by Seán Creedon

While waiting to pick up the Range Rover Evoque at Spirit Motors in Sandyford last week the video playing on the big screen in the lobby caught my eye. It was the ‘Dragon Challenge,’ which was being undertaken by the Range Rover Sport Plug-in Hybrid.

It’s an amazing challenge along seven miles of mountainside road, with 99 hair-raising bends and 999 steps before you get to what’s known as Heaven’s Gate on Tianmen Mountain in China. Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch on the mountainside, is mythically thought to be a link between the mortal world and the world of the gods.

My test car came in a 2.0-litre diesel with 150 brake horse power, but I didn’t have to tackle any serious challenge. Still Three Rock Mountain, just above Sandyford looked inviting. 

This is the second version of the Range Rover and the tyre-kickers among you may remember that Victoria Beckham did the internal design for the first version which was launched in 2011. ‘Posh Spice’ is not mentioned this time, but the interior is certainly very posh with a really classy design.

You now get super-slim Matrix LED headlamps, flush door handles and a few new elements at the front and rear of this gorgeous car.

The exterior has got a few new touches, but most of the changes are inside the car which really has a comfortable, relaxing feel to it.

The seats are really comfortable and I suppose luxurious is the one word that best describes the interior. The two-door version has been dropped and four-door has plenty of room for five adults.

Available in Ireland in petrol and diesel versions, that plug-in hybrid which climbed Tianmen Mountain, should be available in Ireland next year.

The door handles close in when central locking applied and open out once you turn off the alarm.

The weather is reasonably mild in Ireland, but I’m told this unusual feature on the door handles was a major challenge as the designers had to ensure the door handles would open in very cold conditions.

The designers have also stretched the gap between the front and rear wheels which means just a little bit more leg room for back seat passengers. The exterior colour was Kaikoura Stone, while the interior was officially described as Cloud Grained Leather.

Prices start at €42,845, while the all-wheel diesel models with automatic gearboxes as standard, start at €49,595. Road tax is €390. The price of my test car which had a plethora of goodies, came to €59,995. You get a space-saver spare wheel.

At the launch of the first version of the Evoque in 2011 Land Rover executives said that they expected the Evoque would attract people who have never driven a people carrier before.

They were optimistic of winning over former Audi and BMW owners and I sure they are still getting conquest sales.

I loved the high-driving position as did all the family members, who availed of a ride in this beautiful car.

Not surprisingly the Evoque plug-in hybrid completed the ‘Dragon Challenge’ in just over 22 minutes and it certainly was a good advertisement for the Land Rover brand.

The driver on the ‘Dragon Challenge’ was Ho-Pin Tung, a Le Mans 24-hour winner and the first Chinese driver to test a Formula One car.