- Max Speed
Aha, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, just in time for…autumn.
Perfect timing, don’t you think? I mean, if you wanted a £50,000 open-top four-seater and sunning yourself and three passengers was priority, well you wouldn’t be in Britain for a kick-off. More to the point, a high-spec BMW 4 Series, Mercedes C-Class cabrio or mildly used Maserati GranCabrio will be just the job for sunny climes.
The Evoque Convertible, with its full-time four-wheel drive, Terrain Response off-road tech and here tested with a sensible 2.0-litre Ingenium turbo diesel engine good for 177bhp, 317lb ft and 49.6mpg, is perhaps the perfect soft-top for the other 360 days of British life, when the weather’s refusing to get its shades on.
Oh come on. It’s hardly been properly engineered, right?
Tell you what, the Evoque makes for a surprisingly good soft-top on first impression. I remember doing a ‘tech day’ on this car a while ago, when the engineers talked me around the (considerable) obstacles they’d headbutted to cleave the Evoque in twain. One of the bits they were really proud of was the roof – not just how resistant it is to rain and dirt – but the quietness of its mechanism.
Whirring and clanking would be totally out of place at this price, and the roof’s operation is impressively silent. And swift, taking 18 seconds to fold away, at up to 30mph. For this ability, and the joys of top-spec, bodykitted HSE Dynamic trim, you pay £47,500.
So, with your Teflon coat on, what’s it like with the roof down?
Roof stowed (with no consequence to the 251 litre boot, aside from the letter box you have to post luggage through to access it), the Evoque proves to be a decent drop-top, so far as buffeting goes. The windows stand tall above the beltline, so with the glass raised the cabin remains cocooned from all but the merest breeze.
Drop the windows and sure, it’s draughtier, but even up to 60mph we’re talking a pleasant wind in the hair ruffle rather than a category five scalping. The hair boutiques of Soho will be devastated.
You’ll stay warm too. No heated steering wheel is a major faux pax, but the heater is, as usual for a Land Rover, so effective it’s a wonder the plastic vanes in the vents don’t melt. And the heated seats seem potent enough to liquefy your insides. Maybe don’t have a strong curry before a winter evening’s al fresco motoring.
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Erm, thanks. Roof back up, thanks. Any good?
Acceptably quiet for a cabrio, but the huge door mirrors generate the familiar Evoque bugbear of billowing wind noise, and twinning with gargantuan windscreen pillars, knacker junction visibility. The rear view is similarly pinched, so a reversing camera is standard, not that it’s much help when you’re desperately scanning your blind-spot on a spray-soaked motorway.
However, the rear seats are of a usable shape and size – although that’s slightly skewed by the fact a hard-top three-door Evoque is hardly commodious. Still, the seats aren’t token tribute acts – you could reasonably put adults back there – just as comfortably as in the conventional German cabrios.
And what about the same old rubbish touchscreen that controls all the infotainment functions?
Gone. Hoo-flipping-ray. Convertibles use the InControl Touch Pro system that’s finally making inroads into the Jaguar Land Rover range. It is a superb touchscreen – fast, responsive, intuitive and beautifully rendered. Ironically, this is the most modern an Evoque interior’s ever felt, despite being five years old, and that’s entirely down to the rebooted media centre. At last.
So assuming you have the necessary nerve to drive around in a convertible miniature Range Rover, you’re actually getting quite a good piece of kit?
Not so fast. No, seriously. The Ingenium diesel engine is not the most thrusting of turbodiesel powerplants, even for a 2.0-litre, and when laden with some 280kg of pillar, sill and bulkhead stiffening, not to mention the roof’s hushed mechanism, it’s swamped. Claims of 0-62mph in 9.7sec and 121mph for this lump feel generous.
The Evoque – any Evoque – clearly isn’t a car you brake late and turn hard in, so effects of the weight gain aren’t too, um, heavily felt there, though the brake pedal is admittedly very squidgy – a tactic to disguise the car’s mass, for sure. But so far as accelerating goes, this feels like an underpowered machine, and the indecisive nine-speed gearbox isn’t a helpful ally. I drove a six-speed automatic Kia Sportage last week that offered smoother step-off, kickdown and more sensible gear selection than than this Range Rover.
Does it flop about on your cruddy British roads?
The good news is there’s no perceptible wobbling of the rear-view mirror or windscreen pillars, and the steering column stays where it was fixed in the factory. The bad news is that there’s a resonance, a general crashiness, about the stiffened chassis that doesn’t take kindly to uneven roads. I’m not saying it’d be better with flex, but the rumbly ride is a telltale clue the Evoque wasn’t conceived with a convertible model in mind.
But come on, you just wouldn’t would you?
I wouldn’t. I left my house at six in the morning under cover of darkness to test the roof-down behaviour. In late October. Thank goodness for that nuclear heater. But purely objectively, this car isn’t the dog’s dinner you might have expected. Or even secretly hoped it would be. Regardless, enough people 'would' to make this thing viable. Land Rover isn't in the habit of making unpopular products lately.
On the other hand, it is the slowest and less composed cabrio you can buy for this kind of money. And £47k is a lot of money. Which brings it back full circle – the Evoque Convertible is a car solely for the relative handful of people who really, really like the idea of driving around in an Evoque Convertible.
Photography: Ollie Tenant