They won’t miss you
The cabrio adds premiums for style and options but there’s not much practicality
LIKE to be noticed? Range Rover has the car for you.
The new Evoque convertible is unlike anything else on the road — half-SUV, half open-top boulevard cruiser.
In blood orange with 20inch black rims, it is designed to turn heads, especially with the roof down.
Land Rover boss Matthew Wiesner says the extrovert Evoque is aimed at convertible buyers rather than those looking for SUV practicality. Rivals include four-seat Audi and Mercedes-Benz cabriolets.
Wiesner doesn’t expect it to be a volume seller but thinks it will have a halo effect on the rest of the Range Rover brand, the Evoque in particular.
“If we do 150 to 300 over the year we’ll be pretty happy with that,” he says.
“From a marketing point of view it’s a great addition. It’s a bit of fun and it’s unique.”
With a starting price of $84,835 — almost $30,000 more than the cheapest Evoque available — the drop-top is aimed at people who are prepared to pay a sizeable premium for style.
And those who don’t put a premium on space and practicality.
The boot is designed for Ibiza rather than Ikea, It’ll fit a couple of overnight bags and towels, but the rest of the space has been sacrificed to store the world’s widest and longest folding fabric roof.
The rear seats are cosy and legroom is tight when there’s an average-sized person in the drivers’ seat. With the roof in place, headroom is tight for taller people.
The roof stows automatically in 18 seconds and can be raised in 21 seconds at up to 50km/h.
Land Rover says the roof mechanism weighs just 68kg but the extra structural work to support the roof adds almost 300kg to the overall weight.
It also doesn’t look as svelte and stylish as the Evoque wagon, as the fabric roof can’t recreate the clamshell profile of the original. With the roof down it looks like an overgrown Mini convertible.
Two four-cylinder engines are available, matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel is a new-generation job, while the 2.0-litre turbo petrol is a version of Ford’s EcoBoost, as used in the Focus, Mustang and Falcon.
The convertible has a lower ride height than the regular Evoque but Land Rover says it remains a capable off-roader, with 500mm wading depth and decent approach and departure angles. It also has the company’s terrain response and wade sensing technology.
Wiesner says very few are expected to venture into hardcore off-road territory.
“We see a highly urbanised ownership,” he says.
Inside, the Evoque convertible debuts Jaguar-Land Rover’s larger 10.2-inch touchscreen and new infotainment technology. The extra weight and big wheels should spell a bumpy ride but Land Rover has done a great job of cushioning the drop-top Evoque’s occupants from road imperfections.
Without the extra structure of a hard roof, there’s inevitably more jiggling over pockmarked roads but overall the balance between comfort and composure over bumps is impressive.
The same applies to noise suppression in the cabin — with the roof up it’s almost as quiet as the wagon; with it down, there’s little buffeting for the driver.
The engine also feels surprisingly perky given the extra weight it has to shift. The nine-speed automatic transmission helps performance by keeping the turbo on the boil, especially with the sports setting selected — it also sharpens up the steering.
There’s an occasional hesitation when it’s asked to kick down a cog in a hurry but overall changes are smooth and swift. It has a sweet exhaust note, too, adding to the enjoyment when the top is down.
Don’t expect great fuel economy, though. The official combined figure is 8.6L/100km, but we only bettered that on a long freeway stretch. More spirited country driving returned 12.0L and in the city that rose to 15.0L.
Through the bends, the Evoque is one of the more assured SUVs in the business. When asked to shift direction, it manages to disguise its weight and height well, sitting flat through corners. Sharp, communicative steering adds to the driving enjoyment.
We discover one flaw during our night-time drive: the automatic high-beam sometimes switches itself off when there’s nothing coming the other way, usually as you approach a corner.
Inside, the cabin of our test car looked suitably up-market, if a little dark and formal. The Evoque convertible is an impressive piece of engineering, with striking looks, clever technology and great road manners.
But it all comes at a price, as Land Rover doesn’t miss with the options list. Safety equipment that’s standard on much cheaper cars is optional, while the orange paint is $3750.
Our test car, the top-spec HSE Dynamic, started at $92,800 and wound up at $122,300. That’s a lot of money for a mid-sized SUV.