CHATHAM, Mass. – Today, every premium brand either has a sport utility vehicle range in its lineup, but when the first Range Rover hit the streets in 1970 no one could have envisioned the tsunami of luxury 4x4s which would appear during the next five decades.

Anchoring the four-vehicle family today is the (what Range Rover calls) compact Evoque. After several hundred miles in a 2022 Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic S I was shocked to find out this roomy (for front-seat occupants) SUV, which drove and felt substantial, actually was smaller than subcompact crossovers like the Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Crosstrek!

I did not attempt to conquer the outback, but despite the supple leather upholstery, firm comfortable ride and quiet interior, I felt confident the Evoque would take me places other pretender SUVs would dare not go.

Advanced driver-assist systems

My comfort in getting to those hard-to-reach places would be enhanced by the safety and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) featured in this SUV.

The ADAS suite consists of traffic-sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter; automatic-emergency braking (AEB); adaptive cruise control; driver-condition monitor; lane-keep assist, and front and rear parking aid.

In addition, the Evoque we drove had the ($630) optional Blind Spot Assist Package which added blind-spot assist, clear-traffic monitor and rear-traffic monitor to the ADAS roster.

Additional dynamic safety features include roll-stability control; electronic traction control; dynamic-stability control, and emergency-brake assist.

Rapid, efficient powertrain

Smooth and powerful describes how the Evoque goes about its daily business, easily circumnavigating the twisting roads leading downhill from the Cape Cod National Seashore into the center of Wellfleet and then around the bay side of neighboring Truro.

When pushed, this Range Rover is a blast to drive thanks to its 246 horsepower/269 pounds-feet of torque 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged Ingenium engine powering all four wheels through a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission.

The all-wheel-drive (AWD) system has Range Rover’s Terrain Response 2® with selectable modes: general driving; rock crawl; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts, as well sand.

To further manage difficult conditions, like steep hills and uneven ground, it was equipped with All Terrain Progress Control and Hill Descent Control.

The ride, on and off road, is supple thanks to the well-behaved independent setup (struts in the front, multi-link in the rear). Bringing the Evoque to a halt is a four-wheel disc brake system with power-assisted actuation, 13.7-inch rotors up front, 12.8 in the rear and anti-lock system (ABS).

The optional 20-inch, five split-spoke aluminum wheels with diamond-turned finish were fitted with 245/45VR20 performance tires.

Inside, premium in all directions

Soft, sinuous leather greets you upon entering the roomy Evoque cabin with smooth, surfaces flowing across the dash. The seats are electrically adjustable and heated up front; 40/20/40 split (for folding) in the rear. And they are as comfortable as they look!

The perforated-leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated and manually adjustable for height and depth.

Dual-zone automatic climate control takes care the environment within the Evoque and the optional ($1,800) sliding panoramic roof can bring the outside in on demand.

Once comfortably ensconced within the Evoque interior, it is time to play with the comprehensive Pivi Pro infotainment system.

Range Rover describes the system’s integration into the Evoque as “Featuring two embedded Qualcomm LTE modems – one dedicated to the Software-Over-The-Air (SOTA) technology and another looking after music streaming and apps – the new electrical architecture is designed for seamless connectivity and a quick startup time, so customers don’t need to wait for the system to load before performing actions such as entering navigation details.”

The system, which includes Bluetooth smartphone streaming (including simultaneous connection to two smartphones), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, is highly customizable, including a navigation system which can “learn” specifics about the driver’s habits and regular routes.

The recessed 10-inch touch screen provided the visual and operational heart of the infotainment system, while the sound came through the optional Meridian™ Sound System.

Efficient luxury

Collectively, these and many unnamed features add up to a comfortable, luxurious place for drives of all lengths and over all types of terrain.

And getting there will not break the bank. Today’s U.S. gasoline prices are the highest in history, so our 25.4 miles per gallon of spirited driving was a refreshing result, especially considering the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 22 mpg overall rating (20 city, 27 highway).

The well-equipped 2022 Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic S has a $43,300 base price, while the Eiger Gray version we sampled, with options like the panoramic roof, blind-spot-assist package, cold-climate pack and the Meridian Sound System, along with the $1,050 destination & delivery charge brought the total to a competitive $54,690.

Range Rover started the trend – ne stampede – for luxurious and premium sport utility vehicles and the Evoque lives up to the brand’s legacy in a modern, compact package.

Next week TBR Drives the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve.