Lovely soft top from Range Rover

What’s the point in the Range Rover Evoque con­vert­ible? Damien O’car­roll ex­plains.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - NEWS -

The Range Rover Evoque con­vert­ible is, on the sur­face, a ve­hi­cle that makes ab­so­lutely no sense what­so­ever. A con­vert­ible SUV? What pur­pose does that serve? Well, here we do feel like we have to draw your at­ten­tion to one salient fact – the orig­i­nal Land Rover was, of course, a two-door to­p­less ve­hi­cle. So that makes the Evoque con­vert­ible, in a tech­ni­cal sense, the clos­est ve­hi­cle in the cur­rent Land Rover range to the orig­i­nal. I’ll let that sink in. But even with that point made, I still agree the Evoque con­vert­ible makes ab­so­lutely no sense what­so­ever. And that, as it turns out, is more than enough to make me rather like it! The first thing you no­tice about the Evoque con­vert­ible is how well the job of lop­ping off the roof has been done. No com­pro­mises have been made, with the boot even re­main­ing use­ably large (just 251 litres, but quite deep and rea­son­ably ac­ces­si­ble thanks to its height) thanks to the roof fit­ting neatly be­hind the rear seats. The roof can be dropped in 18 sec­onds (at up to 50km/h), or raised in 21 sec­onds. The roof mech­a­nism is a clever setup that ac­tu­ally (and un­sur­pris­ingly) owes a lot the Jaguar F-type con­vert­ible, in­clud­ing its elec­tric mo­tors, and there is no need for a ton­neau cover, as the lead­ing edge of the top serves as a cover and fits nicely flush with the rear deck. With the roof up peo­ple don’t tend to no­tice you, be­cause it does ac­tu­ally look rather sim­i­lar to an Evoque three-door with a black roof, so for such a dis­tinc­tive and, yes, showy car, it is ac­tu­ally ca­pa­ble of be­ing some­what un­ob­tru­sive. The one down­side of the con­vert­ible ef­fec­tively be­ing an af­ter­thought, Land Rover has had to add an enor­mous amount of strength­en­ing to pre­vent it from be­com­ing a floppy, flex­ing mess. That means there is a rather as­ton­ish­ing 280kg ex­tra in this car, in­clud­ing brac­ing across the sills and tougher wind­screen pil­lars to meet rollover-safety re­quire­ments (there are also pop-up roll bars at the back of the cabin). The in­te­rior is shared with the hard­top Evoque and is ev­ery bit as stylish and beau­ti­fully made as it is there, and our test car also in­cluded Land Rover’s new (and rather im­pres­sive) widescreen In­con­trol Pro touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. A two-door con­vert­ible of any sort is never go­ing to boast the most rear seat room, and the Evoque is no ex­cep­tion here, with the rear seats be­ing ac­cept­able for short distances, but be­cause they are squeezed into a nar­rower space to ac­com­mo­date the roof hard­ware, they re­ally are for smaller mem­bers of the fam­ily. The Evoque con­vert­ible comes to New Zealand only in top HSE Dy­namic spec­i­fi­ca­tion, with a 177kw/340nm two-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine. The smooth, pow­er­ful en­gine means that it doesn’t lack grunt, but the con­sid­er­able ex­tra weight does take the edge off some­what, it must be said. That said, the con­vert­ible only takes an ex­tra sec­ond to reach 100km/h over the Si4 five-door and sips an­other 0.6 litres of fuel per 100km, so the penalty re­ally is neg­li­gi­ble. And the ex­tra weight ac­tu­ally seems to bring an im­prove­ment to the ride qual­ity, with the con­vert­ible feel­ing im­pres­sively com­posed on bumpy around-town roads. Oddly enough Land Rover still in­sists the Evoque con­vert­ible has a high level of of­froad abil­ity, so it comes stan­dard with 4WD and is fit­ted with the full Land Rover Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem. Although with a base price base price of $118,000 ($17k more than the HSE Dy­namic five­door) we can’t see many buy­ers tak­ing the con­vert­ible fur­ther off road than ac­ci­den­tally climb­ing the curb out­side their favourite cafe. While the Evoque con­vert­ible looks great, drives and rides im­pres­sively well and is of a mas­sively high qual­ity, there is one big down­side, and that is the fact that al­most every­thing you would want on a $118,000 con­vert­ible SUV is op­tional. Adap­tive cruise con­trol, blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing, rear-cross traf­fic alert, a heads-up dis­play and key­less en­try are all things you might ex­pect as stan­dard on a $110K plus car that you have to pay ex­tra for here. Still, that most likely won’t ac­tu­ally mat­ter to some­one who falls madly in love with the Evoque con­vert­ible’s odd­ball charms and en­dear­ing lack of a point any­way.

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