Test Drive: Lake Bell

Joe Pugliese

Picture New York City circa 1984 -- think Ed Koch, Bernhard Goetz and The Wiz on Broadway. My brother got his Schwinn jacked at least four times. After my dad had three cars stolen in the span of a year, he naturally felt this the perfect climate in which to bring home a Range Rover. It was a boxy beast of stylish power that broke down once a month, cost an arm and leg to fix, and per my dad's request was stripped of all its badging so as to not tempt thieves. Even though I was 5, the British four-wheel drive SUV safe haven redefined my concept of the exotic luxury car. I was an old soul.

Nowadays, Range Rovers are somewhat commonplace and, dare I say, expected. Enter the Evoque. I had a four-day Brooklyn joyride with this turbocharged four-cylinder SUV. Day one: I felt like the mayor of NYC. Never have I had so many requests to roll down the window to be met with a consistent barrage of: "What year it that thing?" "I've only seen it online, how does she drive?" One guy even threw me a "God bless!" You would have thought I was in a Dino 246 GT! Parking in Williamsburg, I was greeted by a Russian guy and a Jamaican -- no, this isn't the start of a joke -- who offered some Brooklyn street wisdom. Upon inspecting the smallest addition to Range Rover's fleet, they deduced that the only thing "Range Rover" about the Evoque were those two words above the grill. Aside from its eye-catching exterior, this isn't the brand's typical $80,000 behemoth. Though the Evoque comes in a traditional four-door model, I drove the two-door, which leads me to the weakest part of its design. In a high performance coupe, it's excusable for the backseat to be an endearing effort. But for a car claiming SUV status -- compact or not -- there's no excuse for a cramped backseat. Though the tester was outfitted with rear-seat DVD players, what's the point in having all the fancy gack if a toddler can barely fit back there? Still, the Evoque is full of fun features. It has the trendy futuristic transmission knob that you twist to shift gears, a mammoth moonroof, and a center console featuring switches with icons depicting different driving modes. They include a winding road, which I assume indicates the sports feature, though with 240 horsepower I couldn't decipher a noticeable difference; a cluster of snow flurries for icy terrain; a Christmas tree, which was confusing albeit festive; and a sketch of a cactus for when you're driving past a cactus. The Evoque does stand up to the brand's promise of flawless interior design, impeccable handling and a new ambition: 28 miles per gallon, highway.

Despite the Evoque's all-around likability, my Brooklyn posse warned me: "You should only buy this car if you have a wallet like an accordion." The price tag is modest for some (it starts at about $44,000), though still pretty steep for a mere mortal. The moral of the story is, if you want a striking car that commands attention, you don't have to waste your money on a Ferrari, just get an Evoque. Do it now, before every Tom, Dick and executive Harry has one. God bless.

What do you think?

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