At the end of last week a few Irish motor journos got their first chance to drive the new Range Rover Evoque, across Wales and under (yep!) Liverpool. Just in time, as it goes on customer order here this week, at a starting price of just under €41,000 for the 2WD 5-door and a grand and a half more for an AWD 3-door (they call it a coupe).
It'll be interesting to see how this new 'urban' Rangie takes off. Because that's the market it's aimed at, denizens of the not-quite-so-rich-anymore better parts of Britain and Ireland's cities will have a chance to roll out in something that doesn't reek of carbonised environment. And which doesn't have intimidating bulk (although it's only 12cm shorter than the original Range Rover, and is wider).
It's the style that will help swing it. There's nothing like it in the small SUV game, and certainly there is nothing with the Range Rover cachet in either size or price. Never mind that the running gear is essentially the same as the Freelander 2 and coming in around ten big notes more‚ it'll be some time before anything eclipses the Evoque in smart cafe talking points. And it leaves a lot more coffee money in the back pocket than does the Range Rover Sport.
Evoque is coming at a good time for Land Rover Ireland, which seems to be shaking off the recession more than we'd realised. With two-thirds of the year gone, and most of the buying for 2011 done anyhow, the brand is up a healthy 60 percent in units over the whole of last year, to 352. That aforementioned Freelander 2 is mostly responsible, with a small five units assist from Discovery. But full sized Range Rovers have also sold more than four times more, to 22, suggesting that not every big spender here is living in NAMA. Range Rover Sports are down by a third, though, to just 43 units. And we're wondering if those lost customers, and probably more from other luxury brands, are hanging in for the Evoque?
Range Rover boss in Ireland Eddie Kavanagh is bullish anyhow, as he told the Irish crew last week that interest in the car has been 'phenomenal'.
– Eddie Kavanagh, Managing Director, Landrover Ireland
Saab Pull Out of Frankfurt
There's nothing quick about the death of a thousand cuts for Saab, which looks increasingly in a terminal condition following the beginning of debt collection proceedings in the middle of last week. Interestingly, the Swedish state does the debt collecting, at the moment looking for around half a million euro on behalf of a brace of suppliers. And there are more coming out of the wings to place their claims.
The factory hasn't produced any cars since early June, and the company pulled out of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Very sad for a brand that drove out its first car in 1947, and soon earned reputations for reliability and motorsport competitiveness. Of course, the name remains strong on the no-longer-connected aerospace and defence systems original company.
Other New Cars
Lexus is showing strength too in its new design direction, floated at the end of the week by the new generation GS at trendy Pebble Beach in California. Having totally embraced the hybrid ethos, the company will be showing us the 450h version at Frankfurt.
At the same show we're getting the production versions of the Astra GTC sporty coupe and the Zafira Tourer, both of which up the game in both looks and performance, if the pictures and the promises are anything to go by. But don't you really hate the PR piffling teaser of them also bringing a 'surprise' to the show, of 'an experimental car that will emphasise the company's passion for driver-focused vehicles'. I mean, every carmaker claims that kind of thing, let's have a little more direct talk here, guys. Is it a new sports car, or a Mars rover?
At least Jaguar has given us a decent drawing of its new sports car, the C-X16 which is widely considered to be the 21st century resurrection of the E-Class. We'll see the real thing at Frankfurt, and close to the production car too. Good timing, after the very successful 60th anniversary celebrations of that latter. Still sexy after all these years!
As also is the more than a century old Silver Stream spotted on a rare outing at the Harley Davidson & Vintage Rally at Crookstown, Co Kildare. This one was for a long time in Denis Lucey's collection in The Museum of Irish Transport in Killarney. The 18/22hp Roi-de-Belges Tourer was built in 1909 by an engineer in Carnalway, Kilcullen, one Philip Somerville-Large.
He fancied himself as an Irish Henry Royce and bought the best parts he could find. It was sold in London in 2007 for ¬£130,000 and isn't seen much. It was a present-day Kilcullen man, Ronan Murphy, who snapped it (and isn't the resolution of his iPhone 4 pretty sharp?).
Rate the Stream against an Evoque, would you? Will there be any Evoques driving around in 102 years' time?