The Isle Of Anglesey is known in local folklore as the mother of Wales or "Mon mam Cymru", and is the home of Their Highnesses Will and Kate. It was also on the island's glorious Red Wharf Bay sands that the Land Rover was born some 65 years ago, where Maurice Wilks first scored its lines with a walking stick.
In nearby Snowdonia, Range Rover prototypes were tested in the late 1960s on the rugged mountain terrain between Llanberis and Capel Curig, an area also used by Ed Hillary and the British Everest expedition for training before their conquering success.
It is just a few hours away from Liverpool, where the new Range Rover Evoque is built at Ford's former Halewood plant a few kilometres from the city.
This meant the Evoque could be tested on the roads and lanes of Anglesey, on the flinty shoulders of Snowdon, and the steep, grassy paddocks high above the Conwy valley, before cruising among fast- moving traffic into the capital of modern British music.
The Evoque lacks a low-range gear set, so it was a genuine surprise to try terrain more the home of Mr Wilks' original creation, later known as the Defender, on the land for which the original was designed. As it happens, the Evoque could scramble about as if born to it, with clever electronics helping to compensate for the absence of tractor-like low ratios and the articulation of live axles.
It is all left to the Evoque's version of Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which allows the driver to select from a row of pictograms, using a finger switch on the centre console matching a graphic with the terrain ahead. The selection affects how the suspension and electronic stability software works, as well as how gentle or responsive the throttle action is. On settings for severe conditions, hill descent control is automatically engaged and controlled by way of the car's cruise-control buttons and you can also prod the system into use manually.
I wasn't that confident when being sometimes thrown in at the deep end with some awful obstacles, including a rocky ascent to and descent from a reservoir, where I winced with the anticipation of severe damage to the Evoque's underbelly.
I guess the wincing came from the impression one gets from the Gerry McGovern-penned wedge that clads the car, which although based on the Land Rover Freelander's platform, ends up with a lower-profile body, and in three-door form, a coupe-like look. But, get this, it has more ground clearance - not less - than the donor car. It just looks too city-like and sexy to be able to emulate its Land Rover and Range Rover predecessors and mentors.
But no worries. True, there was some clanking over screes I wouldn't have attempted had the Evoque been my own, but with just mud to show for it and some flecks of grass stuck to its flanks, my test car squeezed tidily through 50-odd kilometres of seriously scary stuff with not a single scratch.
Though Range Rover consciously contrived the Evoque to manage as well as a proper Range Rover should in the dirt, there appears to have been no let- up when it came to on-road work.
It immediately feels taut and athletic, with responses that would not embarrass a well set-up sport hatch, but even one of those would have nothing like the serenity of the Evoque's chassis, which coped with the craggier parts of downtown Liverpool and rutted Welsh roads with astonishing lack of drama.
The independent suspension used by the Evoque - struts at the front, multi-links at the rear - works to almost hot-hatch effectiveness when on the beaten track.
The Evoques I drove were equipped with MagneRide magnetic damping, or "magnetorheological dampers" to use the full name, and from the cars' cultured behaviour on such rubbish surfaces, it's an option worth having. I'd even venture to say that "my" five-door petrol test car rode better than the current crop of full-sized Range Rovers, especially those with sporty rims.
A lot of the Evoque's commendable behaviour is because its around 100kg lighter than the Freelander, partly because of the use of lighter materials like aluminium for some body panels and suspension parts as well as composites and plastics. While we're on comparisons it's also shorter over all than a Ford Focus.
Even the electric power steering - introduced to reduce engine drag and save on fuel - is direct and incisive, and the whole car has an alertness and poise that will charm those who may not have thought of an SUV but were suckered by the Evoque's sexy styling.
I managed to drive both 2.2-litre diesel engines and the single 2.0-litre petrol engine, all of them turbocharged four-cylinder units. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesels are the 110kW TD4 and the 140kW SD4, and the petrol unit is the 237kW Si4. For New Zealand they'll all have a six-speed auto with paddle shifts. The turbocharged petrol engine is a 177kW unit.
Though the diesels have more than adequate urge, terrific off- road flexibility and offer petrol- engined levels of refinement and remarkable fuel economy and emissions for this type and size of car, there's no doubt the star turn is the petrol Si4.
The unit copes with 1800kg-plus of the Evoque and driver well, working quickly up to 100kmh in seven-seconds flat if you've a mind to it. It certainly felt that quick and running on to the Wirral peninsula's Mersey Tunnel approach roads the Evoque Si4's traffic-beating athleticism conspired with its panoramic ride height to make it a useful gap- chaser in traffic.
If I intended to spend time regularly off the road, it would be the diesel I'd opt for, with the more powerful SD4 keeping well up with the Si4, though it will be the buyer's decision to work out if the 30kW advantage over the TD4 is worth $6500. That money could be well spent on personalising the car withcontrasting roof, sportier wheels and the like.
But even if the buyer's budget stops at the Evoque's New Zealand entry point of $79,990, there's no reason to feel short-changed.
That's because all Evoques have cabins worthy of the name Range Rover, and in top "Prestige" trim the car offers leather and a lot more fruit, but even in plain budget "Pure" or sporty Dynamic form it still looks and feels special, with quality materials, excellent ergonomics, well-placed controls and a myriad of seating adjustments. Apart from the three-door's rear visibility, the Evoque offers a genuinely well-thought-out place to enjoy a day's drive.
Having relaxed after a day-and- a-half's driving, and thinking that Welsh mountains, the aggressive cut and thrust of Liverpool traffic and some abandoned and flooded city railway tunnels were all that I'd be trying, the folks at Land Rover had one other trick up their sleeves, with a routed ramp that took us into Prince Albert Dock. Yes, into.
Through the water, I noticed nothing but Mersey murk, so I entered the dock, lurched down two seriously scary steps and drove on what I was later to find was a shallow ramp suspended below the water. Water lapped up the sides of the Evoque, but happily, though I could feel the cold around my feet and legs, it didn't enter the cabin.
As I waited for my dripping Evoque to dry, I had to fend off quite a few local members of the public who had seen the car and had been intrigued by the performance they'd just witnessed. They asked what it was like. I reported to them as I am to you, that the Evoque isn't a powder-puff soft-roader.
Even in Range Rover terms, it is the real thing.
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
* Drivetrains: Transverse FWD fours, with six-speed automatic transmission. Future 2WD option.
* Performance: TD4 - 2.2L turbodiesel: 110kW/ 400Nm. Max 185kmh, 0-100kmh 10.1sec, 5.0L/100km, 133g/km CO2. SD4 - 2.2L turbodiesel: 140kW/ 420Nm. Max 195kmh, 0-100kmh 9.5sec, 5.7L/100km, 148g/km CO2. Si4 - 2.0L turbopetrol: 177kW/ 340Nm. Max 217kmh, 0-100kmh 7.6sec, 8.7L/100km, 199g/km CO2.
* Dimensions: L 4355-4365mm, W 1965mm, H 1605-1635mm, W/base 2660mm, F/track 1625mm, R/track 1625mm, Fuel 60L, Weight 1670kg.
* Chassis: Front MacPherson struts, rear multi-links, electrically assisted rack and pinion steering.
* Pricing: TD4 - $79,990 - $97,990. SD4 - $86,490 - $104,490. Si4 - $86,490 - $104,490. Coupe adds $2000.
* Hot: Looks great; best on road SUV chassis; surprisingly good off road; quality cabin.
* Not: Pricey; cramped coupe roofline and restricted rear visibility; confusion of option packs.
* Verdict: Makes X3 and Q5 seem visually ordinary; Evoque is segment's new yardstick