► Range Rover Evoque Convertible tested
► Hugely desirable (to some) soft-top RR
► Looks expensive and it is: priced from £47k
Is there no end to the Evoque’s design resilience? In hard-top guise the car refuses to look a day older than it did at launch, five years ago. And now, with all the metal above the shoulder line removed (windscreen surround notwithstanding) and a folding soft-top in its stead, the Evoque still looks good: at once purposeful and glamourous, rugged and expensive. And it really is expensive – thanks to lavish Dynamic Lux trim as standard, prices for the first soft-top from Solihull since the discontinued rag-top Defenders start at £47,500.
We’ve driven this car before, bashing from one end of Spain to the other in one earlier in the year, but this is the first time we’ve tried it on UK roads. Worth the stiff entry fee?
Phoenix Orange? Very summer/fall 2016 darling…
Thanks. Fact is this most lifestyle of Land Rovers – a car that’d have the men behind the original landmark aluminium 4x4 scratching their heads for a good long while – looks pretty fabulous with roof stowed, and why bother with an under-the-radar colour on a car that was born to be looked at? Whether the premium convertible SUV as a niche is here to stay, or one destined to burn brightly but briefly before disappearing, the Evoque Convertible manages to make the idea look like a damn fine one – no mean feat.
As well it should for that kind of wedge…
With the Convertible starting at £47,500 – £14k more than the entry-level hard-top – this is an expensive route into Evoque ownership, offset to some extent by HSE Dynamic equipment levels as standard: 20-inch wheels, a rear-view camera, 12-way leather memory seats, xenon lights, 10-speaker Meridian audio, lane departure warning, heated front screen, a cool Narvik black finish to myriad exterior elements and InControl Pro infotainment.
Engine options are but two: the 237bhp 2.0-litre Si4 petrol (8.6sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 32.9mpg combined) and the one we tested, the tepid but practical 178bhp TD4 diesel (10.3sec 0-62mph, 121mph, 49.6mpg). Both engines are hooked up to Land Rover’s familiar nine-speed auto ’box (works well enough, and you quickly get used to having so many cogs if you opt to use the paddles – sixth is the new fourth, and so on) and all-wheel drive. The diesel engine is willing enough and nicely refined but far from standout in terms of performance, with any trace of verve smothered by the Evoque Convertible’s sheer mass: 1967kg, some 300kg more than the coupe.
That doesn’t sound promising…
Indeed. That’s the equivalent of stuffing a small family into the car, and boy can you feel it. The weight penalty hurts the Convertible everywhere, making it reluctant to go, reluctant to stop in a hurry and a bit of a mess when you up the pace, lurching its way messily down country roads with bouts of understeer and unchecked body movements in generous supply. If you value driving dynamics, this is undoubtedly an Evoque to avoid.
You’d think that with all that additional metal the Convertible’s structural integrity would be unimpeachable but that sheet of metal above your head is sorely missed. It’s no jelly but you can feel the flex on bumpy roads, bringing uncertainty to the feedback you get through seat and wheel – and compromising the car’s ability to cleanly deal with lumpy tarmac.
So, all in all, not great to drive
There are certainly more driver-focused Evoques available but to charge about in this thing is, perhaps, to miss the point. Slow down a bit, drive within the car’s limits and it’s hugely enjoyable, drawing attention like a £200k supercar and soothing the soul with its open-air loveliness, solid and likeable interior, great stereo and neatly resolved ergonomics.
Furthermore the roof mechanism is a triumph: fast, virtually silent and so neat when folded that the car’s lines are completely unspoiled. Refinement is equally impressive. Roof-up you’d swear blind you were in a hard-top Evoque, so well suppressed are road and wind noise, and roof-down you can comfortably hold a conversation at 75mph. Need to cover ground? Raise the windows and fit the optional wind deflector to chat at 90mph.
Less impressive is the compromised boot: it’s small (251 litres to the tin-top’s 420 litres) and difficult to load thanks to the top-hinged tailgate, meaning you have to post your luggage into a letterbox of a space. Shame the tailgate couldn’t drop down in time-honoured Range Rover tradition.
Not the most practical or keen Evoque by some margin, and paying so much for so much additional weight catches in the throat if you’re not sold on the notion of a soft-top SUV. But the Evoque Convertible is a pretty versatile (rear-seat space is family-viable, and there’s full torque-shuffling Terrain Response for gymkhana car park shenanigans) and very pretty drop-top with enough feelgood factor to make an event of any drive. A fine convertible then, but by no means the finest Evoque.
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