The traditional Range Rover has a long-established reputation as being a capable machine in nearly every conceivable type of terrain, with ample ground clearance, the newer models having height-adjustable air suspension, and multiple terrain settings, as well as low-range capability. The Range Rover Evoque, although carrying the storied moniker of its older, more seasoned brother, is built on a much smaller transverse unibody chassis, and lacks the traditional geared low-range of the flagship.

Motor Trend staff photographer Brian Vance joined a friend that had recently purchased a 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser to explore Death Valley, to see if the smaller Rover lived up to the reputation its name carried. Unsurprisingly, the Evoque handled the paved sections of the vast desert area with ease, with its low-profile tires gripping the tarmac tenaciously.

Vance and his friend explored Barker Ranch via the Goler Wash, accessible through a gravel-compacted road. Although the Evoque handled the task easily, noise isolation was not its strong suit, with the large-diameter wheels and low-profile tires transmitting plenty of road and trail noise into the cabin.

Vance used the off-road setting as an opportunity to test the Evoque's Terrain Response System. The different traction settings could not make up for the compact SUV's relatively modest ground clearance and street-oriented rolling stock, but proved effective in helping it traverse challenging terrain. But ultimately, Vance concluded an FJ, Jeep Wrangler, or another purpose-built off-roader would be better-suited to tackling Death Valley's more rugged areas.

Our Car
Service life 7 months/18,029 miles
Average fuel economy 21.6 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.90 lb/mi
Energy consumption 156 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $0 (oil change, inspection, cabin-air filter, engine-air filter)
Normal-wear cost $0