First Drive: Range Rover Evoque Convertible

They’ve done what?

When I was testing the new Audi SQ7 back in May, I thought it was a fantastically unnecessary car, despite its brilliance. At no point did I think “What this SUV really needs is the roof lopping off.”

Nissan tried a convertible SUV once in the form of the Murano. It was awful, and sales were almost non-existent. After just three years in production, it was dropped.

That hasn’t put the guys at Land Rover off, which is why I’m now driving the Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

They’ve done more than just cut the roof off, re-engineering things significantly to make sure that this SUVertible retains the Evoqueness of the Evoque. There’s enough under-body bracing and boron-strengthened windscreen pillars to ensure that rigidity is, as near as it matters, at the same level of the regular three-door model. Very occasionally there’s a little shimmer from the rear view mirror, hinting at a small degree of flexing, but it’s far better controlled than on some lesser, and more traditional, models.

That does come at the expense of an extra 300kg or so of weight which has a noticeable effect on performance, meaning getting from standstill to a hair-ruffling 62mph takes 9.7 seconds. However, Evoque Convertible buyers are likely to be more concerned by the roof-to-topless time of 18 seconds.

And it’s with the roof down that I tackled freezing temperatures and occasional downpours – don’t be misled by the beautiful photographs of me driving in blazing sun and clear blue skies, it really was cold. With heaters on full it’s a pleasant car to cruise in, but allow the speed to creep up too far and there’s quite a breeze that zips around the windscreen. Put the windows up and it improves, but there’s a wind deflector that slots into place over the rear seats that transforms things for the better.

This deflector is an option on some models, and renders the rear seats unusable, so it’s a compromise that some won’t be able to make. However, if you’re just two-up then it’s worth the investment.

Those rear seats promise the same amount of headroom as the five-door car (with the roof up, I assume) and the same legroom as in the three-door Evoque, although no mention is made of shoulder room – that’s tight, with the seats moved inwards to leave room for the roof structure and motors.

The roof itself is a five-layer fabric fitting, and it leaves the Evoque gloriously refined once it’s up. Land Rover insists there’s no difference in noise levels between the regular roof and the convertible roof, and I don’t doubt that claim. Raindrops are barely audible, wind noise is low and there’s no vibration from the fabric.

If it wasn’t for the fact that people keep looking at you, you could forget you were driving a convertible.

You won’t forget you’re driving an SUV, though. While the Evoque is one of the better cars of its ilk to drive, the car turns into a bit of a mess at extremes. Understeer kicks in earlier than you’d hope and the body roll is a little inconsistent. Initial turn in on corners is strong though, which sends mixed messages to the driver. Best to back off and stick to a gentle cruise.

If that cruise happens to take you across a damp field then Land Rover’s four-wheel drive history comes to the fore, making mincemeat of a forest track and grassy hill despite the road-tyres fitted to the test car. Granted, pretty much any car could have made it through, but there was no Darien Gap available to really test the car to its limits.

Interestingly, the convertible won’t be available as a front-wheel drive model so the 4×4 system is standard and, as it’s the same system as on the regular Evoque, it should stand up to some quite testing conditions. Just be careful what tyres you’ve got fitted.

Elsewhere, it’s all standard Evoque. That mean’s there’s an ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 178bhp and a handy 430Nm of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Economy is a promised 49.6mpg, while CO2 emissions come in at 149g/km. That translates to a hefty 27% Benefit in Kind burden for company car drivers, made heftier still by the substantial price tag.

The Evoque Convertible was never going to be cheap, but a starting price of £47,500 is £4,100 more than the equivalent three-door, and an astonishing £14,500 more than the entry-level Evoque.

Part of that is made up by the fact that there’s ‘base’ model, the range consisting of just top-spec HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux. They’re loaded with equipment, including the latest version of Land Rover’s infotainment system. This 10-inch touchscreen controls virtually everything and works very well, with mobile-phone like pinch, swipe and prod actions all available.

None of what I’ve written actually matters though. As long as it performs the basic duties of a car and looks good while doing it, then Land Rover has done its job. Whether you agree that it’s done that is a different matter.

The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is, without any doubt, the most polarising car to arrive in the UK for many a year, but love it or hate it, it will sell by the transporter load.

Model Tested: Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible TD4 HSE Dynamic Lux
Price: £51,700
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 121 mph
0-62 mph: 9.7 seconds
Power: 180 PS (178 bhp)
Torque: 430 Nm (317 ft lb)
Official fuel economy: 49.6 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 149 g/km
VED Band: F / £145 per year
Car insurance group: 41E
Kerb weight: 1,967 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.