Prepare to make new friends when negotiating mall parking lots in Range Rover's newest status symbol. The Evoque turns all sorts of heads. People point, walk over, and yell across the corridor attempting to convey their interest in the little SUV. There is a magnetic appeal to it's aesthetic and most seem drawn to it. Perhaps even more impressive is that all this style comes in an easy-to-park, easy-to-maneuver package. I have yet to come across a street side parking spot that wouldn't fit the Evoque. And if there is any second-guessing about fit, the back-up camera's high-definition image helps with the last few inches of squeezing.

None of that mattered when I decided to take Evoque on it's maiden camping voyage. Rear seats down and with as much camping gear as I could cram into its rather small cargo hold (not much, but enough for two nights), I set the nav for the Santa Inez Valley of California's central coast and took the Range Rover up Figueroa Mountain Road, high above Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Halfway up the road, just below treeline, I came to a small but steep barren area that made me want to go four wheeling. Yet, I sat there for a moment and contemplated whether this new Range Rover could do it. Yes, its a product from the brand that helped craft the modern day off-road benchmark ability, but is their new and somewhat unconventional compact crossover truly capable of climbing a well-pitched dirt surface with a notable trench slicing through the middle of it? Only one way to find out.

I wandered off the payment and toggled the car's Terrain Response system to 'mud', and easily scampered up to the top. At the ridge, I flipped around, and used the car's Hill Descent Control system to restrict the cars downhill crawl speed. HDC works in conjunction the Gradient Release Control system to progressively release the brake when descending an incline. It works seamlessly and, in this case, gave me all sorts of confidence in getting the Evoque back to payment.

The rest of the trip was spent on pavement and parked at spot #21 in the Los Padres Forest Figueroa campground. Yes, it's first off-road foray was a merely a baby step, but there is now gravel in the tread and if the season goes well, more serious trails await this Evoque.

Our Car
Service life 2 months/ 7860 mile
Average fuel economy 19.7 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mi
Energy consumption 171 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $0
Normal-wear cost $0