Words & Photos: Russ Atkinson
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TOO FAR OUT OF YOUR WAY TO HEAR OR READ TALES OF MOTORISTS STRUGGLING TO MANOEUVRE THEIR OVERSIZED VEHICLES IN SCHOOL CAR PARKS IN THE MORNING, YET CROSSOVERS, SUVs AND FULLY-FLEDGED FOUR-BY-FOURS REMAIN INCREDIBLY POPULAR.
It isn’t too hard to see why though; their high-up, commanding driving position and an abundance of space for all manner of things (shopping, children, bicycles, white goods, cuddly toys) are big selling points when it comes to trying to find that often elusive Swiss-army-knife-esque vehicle that suits your needs perfectly. There are plenty of choices out there, with almost every manufacturer offering some sort of crossover or SUV model, but in Jersey, where it isn’t uncommon to see a Ferrari bumbling along at 20mph through St Aubin’s village on a Sunday morning, premium brands prevail, and, having made a comment in Gallery about Evoques years ago and being called out on it only to realise that there was a lot more to them than I’d imagined after finally driving one, it was with an open mind that I got behind the wheel of all three of the vehicles pictured above to see how they lined up.
With my mind fully-open, it’s important to make it clear that the specification and cost of these three commuter-colossi vary, with the Range Rover Evoque coming in slightly above the Audi Q3 cost-wise and the Porsche Macan commanding considerably more cash than either, as you might expect. They all serve the same purpose though, so how to they compare?
Starting with the Range Rover, the first thing you’ll probably notice are the quirky, pop-out door handles that sit flush with the bodywork until the doors are unlocked. Once inside though, in contrast to the out-there exterior handles, the stark interior seems to offer almost nothing superfluous, but this is a positive thing. You feel instantly at ease, with all of the controls easy to find and use. They’ve nailed the mix of materials too, contrasting perforated leather and light-coloured fabrics against a textured plastic upper dashboard that actually looks as if it’s been flocked. As a package, it’s sleek and timeless, with that high-gloss centre console underneath the panoramic roof and just a touch of chrome here and there; it’s very, very British. On the whole, the cabin is, put simply, a very pleasant place for one to be.
On the road though, I did find the automatic gearbox ever so slightly laggy from time to time, but the weight of the controls was excellent and there’s plenty of low-down punch from its very quiet diesel engine. I’ve said it before about the previous variant, and I’ll say it again about this, newer, second generation model – the Evoque will surprise you. It feels deceptively small to drive, no larger than the average hatchback, yet there’s certainly no lack of space inside.
Moving on to the Audi Q3, the cabin doesn’t quite match that of the Evoque in terms of luxury finish, but if I’m completely honest, it’s probably viewed by many as a more utilitarian vehicle in any case – one you’re not afraid to let your kids eat chocolate buttons in (admit it, you’ve found years-old, melted chocolate buttons in the back of at least one car you’ve owned, even if you weren’t responsible for them getting there), despite the addition of some alcantara to the bolsters. What does stand out about the Audi’s interior, however, is how ergonomically considered the navigation screen is, tilted slightly toward the driver for ease of use. Strangely, one other thing that I noticed was just how solid the rear-view mirror felt when I adjusted it. Solid enough to realise that it’s, well, solid. And I liked that.
On the road, I scarcely realised that it’d even changed gear, so smooth is the driveline. The entire driving experience can only be described as together. This trademark ease of use, with everything in the right place, doing the right things at the right time and with absolutely no fuss is something that I’ve come to expect from Audi, and it’s hard to fault them when it comes to the day-to-day driving experience.
What about the Porsche? Well, truth be told, as much as I claimed to go into this with an open mind, I actually don’t think I wanted to like the Macan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Porsche fan whether we’re talking vintage, classic or modern; the contemporary 911s are incredibly tractable and easy to at least feel like you’re driving well; the Panamera feels compact despite being as long as a container ship, with handling characteristics that defy its stature… But, a Porsche crossover? Surely it could never feel like a Porsche. Isn’t there a lot of Audi Q5 underneath that flowing, undeniably Porsche-esque bodywork, too?
It definitely feels like a Porsche. The steering is weighty, but perfect – the throttle response is tight. It comes with a lightning-fast gearbox that is an engineering marvel, known only by three letters outside of Stuttgart because the German words that the acronym is derived from are almost impossible to pronounce for the non-native; PDK. It’s a driver’s car, even though there’s enough room to pack in your family and enough luggage to keep you going for weeks, then hit the autoroutes of France or autobahns of Germany for a holiday road-trip. I’d recommend limiting chocolate button consumption to rest stops though, because the beautifully-stitched leather interior surely deserves better than that.
Admittedly, there are an almost overwhelming amount of switches, buttons and knobs to navigate your way around inside the Macan at first, but, just like distinctly remembering the Q3’s rear-view mirror, the tiny detail that got me inexplicably excited behind the wheel of the Porsche, was on the wheel of the Porsche. There’s a knurled sphere on each side of the wheel to control a couple of the myriad functions available to you, and it just feels so nice to roll underneath your thumb. The amount of unnecessary volume changes that took place during the test drive would’ve been notable to any passenger, so thankfully I was alone at the time and am not a huge fan of Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show in any case.
These three tiny tanks are all equally versatile and impressive in their own right, and it really is no wonder that crossovers have become such a popular choice for such a wide range of people in recent years. With plenty to pick from though, you’re most certainly spoilt for choice. But that choice, is all yours.
ALL OF THE VEHICLES TESTED ARE AVAILABLE FROM JACKSONS IN ST PETER. VISIT WWW.JACKSONSCI.COM OR CALL 497777 FOR MORE DETAILS.