By David Miles
It was only a matter of time before the workhorse became a dressage contender.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is the latest in a highly successful series which owes its family blood line to the luxury off-roader which really created a whole new sector in 1970.
Heralded by Land Rover as the World’s first luxury compact SUV convertible, the soft top Evoque actually follows the likes of Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Suzuki and Jeep who at some point in the past have produced canvas topped 4x4s, mostly rugged workhorses, but still never the less soft top 4x4s.
Judging by the pace of growing 4×4, SUV and Crossover sales in Europe and the UK, and a forecast by Land Rover for sales to grow again by 20% over the next five years, the rebirth of the soft top might just trigger a rush from other brands to deliver something similar.
Land Rover need to keep their best ever selling model range, the Evoque, and deliveries are now just starting for the early deposits on the Evoque Convertible.
There are two engine options, the TD4 2.0-litre 178bhp Ingenium turbodiesel which will account for the bulk of the sales and a Si4 2.0-litre 237bhp petrol unit. Both have a nine-speed automatic transmission as standard and Land Rover’s highly rated Terrain Response 4WD system.
Both engines are available with two levels of specification, HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux. Prices are £47,500 and £51,700 for the diesel models and £48,200 and £52,400 for the petrol versions, about £4,100 more than the equivalent hard top Evoque versions.
Land Rover say the Evoque Convertible has the longest and widest soft top roof currently fitted to any convertible, larger even than the Rolls Royce Phantom.
This five-layer acoustic fabric roof is fully insulated and uses four electric motors to raise or lower it in 18 to 21-seconds whilst travelling at speeds up to 30mph.
The Z-fold mechanism lays the roof flush with the stumpy rear end bodywork giving an uncluttered appearance when lowered. Wind noise intrusion with the roof up is minimal even at 70mph cruising speeds and with the heater and heated front seats, the interior was snug and warm.
Missing from the specification is the ‘scarf or neck heat’ function most expensive convertibles have these days. Other niggles; with the roof open it was difficult to read the new 10.2-inch touchscreen in daylight and there is poor visibility through the rear window and rear quarters with the roof closed.
Land Rover admit that the original design for the Evoque never included a convertible option, so removing a roof from a car can interfere with the structural integrity of the vehicle. This new design has meant that a considerable amount of strengthening has gone into the Evoque Convertible for the A-pillars, underbody bracing and roll-over protection system which has added up to 277kg to the vehicles overall weight.
The result is a firm ride even though there have been suspension changes to maintain passenger comfort. The vehicle feels very rigid and stiff which does the job as far as ironing out body-flex with the roof down but it has lost the compliance of the hard-top models.
Land Rover says that in designing the Convertible it had to maintain the integrity of the Evoque, ‘after all it is a Range Rover’. I understand the on/off road capabilities and quality have to be maintained but it does bring up a few compromises.
Rear visibility is one of them, the two door access for rear seat passengers is not great, the high rising waistline makes it look bottom heavy and chunky and the boot is small at just 251-litres instead of the 420-litre for the hard-top models. There is a small load through hatch between the boot and rear passenger compartment to carry long items such as skis or more likely, curtain rails.
The added weight and stiffness harms the agility and nimbleness of the Convertible over the hard-top Evoques. However, the four-wheel-drive system ensures plenty of cornering grip on wet road surfaces as well as maintaining its legendary prowess off-road with the Terrain Response system.
It retains the Evoque’s 500mm wading depth and the ability to cope with 45-degree gradients although I suspect that most owners will not ask their vehicles to cope with anything more than a grass field or gravel track when venturing off-road. The added weight does increase body-roll during cornering but the steering is precise and well-weighted.
More weight means slightly less performance but not by much. At the UK media launch only the all-aluminium Ingenium TD4 2.0-litre, 178bhp turbodiesel powered model with the top Dynamic Lux specification were available to test drive.
As 80% of customers will choose this engine that was no hardship. This unit as standard is mated with the nine-speed automatic transmission with its on-demand four wheel drive system and of course it’s simple to use Terrain Response computer controlled traction system.
On our test drive route of busy coastal roads around Poole and the winding Dorset country roads the real-life fuel consumption was 34.8mpg, well short of the official figure. But the engine was quiet and responsive with a linear power delivery thanks to 430Nm of torque from 1,750rpm which was well matched with the nine-speed auto gearbox.
The specification includes heated front screen, front and rear parking sensors, electrically operated mirrors and windows, 20-inch alloy wheels, 12-way heated front seated, leather upholstery, rear view camera, touchscreen, InControl sat-nav plus InControl connect and four-wheel drive.
The Dynamic Lux spec additions include full parking assist, 360-degree distance control and surround camera, blindspot monitoring, surround sound, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, auto lights and wipers and a wind deflector.
Overall the new Evoque Convertible is an interesting addition to Land Rover’s highest-ever selling model range. It has its compromises in some areas such as it’s slower, uses more fuel, costs more to buy and has higher taxes than its hard-top stablemates but on the plus side it is unique.
It is venturing into new territory and likely to bring new customers wanting a convertible into the lucrative SUV market which others are sure to follow.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible HSE Dynamic Lux TD4 2.0 turbodiesel auto 4WD £51,700 (range starts at £47,500).
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylindrer all-aluminium Ingenium turbodiesel, 178bhp, 430Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 9-speed auto, 4WD.
Performance: 121mph, 0-62mph 10.3-seconds, 49.6mpg (34.8mpg on test), CO2 149g/km, VED road tax £145, BIK company car tax 29%.
Insurance group: 41E.
Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage.
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,370mm, W 1,900mm, H 1,609mm, boot 251-litres, 2-doors/4-seats.
For: Pioneering fun design, high specification, classy high spec cabin, a 4×4 convertible for all seasons.
Against: Costlier to buy and run over the hard-top Evoque, not as dynamic, harsh ride, limited rear visibility, snug rear interior, small boot.
© David Miles.