Skip to main content

As a disclaimer, I’m known to pick my own version of fun over reliable. There’s a saying in the car world: it’s better to drive the highest trim of a practical brand than the cheapest trim of a performance brand. While you marinate on that, I can say that I agree with the former if you’re looking for reliability. However, my three E46s, two MINI Cooper Ss, a 2003 Chevy S10, a 2001 Jeep Wrangler, a Fiat 500L, and my most recent decision – a 2015 Range Rover Evoque – prove I’m a “do as I say, not as I do” enthusiast. And this is just in the last few years.

The Evoque came up after my kids and I got stuck on a gravel hill headed to a cabin in the Fiat 500L. The Trekking trim shouldn’t fool anyone; the front wheel drive just spun on the pebbled incline, even with nearly-new tires. Now, I can’t say the Fiat wasn’t reliable, but it did require some repairs. Mostly, though, the required maintenance caught up with us, like the timing belt service, brakes, and tires. Lucky for the next owner!

Anyway, that single event on the gravel hill was enough to proclaim that we needed 4WD. Sure, Hondas and Toyotas were part of the search. After looking around, though, I couldn’t stop checking ads for Range Rover Evoques.

My household only buys used cars. This means that every purchase is a mechanical risk. I’ve driven Land Rovers in my teens and twenties, and they were all old, unreliable, and unquestionably fabulous. Why should I sacrifice personality for something capable and to haul the kids?

The 2015 Evoque we found and ultimately purchased was in tip-top shape. Indeed, it had over 100k miles. See, I’m already starting to excuse the incoming headache. It’s definitely on every recently issued list of “least reliable cars.” But, after the test drive, I couldn’t say no. I was excited to drive it, a sense I’ve followed since I got my license.

Last fall, the check engine came on. I noticed a slightly uneven idle. Occasionally, the car had a long crank. The code was P0011, among others – P052A, P0341, P008A. Shoot. Cam codes and low fuel pressure. There are a few possibilities here, so the tech ran down the flowchart. It may have had non-spec oil changes with the previous owner, but who’s to say? We had been using the proper 5W30 full synthetic.

A white 2015 Range Rover Evoque SUV driving on a freeway with mountains in the background at dawn or dusk
2015 Range Rover Evoque | Land Rover

We replaced the camshaft position sensor after it dropped out during testing. After a few drive cycles, the light would come and go. Albeit mild, the goofy idle was undeniable. P0011 came back. The final diagnosis? Bank 1 timing over-advanced at the chain level. There’s an internally positioned component failing, like the chain tensioner.

So now, the Evoque is sitting at the shop getting a $5,000 timing chain kit replacement.

What have I learned? Well, that one of the modern world’s least reliable cars is indeed troublesome. Despite all this, the car is wonderful to drive. It’s fast; for a four-cylinder, anyway, it serves. It’s aesthetically pleasing: a slick glass roof, brown leather interior, and sleek body lines. Inside and out, it’s compact yet luxuriously “present” – no frailty or cheapness. It has a great rear HVAC system for the kids. Its backup camera is incredible for an aged and under-$20K used car.

I’m keeping it because, so far, I love it too much to let it go. My family thinks I’m holding on to see what else goes expensively wrong. We’re both probably right.