The Range Rover Evoque has been around since 2011 and is in danger of becoming last year’s must-have. With an ever-increasing number of upmarket SUVs on the market (including competition from within JLR – Jaguar has recently launched the larger F-Pace SUV), how could Land Rover make a statement by offering something a bit… daring?
The answer is the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, first seen by the press and car aficionados alike at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. The reaction was, naturally, varied. Chopping the roof off the fashion-statement Evoque isn’t going to win support from traditional Land Rover customers.
I have to confess, it was with more than a smidgen of scepticism that I flew out to Lyon to drive it. The plan was simple: collect the car at the airport, acquire a woolly hat and head for the hills like Bear Grylls (if Bear drove an orange lifestyle SUV and holidayed at upmarket ski resorts).
Fortunately, I’d packed light: finding something to immediately criticise was easy: the Evoque Convertible’s boot is tiny. OK, maybe not tiny, but considerably smaller than the standard model’s, and the letterbox-slot access makes things tricky. While you could take the family away in it (it’s a four-seater), you might need a Discovery following as a support vehicle for all their luggage. Very Bear Grylls.
So the Evoque Convertible doesn’t score highly on practicality, but it is very good at two things: tackling snow, and posing. The latter is fairly self-explanatory (as we headed towards the prestigious Courchevel ski resort in the French Alps, our Evoque Convertible got many looks from passers-by), but it’s genuinely surprising how capable it is.
We did some fairly serious off roading and it coped with ease. Most buyers won’t do anything remotely like this (it’s unlikely to appeal to would-be Defender buyers), but it shows how much engineering has gone into firming up the Evoque’s architecture to prevent it flexing like a shatterproof ruler.
While they may not drive off-road, some buyers might use it in snowy conditions. And for that, it really comes into its own. It’s not light (we’ll come to that in a minute), but it is lighter than its larger Land Rover siblings, meaning the clever traction control systems don’t have to work quite so hard to defy physics on snowy mountain roads.
All the extra gubbins that comes with a drop-top means the Evoque Convertible does carry a weight penalty over the standard Evoque, which is noticeable if you’re after swift performance. It’s not as quick, but that’s not what this car’s all about. It’s much better when you lower the roof and just cruise.
Around town, with the top down, visibility is (naturally) fantastic. You get a better view of your surroundings than a conventional convertible, and would no doubt provide oodles of feel-good factor on those rare summer days we occasionally get in the City.
With the roof up, visibility isn’t quite so good. There are blind spots – but all models come with 360-degree cameras to keep an eye out for cyclists.
If you want the latest fashion accessory, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible should be top of your list for summer 2016. But I must admit (perhaps a bit reluctantly) that it’s more than just a fashion accessory. It’s a premium SUV that can tackle summer in the city and winter in the Alps. Just don’t expect Range Rover levels of practicality.