Model driven: Range Rover Evoque convertible HSE Dynamic 2.0 TD4
LAND Rover is calling this addition to the Range Rover Evoque range the “world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible”, which sounds like an oxymoron. As we know, the operative word in the abbreviation SUV is “utility”, which in most people’s dictionary means pared-down and utilitarian, not luxury or open-roofed.
This has led to disquiet among Land Rover traditionalists who believe the badge should only be attached to a vehicle with a massive winch and roof rack. This new Evoque, therefore, has something of a mountain to climb, even before it goes off road.
So does it work? Convertibles tend to be low-slung two-seaters, but this Evoque seats four and does so high up, where the view is better. Throw in frameless windows and there’s something strangely desirable about this car, which offers the psychological superiority of a hip-height seating position and no roof. You can see over hedges, for a start. And lest we forget, Land Rovers have been convertible ever since there have been Land Rovers to convert.
As for the luxury bit, that’s not entirely new to off-roaders, either. The full-sized Range Rover introduced us to the idea a while ago.
The company is planning to sell the Evoque convertible only in top spec — denoted HSE or HSE Lux. Both versions get all the toys, including LED headlights, leather and massaging seats and a new multimedia system with a 10.2in touchscreen. The system is called InControl Touch Pro and it makes Land Rover’s previous version look like a series of woodcuts.
Worried about the rear blind spot the size of Berkshire that appears every time you put the roof up? Don’t be — you get 360-degree cameras as standard. Think it might be a bit noisy or leaky? Not a chance — the new hood is snug and near silent.
A little light rambling takes on a whole new aspect if you don’t have a roof between you and the environment
Two engines are on offer, both 2-litre 4-cylinders, neither likely to blow your socks off. There’s a 236bhp Si4 petrol or a 178bhp TD4, both with a useful and only rarely hesitant nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Both versions are good, but the TD4 diesel engine is quiet, clean and more than capable of offering the kind of performance you’d expect in a car like this. Which is to say, good at cruising.
You don’t really feel the need for speed in this car. Oh, it’ll go around a corner quickly enough and does so without listing like a boat in a swell, but, despite Land Rover’s best attempts at clever torque vectoring systems for the all-wheel drive, you get the distinct impression that the convertible is a little on the hefty side. It is, too, at close to 2,000kg.
Part of the extra weight is down to strengthening, essential when you cut the roof off any vehicle. To prevent the convertible from folding in on itself, Land Rover says it has reinforced the chassis and windscreen frame, and installed spring-loaded aluminium bars that pop up in 90 milliseconds, should the car sense it may roll over. (Wisely, the engineers spent a long time working out how to prevent these deploying prematurely when the car is bouncing around off road.)
You’d be mad to charge around in a car like this, though. Far better to go a little more slowly, enjoying the widescreen scenery, and be comforted by the fact that this is still a Land Rover. Which means it can still off-road like a champ. And a little light rambling takes on a whole new aspect if you don’t have a roof between you and the environment.
Has Land Rover created a vibrant new niche or just provided the answer to a question nobody asked? It’s certainly not the kind of car that appeals to everybody, but, as a safe and fun convertible, there’s not much out there to match it.