Spring launch for 2WD.
THE most economical Range Rover ever will be on sale in the spring when the awardwinning Evoque arrives in two-wheel-drive form.
Priced from pounds 27,995 the new Evoque eD4 also becomes the cheapest Range Rover on the market - opening up the prestige marque to a whole new group of buyers.
With a claimed average fuel consumption of 57.6mpg (12.67 miles per litre) it is the cleanest too, with CO2 emissions down at 129g/km boosting the model's appeal to business users.
And if there are any concerns that the front wheel drive only Range Rover can't match 4x4 versions when it comes to all-round performance, those have just been laid to rest.
Putting the newcomer through its paces on a specially-designed course created by the Land Rover Experience team in Austria demonstrated the capabilities of the eD4 to the full.
It handled critical slopes on par with the more expensive Evoque 4x4 and at one point proved its incredible rigidity despite being the lightest of the Range Rover line up.
Balanced on an apex with one wheel high off the ground, all four doors plus the tailgate could be opened and closed, such is the sturdiness of the construction.
On a skid pan the eD4 was not quite as grippy as its 4WD counterpart, but with stability and traction controls kicking in, it remained safe and controllable in treacherous conditions. Weighing in at 1.595 tonnes - not that much more than a Mini Countryman - the Evoque eD4 is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel developing 150ps.
The same engine is also fitted in 4x4 versions, giving the two wheel drive model similar performance, albeit marginally slower.
Top speed is a claimed 112mph compared with 115mph and 0 to 60 takes 10.6 seconds opposed to 10.3.
The eD4 is available only with a six speed manual transmission and has a stop/start system, claimed to improve fuel economy by three per cent.
Other fuel saving technology includes electronic power steering and brake energy regeneration which results in the Evoque eD4 having a theoretical range of 735 miles on a single tank - almost 100 miles more than the 4x4 with the same engine.
While the two-wheel-drive car does not feature off-road devices such as hill descent control or Land Rover's electronic Terrain Response system it does have a full suite of stability controls and hill start assist to help it cope in slippery conditions.
Climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and an electronic parking brake are among the standard features on the entry level Pure model, while the higher grade Prestige trim - priced from pounds 36,380 - adds the likes of sat-nav, parking cameras and automatic, ultra bright xenon headlights.
On the base model the nav system is a pounds 1,900 extra.
Although the eD4 we sampled was a prototype, on the road in normal driving conditions it was difficult to detect any difference in the feel between the two and four wheel drive models.
Acceleration is sharp when required and the ride, for an SUV, is top of the league, even though the eD4 cannot be configured with the Magnaride magnetic damping which delivers near sports saloon handling on other Evoques.
The front-wheel-drive model is available in both coup and five-door body shapes and inside Range Rover luxury abounds with leather upholstery and high grade trim.
This is a new breed of Range Rover in every way imaginable and already the Evoque has become a soaraway success.
With the attraction of added fuel economy, the eD4 can only strengthen its hand.
Two-wheel-drive models account for more than 20 per cent of SUV sales in Europe with the likes of Nissan, Kia and VW having such models in their line-ups, but the up-market standards of Range Rover make the Evoque compelling.
It went on sale in September and already has attracted more than 36,000 orders worldwide - 13,000 of them in the UK.
The Halewood factory on Merseyside, where the Evoque is built alongside the Freelander 2, is working flat out to keep pace with demand and since its arrival the baby Range Rover has picked up more than 30 major awards - the latest being voted car of the year by Top Gear magazine.
Despite the economic gloom there is a wave of optimism sweeping through the Land Rover camp - and at its sister brand Jaguar.
Stunning models such as the Evoque show just what the company is capable of delivering on a global scale and it's little surprise the order book is bulging.
The eD4 may not have quite the same the all terrain abilities of the 4x4 Evoque, but this is a vehicle where appeal is led by style - and two wheel drive will fit the bill for most.
* BALANCED: Priced from pounds 27,995, the two-wheel drive Evoque is Range Rover's cheapest and not quite as grippy as its four-wheel-drive counterpart on the skid pan