Savage Junior makes a dash for the French Alps
Life in the Fast Lane!
This month brings Land Rover tales of a different kind, as Savage Junior makes a dash for the French Alps by Evoque.
Having slogged through the most depressing summer/autumn/winter weather we’ve experienced for ages, a group of friends and I decided to make the most of the sky borne water, and head to Val d’Isere to enjoy the overgenerous snow conditions. But what method of travel to take?
Fortunately our friend Geoff Thornton had recently taken the plunge on a top-spec Range Rover Evoque, providing the ideal excuse to avoid the battery-hen, low-cost airline shambles, and instead enjoy a road trip in the best 4x4xBeckham. It also allowed some comparisons to be made with his previous Range Rover Sport TDV8, which had stormed a similar journey the previous year. So with a set of winter tyres fitted, we departed the UK just as the January snow started to destroy the nation’s infrastructure, and escaped to France with one question - could the Evoque (or ‘Victoria’ as she became known) live up to the core Range Rover values? Could she transport four blokes together with their skis, boots, hip flasks and ‘excess middle’, to the harsh subzero Alpine environment in style and comfort?
Our itinerary was simple, to leave Leicester on Saturday evening and drive through the night, sharing Victoria as necessary. With the snow falling heavily and the nation becoming gradually more terrified by the ‘extreme weather’ warnings. Our plan would allow us to avoid the farcical road conditions in the UK, and arrive in Val d’Isere the following morning smelling of roses. Sure enough, conditions in the East Midlands were challenging for some road users, but our winter tyres proved their worth. We safely avoided any issues on the trip towards Dover, provoking much argument in the car as to the state of the nation’s roads during times of snow.
Very quickly into to the trip, we were seduced by Victoria and her elegant ways. I think I had probably assumed that the Evoque would be somehow not ‘proper’, a view heavily influenced by my family heritage of campaigning various early Land Rovers across African countries, equipped only with a box of grease, a sheep and a zip tie. But really, Victoria was most accommodating, dazzling us with her performance on the 1700 mile trip in a fashion not dissimilar to her big Sport brother, outperforming the other road users in the increasingly harsh conditions. The passenger experience is certainly not a poor relation to that of the Sport, and the rear seats in particular are lower and roomier than expected, with sufficient luggage space to fit the essential four packs of Export 33 and Get 27 on the return journey. In my view the styling is also much better than most in the market, a comparison which is made even easier in France as the whole nation appears to have purchased Dacia Dusters in the last 12 months, with examples of James May’s favourite littered across the autoroute. The bewildering array of electronic gadgets is perhaps a bit too much for some – even a heated steering wheel! The flappy paddle gearbox is questionable in a car with such off-road ambitions, and I had images of getting the Evoque all crossed-up on a green lane, only to accidentally flick the shift paddle and immediately lose traction. However, given that this will never happen, the quality of the passenger experience is first class. The bonkers-loud stereo is particularly worthy of note, given its unbelievable reproduction and apparent ability to inflict structural damage to the reinforced channel tunnel lining.
There is a worrying lack of levers in the cabin, which have instead been replaced by lightweight switches, so we were slightly concerned as to how Victoria would perform in the French snow. Fortunately one of the many many buttons on the dash effectively translates to ‘snow’, and we spent an enjoyable afternoon trying to push Victoria into the most challenging approach angles, with much success. You simply point her at whatever object you fancy, and she wriggles her way over it without fuss or wheel spin, to increasing giggles from the occupants. The only recurring complaint throughout the trip was the diesel engine, which provides nowhere near the performance of the TDV8, whilst using the same catastrophic volume of fuel – perhaps something to address for the next generation?
So to conclude, the Evoque is hugely capable. Whilst the rather dull power plant is at odds with the affluent interior, the overall capability is most impressive. The Evoque is a car you could keep for many years, a valuable tool to keep you mobile through all weathers, whilst rewarding you with a certain companionship as you tackle ever greater challenges. A bit like a Land Rover I suppose? Well done Mrs Beckham.
Will - 1. The back seat accommodation was spacious allowing Will to catch up on sleep during the long haul to Val d’Isere.
Will - 2. The Evoque diesel made an ideal carriage to transport four blokes to the Alps, albeit a little thirsty at 25 mpg.
William Savage Profile.
Will is and Chartered Civil Engineer with an appetite for a Champagne Lifestyle on a Lemonade budget. He has a lifetime of peripheral Land Rover experience.
Will Savage January 2013