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This is the Range Rover Evoque convertible... and we've already had a ride

Fabric-roofed £50k mini-Rangie heads for LA show. We grab a passenger ride

The new Range Rover Evoque Convertible has four seats, a five-layer fabric roof that can be operated at speeds of up to 30mph - down in 18 seconds, back up in 21 - and a respectable 251-litre boot. It has a new rear spoiler that’s supposedly there to cut drag as well as look smart.

You can have four-pot turbo power in petrol or diesel flavour, there’s a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drive. Prices start at £47,500, which is £5,200 more than an equivalent coupe.

Those, readers, are the facts. But we in the office fear the facts may not be entirely relevant right now, as you digest the prospect of a convertible off-roader. A drop-top Rangie, no less.

Now, it’d be very easy to dismiss the Evoque Convertible immediately as a low-volume, marketing-led folly that’ll be bought by the sort of people who like to keep underfed dogs in their handbags. But don’t start trolling the drop-top Evoque just yet, for two reasons.

Firstly, there’s a smidge of logic in Land Rover’s decision to build its most controversial car ever. And secondly, we’ve already had an off-road passenger ride in the car, and in several ways the Evoque Convertible rather impressive. Sit tight.

Logic first: SUV sales are booming, as are sales of cars with premium badges. Check and check for the Evoque. Land Rover reckons the segment will swell by a quarter in the next five years. Given it shifts around 40,000 Evoques a year just in the UK (the biggest market for cabrios in Europe), the fact that around ten percent of Evoque sales are predicted to be the soft-top means it’s very much worthwhile for Land Rover.

Now, the proof-in-the-pudding bit. First off, it’s no two-seater. Thanks to a totally remodelled rear bulkhead, the cosy two rear seats are actually usable. The seat mechanism is still glacially slow to shift forward, but you can actually put a six-foot-tall adult behind a six-foot-tall adult. We did exactly that. There are of course new colour, trim and tech options.

The 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro nav in particular is massively welcome – a genuinely slick, attractive, snappy interface in the void where JLR’s much-loathed touchscreens have festered. Its pinch-to-zoom reactions are as good as an iPhone’s. About time.

Oddly, a big priority was making the roof mechanism quiet. Ever been in a cabrio and found the electric whirring of the folding top a tad annoying? Granted, it’s perhaps the ultimate first-world problem, but nevertheless the quietness of the Evoque’s mechanism is pretty clever. It also folds neatly away, rather than piling up Mini-style on the tailgate. There’s are pop-up roll bars if you overcook the off-roading. Speaking of which…

Land Rover’s engineers insist the Evoque convertible has been set up not to give anything away to the hardtop in off-road worthiness. Y’know, credibility and all that. So, it’s comparably stiff, but has identical clearances, and a shared 500mm wading depth.

It’s heavy, though: what with all the chassis reinforcements, the diesel model is a chunky 1967kg, which is up around 260kg from the hardtop. It’ll do 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds and 121mph flat out, which is 1.3 seconds slower than the coupe, but identically fast vmax-wise. The 237bhp petrol is altogether swifter, nipping to 62mph in 8.6 seconds. Oh, and both cars will tow up to 1500kg, caravan fans.

There’s been lots of fiddling with the centre of gravity to make sure that adding all those chassis girders doesn’t bother the laws of physics as soon as you attack a fiendish incline. Because that’s obviously what you’ll be doing in your drop-top Evoque, isn’t it? On our off-road trundle, the Evoque eased across, through, and over everything asked of it.

From the passenger seat, TG can report that the roasting heated seats are up to the task of roofless, autumnal British motoring, as is the heater. And thanks to the tall beltline and thick doors, it’s nice and cosy inside. Cocooned, even. Even when the Evoque had two wheels dangling in the air as it clambered over the off-road course’s divots, there was no telltale chassis creak. And an entire absence of splitting clean in half. Jolly good.

So, we know it’s talented off road, surprisingly usable, quite heavy and expensive, but there’s a sensible business case. Tell us, TG.commers – is that enough to make you want a drop-top baby Rangie?

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