It’s a convertible. It’s a premium medium-sized suv. It’s a convertible … and a premium SUV. Meet Range Rover’s provocative Evoque Convertible.
Although topless off-roaders aren’t new (just think about the 75-year-old Willys Jeep and the original Land Rovers), it’s been a great twist for Range Rover to launch the first premium compact convertible SUV.
The Evoque convertible was launched at the 2015 LA motor show and when I saw it I fell in love with it. Some male international motoring colleagues were also gazing at the vehicle but were poo-pooing it.
Ah, but little did those middle-aged male journos know about the segment and customers. At this year’s Geneva motor show, Volkswagen revealed the T-Cross Breeze, yep, a convertible SUV, and Citroen has the Cactus M concept soft-top off-roader.
So, who’s poo-pooing now? Range Rover has claimed a new niche and is happy to magnify it.
When the Evoque convertible was globally launched, the New Zealand distributor said it would be brought in by customer order only.
But the market has changed and now the company has had “a handful of orders and we are trying to secure more allocation” said a Range Rover NZ spokesman.
For me, and other women drivers, according to Range Rover NZ, a convertible SUV makes sense. I love convertibles but being low to the ground can be intrusive when you have the roof off.
There is also the downside when driving a low convertible, as I found out in the Mercedes-Benz SLC roadster, that when driving on the motorway with the roof off, road spray from passing trucks hits you.
So a high-sitting SUV paired with the soft-top gives you the ultimate convertible.
The Evoque convertible is priced from $118,000 — a price increase of $78,000 to $101,000 from the standard Evoque.
My test-drive model has extras of $12,450, including heated front seats ($650 or $2050 if you want them cooled, too), and upgraded leather pack ($2700).
But I questioned some of the extras you have to pay for, such a keyless entry ($1200) and the safety package of blind-spot monitoring with vehicle and reverse traffic detection ($5950). I think features such as these should be standard, as you would find in much cheaper vehicles.
The four-wheel-drive soft-top has a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque, with a top speed of 209km/h.
The Si4 petrol engine is the same lightweight all-aluminium two-litre engine as the coupe and five-door petrol Evoques and in the UK, there is a diesel version. The Evoque convertible also has the company’s nine-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted small paddle shift.
It sits on 19-inch alloys with attractive seven-split spokes, though you can option up to 20-inch alloys.
The Evoque recently had a facelift and the convertible is based on the three-door coupe.
The four-seater convertible is longer than the hard-top cars at 4370mm, and wider too. With extra strengthening round the A-pillars and under-body bracing, it also weighs more than the coupe. The suspension and anti-roll bars have been adjusted to compensate for the extra weight
The fabric roof retracts in less than 20 seconds at speeds up to 48 km/h and folds on top of the boot, rather than in it. This means you have a deep and large capacity of 251 litres in the boot, but access to it is narrow, with my standard-sized recycled shopping bag could only just stand upright in the space.
The boot’s opening is also strange, looking like a letterbox, but for all the niggles there is enough space in the rear to fit a fair chunk of luggage, and definitely enough diagonal space for golf clubs.
If you are planning to take passengers with you, the two spaces in the rear have enough leg and headroom for adults with the roof on, however it can get windy in the back with the roof off.
Around the city, the Evoque convertible is a head-turner and not for the introvert when the roof’s off. Sitting so high, I had truck drivers lean out of their windows and ask what I was driving, and pedestrians had puzzled looks when I stopped at traffic lights.
With the roof on, the convertible could be mistaken for an Evoque coupe, and despite having rear camera and parking assist, reversing with the roof on could be arduous. The blind spot was exacerbated by the rear seat headrests.
Range Rover has updated the convertible with new technology for the brand. It has the latest InControl Touch Pro system with its super-wide 10.2-inch touchscreen. The split screen allows you look at a map if using the satnav system while keeping an eye on your radio stations.
I loved the new feature of pinch or expand on the screen when using the map so you can easily find a location, and then tap on the screen to get directions to that destination.
I used that function to navigate me to my work (yes, I know the address but wanted to test the system) and also when I headed out of Auckland last weekend to check for a road that could give me access to Muriwai from South Head.
The Evoque has terrain response settings such as general driving; grass/gravel/snow, mud and sand; plus low range and hill descent so it feels sure-footed no matter what the terrain or weather conditions.
When I hit gravel roads in South Head, I first stayed in general driving but as I had to slow down due to the uneven surface, I switched to off-road gravel surface mode. The change in response was instant with the driving stable and the steering firming. But with Range Rover/Land Rover’s DNA, that’s to be expected.
The Evoque is a genuine four-wheel-drive, and it’s also a genuine convertible.
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE CONVERTIBLE
Two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (177kW/340Nm)