The 2014 Range Rover Evoque has been given a suite of changes, the most notable the introduction of a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Made by German specialist ZF, the ZF-9HP transmission is designed for vehicles with transverse-mounted engines – anything front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive – whereas its previous seven- and eight-speed transmissions are suited to longitudinally-mounted engines, like rear-wheel drive BMWs.
Why does the Evoque need nine-speeds?
In reality, it doesn’t. Nor does it need leather seats, nor this 2.0-litre diesel’s 190bhp. What the nine-speed brings, though, is a distinct advantage when it come to both your fuel bill and CO2 emissions – the bane of every carmaker’s existence, especially one that builds SUVs…. If you compare the nine-speed with ZF’s original six-speed automatics, the Niner is 16 per cent more fuel efficient according to the company.
How do more gears save fuel?
Several ways. Firstly, the spread of more gears across a range with smaller ‘steps’ between gears is more efficient. So too are some of the features for the ZF. The first is de-coupling of the rear-wheels in all-wheel drive models. This saves around five per cent, says ZF, with the Evoque remaining front-wheel drive in traffic, for instance, and reverting back to all-wheel drive once it’s beyond 22mph.
What else can it do?
As well as near-seamless start-stop, which we couldn’t fumble, the nine-speed software allows torque vectoring, giving the Evoque shaper change of direction and less body roll. We’d rather firmer settings on our SD4, which wallowed a bit too much for our liking and dropped its nose to the ground when the average brakes were called upon.
So what’s it like to drive?
You won’t event know that you’re in a car with nine-gears when you’re driving around town or trundling along the motorway. The changes are smooth, the gear ratios well chosen to eliminate any large gaps or panting between changes, so when you’re in D it’s of no noticeable consequence. It’s not the most responsive in its default mode, but spin the transmission wheel over to S for Sport, and it there’s much sharper throttle response for much better pick-up out of corners.
For another step up, select Dynamic from the Evoque’s drive modes, and the instrument cluster will turn an angry shade of red. The key difference here for the nine-speed is that it will hold onto gears – without Dynamic, even the Sport mode won’t allow this. So Dynamic-Sport is the ultimate tear away setting, where the gear is loud and proud in the centre of the dash display, and cheekily changes from innocent white to burn red when you’ve passed the diesel’s 4500rpm redline.
So the nine-speed’s a winner?
Yes. The gearbox is smooth, swift in the right mode and costs less to run. We’d like more response when it comes to kick down around town, but then this may erode the advantages in CO2 and fuel economy…
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