SUV is a terrible term. It’s used as if it applies to only one very closely-related group of vehicles, when in reality it’s a much broader category in much the same way ‘boat’ applies to everything from super-tankers, to cruise-liners, to yachts, to floating piles of beer cans strung together for the Darwin Regatta.
With that in mind Land Rover has applied only the very loosest sense of SUV-ness to its Range Rover Evoque, a high-rider that could go off-road but probably won’t and instead stands out as a testament to style, becoming a defining product in the British brand’s relatively recent product expansion.
But Evoque, in three and five door forms is one thing. The Evoque Convertible, a proper four-seat convertible with a folding fabric roof, is quite another thing altogether, pushing the definition of SUV further than ever before.
Vehicle Style: Prestige convertible SUV
Price: $85,343 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 9sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.7 l/100km | Tested: 8.2 l/100km
Land Rover has reserved the Evoque Convertible treatment for high-end variants of its smallest SUV only, with two trims: SE Dynamic (tested here) or the flagship HSE Dynamic. The price of entry isn’t cheap, you can get into the 177kW/340Nm petrol model from $84,948, or the 132kW/430Nm diesel you see here for $85,343.
For that though you get a vehicle that’s truly unique - Land Rover is rather specific in describing the Evoque Convertible as the “world’s first luxury SUV compact convertible” because you’ve been able to drop the top on Jeep Wranglers or Suzuki Vitaras and Jimnys since, well, always. Neither alterantive is quite ‘luxury’ and the fully-power closing, roll bar-free roof mechanism has really only been otherwise seen on the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, a drop-top that (thankfully) never made it to Australia.
The list of standard features is high, but the Range Rover Evoque Convertible’s list of competitors is not. And its attention-seeking credentials are unmatched at the moment making this one of the more unusual offers in the modern motoring landscape.
- Standard Equipment: Perforated leather trim, dual-zone climate control, rear seat air con vents, electrically adjustable front seats with memory, power folding convertible roof, keyless entry and start, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, bi-Xenon headlights, heated power-folding exterior mirrors, LED tail lights, aluminium interior highlights, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10-inch touchscreen, CD/DVD player, AM/FM radio, 2x USB inputs, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, 11-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 251 litres
Forget everything you know about the convertible experience - the Evoque convertible throws the idea of being a low-slung sports car out the window. Instead it opts for a more comfortable, and forgiving attitude putting comfort and style ahead of speed and handling.
There’s seating for four, with the requisite leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control and Land Rover’s big, bright 10.25-inch InControl touchscreen infotainment system.
As a two-door, based on the Evoque coupe, the convertible offers long doors to ease entry and egress, but in tight quarters they’re not as easy to deal with.
Front seats are every bit as generous as the fixed-rod Evoque, but the rears have been sunken down. There’s room for two in the back and the seats are a little narrower, and with less legroom to accommodate the folding roof mechanism and pop-up rollover protection behind them.
From behind the wheel the Evoque Convertible feels much like sitting in an old claw-foot bath, with deep sides that wrap up almost to shoulder level, offset by the high-riding stance which still allows a clear view of the surrounding traffic.
The fully-lined cloth roof can be operated at speeds of up to 50 km/h and takes 18 seconds to stow or 21 seconds to re-instate. Once up, rear vision takes a hit, but unlike soft-top SUVs before it, the roof folds away completely with no roll frame or roof structure left behind to sully the Evoque’s aesthetics.
Boot capacity is likely to pose a problem for some - shaped more like the overhead luggage bin on an aeroplane rather than a traditional boot, the top hinged tailgate reveals 251 litres of storage, which doesn’t pack a lot in, further hampered by the lack of folding rear seats.
Cabin storage mimics regular Evoques, with decent console and glovebox storage to hide items out of sight, and a lidded cup holder that also hides the roof switch from view - something that’s not always as handy as it might seem.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium turbo diesel, 132kW @4000rpm, 430Nm @1750 rpm
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, multi-mode four wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, vented front rotors
- Steering: Electrically-assisted power steering, 11.3m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
With a 132kW/430Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine under the bonnet the Td4 180 variant of the Evoque convertible is no speed demon, in fact its 0-100 km/h time sits at an official 10.3 seconds making it somewhat leisurely .
The engine itself is from the Ingenium family of engines used throughout the Jaguar Land Rover range, and though it may not be an ideal performance option, it excels when it comes to noise and refinement. Top up or down, the engine stays calm, smooth, and quiet.
Land Rover has also equipped the Evoque convertible with all the same off-roading technology as the other members of the Evoque range, so it features multi-mode terrain control should you fancy taking it off road - but it seems hard to picture many going any further than gravel driveways and grassy carparks.
The convertible versions miss out on the adaptive suspension available on other Evoque models, but with excellent ride comfort (even on 20-inch wheels) that’s no real issue. The taller ride height does however mean a little more roll in corners, and pushy understeer during enthusiastic driving.
Given the sheer size of the Evoque, chassis rigidity is respectable, though there’s a hint of body flex at times, but scuttle shake and rack rattle (movement that shows up through the windscreen frame and steering column respectively) are both well surpressed. To achieve that goal the Evoque convertible has gained over 300kg compared with an equivalent five-door Evoque.
The idea of a comfortable four-seat convertible - one more at home gently schlepping from suburbs to beachside - seems to have gotten lost somehow, and Land Rover’s refusal to make this car a hard-riding ‘sports car’ genuinely deserves praise.
With the roof stashed out of sight at freeway speeds front seat occupants can still hear each other, and with the side glass raised, rear seat passengers aren’t too badly buffeted either.
ANCAP Rating: 4/5 Stars - The Range Rover Evoque scored 32.49 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2011 using data provided by Euro NCAP. This rating applies to five-door variants, the convertible is untested.
Safety Features: Five airbags (dual front, driver’s knee, front seat side), ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, Electronic stability and traction control, roll-stability control, pop-up roll-over protection, rear-view camera, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking.
Further safety features including surround-view camera, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lane keeping assist with fatigue detection are available as optional extras.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Service intervals for Evoque diesel models are every two years/34,000km (whichever occurs first). Land Rover offers pre-paid servicing plans that cover six years/102,000km worth of standard servicing for the Range Rover Evoque diesel, priced at $1210 - service costs may vary for other variants, contact your Land Rover dealer for more information.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Strictly speaking, the Range Rover Evoque doesn’t neatly fit into existing vehicle categories, it’s a true crossover in every sense of the word, combining two types of vehicle that probably couldn’t be more different if they tried.
That’s fine. There’s a very real chance this car will divide opinion, particularly in a market like Australia where sensible hatchbacks and underwhelming SUVs in various shades of white, silver, and grey seem to dominate the roads.
It may not be perfect (very few cars are) but it’s bold, daring, and a fun way for Land Rover to draw attention to itself, bringing adventurous new customers to showrooms who may not have ever otherwise found themselves there.
It may not survive into a second generation, it’s simply too early to tell, but as genuinely fun motoring with a distinctly different flavour the Evoque Convertible really does stand out from the pack.
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Range Rover Evoque - Prices, Features, and Specifications