MOD­ERN BRI­TISH BEATNIKS

The Cooper S Convertible and Range Rover Evoque Convertible are two dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent cabri­o­lets, which are both pow­ered by tur­bocharged 2-litre en­gines.

Torque (Singapore) - - SPECIAL CONVERTIBLES -

THE term “beat­nik” is de­fined by Ox­ford Dic­tionar­ies as “a young per­son in the 1950s and early 1960s be­long­ing to a sub­cul­ture as­so­ci­ated with the beat gen­er­a­tion”.

Ba­si­cally, a beat­nik is some­one with artis­tic lean­ings who de­fies con­ven­tion. One of the most off­beat brands in the au­to­mo­tive world is Mini. When it was first in­tro­duced in 1959, it sur­prised many with its in­no­va­tions. The lit­tle hatch­back was small on the out­side and sur­pris­ingly spa­cious in­side.

It had a trans­versely, rather than lon­gi­tu­di­nally, mounted en­gine that drove the front wheels in­stead of the rear wheels, when rear-drive was more com­mon at the time. Even af­ter BMW ac­quired the mar­que and re­branded it as MINI, the car­maker con­tin­ues to march to the beat of its own drum, even de­fy­ing hard­core Mini en­thu­si­asts. In­deed, the lat­est MINI Convertible is the big­gest one the brand has ever pro­duced. Land Rover, con­sid­ered by many to be one of the most hal­lowed names when it comes to off-road­ers, has also de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions.

The brand, which was ini­tially known for pro­duc­ing rugged 4x4s for the Bri­tish Army, even­tu­ally be­gan pro­duc­ing the more up­mar­ket Range Rover, which later evolved into a full­blown lux­ury SUV.

Land Rover’s foray into the off­beat world be­gan with the Free­lander. For a brand long syn­ony­mous with large and burly SUVs, the rel­a­tively com­pact Free­lander was both a hit and a sur­prise.

SUV fans were even more sur­prised – and de­lighted – when Land Rover launched the Evoque, the brand’s most com­pact model to date.

It es­chewed the boxy style of its sib­lings for a curvier de­sign. In Sin­ga­pore, the Evoque in­creased Land Rover sales from be­low 100 units a year to over 300 units an­nu­ally.

But the true shocker of the Land Rover fam­ily is the Evoque Convertible. Cabri­o­lets are niche models to be­gin with, but an SUV cabriolet is down­right il­log­i­cal.

Even anoraks will be un­able to name a sin­gle model that be­came a hit. In fact, the last no­table top­less SUV, Nis­san’s Mu­rano CrossCabri­o­let, was shelved three years af­ter its

launch due to poor sales.

Yet, Land Rover be­lieves that the Evoque’s suc­cess means there is po­ten­tial for a top­less ver­sion of their most pop­u­lar model. In com­par­i­son, MINI isn’t risk­ing any­thing by pro­duc­ing a top­less vari­ant of their 3-Door hatch­back. The fact that there are three gen­er­a­tions of Convertibles since BMW re­launched MINI 17 years ago points to the model’s suc­cess. It is easy to see why many fash­ion­able sun-lovers are crazy about the MINI Convertible. Apart from el­e­ments such as its roundish shape and adorable lit­tle bon­net, the avail­abil­ity of funky colours such as Caribbean

Aqua, Melt­ing Sil­ver and Vol­canic Or­ange should please artsy buy­ers who want a hue that matches their per­son­al­ity.

The MINI Convertible’s in­te­rior is the most re­fined one to date, but it is also filled with fun and funky fea­tures.

There is am­bi­ent light­ing to match one’s moods and an Al­ways Open timer, which shows how long the ve­hi­cle has been driven with the roof down. It used to be a gauge, but it is now a cute graphic of the car wear­ing a pair of sun­glasses. You can don your shades and be­gin driv­ing the MINI Convertible top­less in well un­der a minute, since it only takes 18 sec­onds to open the elec­tri­cally op­er­ated soft­top (the pre­vi­ous model had elec­tro-hy­draulic motors). When equipped with the MINI Con­nected XL in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, the car can even warn the driver of in­clement weather by send­ing a mes­sage to his phone.

It sounds nifty, but its use­ful­ness is lim­ited be­cause it only works when the car is parked with the roof open. It would have been even bet­ter if said fea­ture could warn the driver of im­pend­ing show­ers while he’s driv­ing, or en­cour­age him to be­gin a mo­bile tan­ning ses­sion be­cause it’s go­ing to be bright and sunny. Now, the Evoque Convertible might have a larger roof, but its pow­er­ful motors en­sure that it also takes 18 sec­onds to fold away. And un­like the MINI Convertible, whose stacked roof still hin­ders rear­ward vis­i­bil­ity when open, the Evoque Convertible’s roof is neatly stowed when re­tracted.

Lack of vis­i­bil­ity is a big­ger is­sue when the Evoque Convertible’s roof is closed. For­tu­nately, fea­tures such as the Surround Cam­era sys­tem, Park As­sist and Blind Spot Mon­i­tor help mit­i­gate this dis­ad­van­tage.

The Evoque Convertible’s cabin doesn’t have the same funky flair as the MINI Convertible’s, but the Range Rover does make up for this with its re­fine­ment.

From the sporty al­loy ped­als and pretty touch­screen dis­play to the lux­u­ri­ous knurled gearshift

knob, this SUV’s cabin was created to im­press. The Evoque also pro­vides a roomier mo­bile tan­ning ex­pe­ri­ence for back­seat pas­sen­gers, al­though ac­cess to the rear seats is trick­ier due to the taller ride height. That higher ground clear­ance, though, is what gives the Evoque Convertible its off-road­ing abil­i­ties. To­gether with its Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem, which op­ti­mises var­i­ous drive sys­tems to adapt to dif­fer­ent sur­faces, the Evoque Convertible should be able to cope with the de­mands of its sub­ur­ban­ite driver, be it wad­ing through pond­ing along Or­chard Road or glamp­ing in East Coast Park. The MINI Convertible can­not go off the beaten path, but it cer­tainly does an im­pres­sive job of zip­ping along stylishly in the con­crete jun­gle. Its tur­bocharged 192bhp

2-litre 4-pot lets it zoom from rest to 100km/h in a zesty 7.1 sec­onds, with a rorty ex­haust note to boot.

It’s too bad there is no au­ral en­ter­tain­ment in the Evoque Convertible. Al­though its tur­bocharged 2-litre 4-pot de­liv­ers 240bhp, the ex­tra 281kg of re­in­force­ment means that per­for­mance­wise, this top­less SUV is the slower boule­vard cruiser. Putting th­ese two cabri­o­lets along­side one an­other is a strange and in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Few folks would have pre­dicted that MINI would one day have a convertible as big as this one, and even fewer folks would have fore­seen that Land Rover would cre­ate a top­less SUV.

But if you’re some­one with artis­tic lean­ings who’s al­ways yearn­ing to defy con­ven­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions, you re­ally can’t go wrong with ei­ther of th­ese mod­ern Bri­tish beatniks.

MINI Convertible cock­pit is both fun and funky, while Evoque cock­pit (be­low) is classy and spa­cious.

MINI Convertible’s stacked roof looks cool, but hin­ders rear­ward vis­i­bil­ity.

SEPTEM­BER 2017

SEPTEM­BER 2017 MINI’s tur­bocharged 2-litre en­gine is re­spon­sive and en­ter­tain­ing, while Evoque’s tur­bocharged 2-litre en­gine is quiet but ca­pa­ble.

SEPTEM­BER 2017

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