First Drive - 2014 Range Rover Evoque with 9-speed ZF transmission and Active Driveline

01/10/2013 - 08:00 | ,  ,   | Anjan Ravi

Regular Indian Autos Blog readers would be aware that Land Rover has announced their 2014 model year range of Evoque, which was shown at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. Apart from certain exterior differentiations (which you can find out in this story), the 2014 Range Rover Evoque also gets some feature additions, technology revisions and an all-new gearbox.

2014 Range Rover Evoque 9-Speed side
We drove the early prototypes and hence there could be some changes on the production model.

A day before the 2013 IAA, we got to drive an early prototype around the crowded city streets of Frankfurt. A short technical briefing from Land Rover's Senior Driveline Engineer, Steve Mullane, ensured that we understood the mechanical changes. The full presentation can be found below.

First and foremost, the car we drove was a prototype and hence the actual production model may differ slightly.

2014 Range Rover Evoque 9-Speed gearbox
The ZF 9HP is lighter than the outgoing 6-speed automatic thanks to the use of light-weight materials for construction.

And since we couldn’t take it on Germany’s unrestricted Autobahns, the Evoque never saw the faster side of 70km/h. Hence the gearbox didn’t even shift to 7th, let alone 9th. That aside, Land Rover engineers inform me that 9th gear can be engaged in speeds as low as 75km/h, provided the paddle shifts are used and throttle inputs are moderate.

The petrol powered Evoque’s 2.0-liter Si4 engine is ideally suited to the new ZF transmission (the diesel variant was unavailable). Shift action seems to be almost seamless and the Evoque drives with a certain luxurious flair often associated with something like a Mercedes S Class. This is thanks to the 115 millisecond response time of the gearbox.

2014 Range Rover Evoque 9-Speed front three quarter with tram
The Evoque with the 9-speed auto glides as if it is on rails...just like that German train!

The ZF 9HP gearbox is also lighter in weight compared to the 6-speed unit it replaces. This has been achieved by using light-weight materials for its construction. For the duration of my drive, I was never left wanting more out of this gearbox.

Now coming to the optional Active Driveline feature. To put in a nutshell, this is Land Rover’s sophisticated system that automatically shifts between 2WD and 4WD depending on the terrain. At speeds up to 35km/h, the system sends power to all four wheels. Once you cross this speed (and up to 180km/h), the system engages itself, monitors the road conditions and then sends power to either all the wheels or just the front wheels.

2014 Range Rover Evoque 9-Speed Active Driveline
Only by glancing the screen do you know whether drive is sent to all four wheels or only the front wheels, its that smooth!

And thanks to the 300 millisecond reaction time of this system, you can be sure that your Evoque holds traction when needed and consumes lesser fuel otherwise. At speeds above 180km/h, 4WD is engaged automatically.

The system, like the ZF 9-speed gearbox, works in a seamless manner. Only by glancing at the central screen do you know where the drive is going to. You can't tell when the switch between 4WD and 2WD or vice-versa takes place, it is neigh impossible to guess!

Overall, the 2014 Evoque seems to have changes that would fit us Indians very well. The first being the Active Driveline which ensures that 4WD is not always selected. Given that most Evoque owners hardly venture off-road, this is a welcome feature and also comes in the interest of fuel economy. The fact that the system can seamlessly and quickly switch between 2WD and 4WD makes me recommend it for other markets where slippery road conditions necessitate 4WD.

2014 Range Rover Evoque 9-Speed speedometer
Due apologies for the shabby picture but thanks to the reflective glass, this was the best I could get. If you notice, the orange circle is actually telling me that the current road has a speed limit of 30mph. This is one of the new features on the 2014 Evoque.

If you do a lot of highway driving, the 9-speed is another welcome add-on. Apart from the obvious reduction in fuel consumption and the lower noise resulting from an engine operating in lower revs, the gearbox offers silky-smooth shifts which certainly adds to the driving pleasure.

At first glance, the 2014 Evoque certainly has my recommendation. Ever since production began in 2011 in Halewood, UK, the SUV has been selling like hot cakes across the world. With the mechanically improved 2014 Evoque, Land Rover will have a hard time keeping up with the demand.

2014 Range Rover Evoque With 9-Speed and Active Driveline Image Gallery

2014 Range Rover Evoque With 9-Speed and Active Driveline Presentation

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