As our Sport/Utility of the Year program has evolved over the past 13 years, so too has the market. When this award began, body-on-frame SUVs ruled and what would become known as crossovers were a niche at best. Today, the segment has turned on its head. Ride quality and amenities rank above ground clearance and low-range transfer cases in many consumers' minds. Such a market isn't necessarily accepting of a brand that offers only large, expensive SUVs. To survive, Land Rover has to offer more, and the Range Rover Evoque is exactly that.

But hasn't Land Rover already tried this? The Evoque is built off of the Land Rover LR2, a smaller, less-capable vehicle and less-expensive vehicle that Land Rover's traditional line-up. It's also a vehicle you may be surprised to learn is still on-sale today. How does the Evoque succeed with that foundation? By being a massive evolutionary step forward from the solid bones but drab execution of the LR2. The Evoque captures our calipers by soundly satisfying each and every one of our six criteria.

The evoque is meant to appeal to the buyer who ranks style, content, and fuel efficiency above approach and departure angles.

Advancement In Design
The Evoque is a striking vehicle. We don't envy any designer tasked with making an SUV sexy and sophisticated, as they are by traditional definition boxy and utilitarian vehicles. When we see fantastical concepts like the Evoque-preceding LRX, we can't help but shrug off hopes it might be produced, as experience has taught us better. Every now and then, though, an automaker will surprise you. To see the Evoque arrive in showrooms within millimeters of the concept's dimensions is a dream come true.

Throughout our test, the Evoque drew more comments than any other contender. From its aggressive stance to its big wheels, devilishly raked windshield, and daring roofline, the Evoque continually elicited compliments from the staff as well as passers-by. The "Coupe," in particular, was near universally admired for its uncompromising fashion-first motif. The better part of a decade has passed since a two-door SUV was sold in America (Wrangler excluded), and Land Rover's willingness to gamble on an essentially dead body style is as refreshing as it is surprising. We appreciated the Evoque's interior, too. Our editors were enamored of the stylish layout, roominess, and high-quality materials. Some complaints were registered against the parts sharing with Jaguar and Ford, and with the somewhat slow response from the vastly improved infotainment system, but while several editors questioned whether the Evoque was more Land Rover or Range Rover, none considered these concerns deal-breakers.

Engineering Excellence
The fact that the Evoque is no less capable or useable than the LR2 is icing on a delicious cake. You would expect such a rakish roofline would wreak havoc on passenger and cargo space, but that simply isn't the case. Much to our delight, even the tallest members of our staff found themselves comfortable in the front and rear seats of both body styles, despite the presence of a sunroof that would shame Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a testament to Land Rover's impressive packaging. While the roof does impact vertical clearance, the Evoque's cargo space is sufficiently deep to fit oversized luggage and your weekly allotment of mega-store purchases.

Full-time AWD comes from a Haldex Gen IV system that sends power to the rear wheels as the fronts begin to slip.

Equally impressive are the improvements to the vehicle's dynamics. Despite sharing a platform with the LR2, the Evoque performs considerably better in every measure. Extensive use of aluminum, composites, and other lightweight materials lightened the Evoque by more than 350 pounds compared with the LR2, earning it the distinction of being the lightest Land Rover ever built. That lightness helps the vehicle reach 60 mph from a stop nearly 2 seconds faster than the fastest LR2; increases average skidpad holding by more than 0.05 g; and takes more than a second off the quarter-mile time, and more than a second and a half off the figure-eight time. Beyond outperforming its predecessor, the Evoque performs on par with its direct competition, despite offering one of the smallest engines in the class.

The cumulative improvement is most evident in the Evoque's handling and road-holding. It was consistently commended for its controlled body roll, tenacious grip, and sports car reflexes. While the adaptive suspension-equipped Dynamic model garnered heavy praise for its highly responsive steering and nimble handling, it was also dinged for its very hard ride. The standard Pure model was likewise praised for its impressive handling, and for its considerably less-compromised ride quality. Luxury-car levels of isolation had many an editor traveling much more quickly than anticipated as the perky engine doled out strong, linear power that makes the Evoque deceptively quick and all the more fun to drive fast. Well-chosen ratios and intelligent programming had the six-speed transmission moving quickly and consistently to the best gear for the style of driving asked of it.

Off-road, the engine's meaty torque band paired nicely to Land Rover's latest Terrain Response handling system to turn the corner-carver into a credible rally machine. Retaining all the surprisingly capable LR2's clearances and employing the latest version of Haldex's AWD system, the Evoque easily conquered our off-road test. Grip from the street-biased tires was impressive in the dirt, particularly in the sandy hill start, where the Evoque never stuttered. Its various off-road modes allow the driver to tailor the engine, transmission, stability control, and traction control responses to the terrain under assault and permit a comfortable level of oversteer before stepping in. Coupled with adjustable hill descent control, the Evoque generated a great deal of driver confidence both on- and off-road.