prestige upgrades leather upholstery, adds wood or aluminum cabin trim plus heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and an automated parking system. Dynamic installs 20-inch wheels, a sport exhaust, adaptive suspension damping, skid plate and unique trim for the cabin and body.
Land Rover's price list for the 2014 Range Rover Evoque begins at $42,025 for a 5-door Evoque Pure.