2dr Convertible (2.0-litre TD4 diesel - 180PS / 2.0-litre Si4 petrol - 240PS)
If you think you've seen everything in this industry, then you probably haven't. We've had MPV coupes, Crossover estates and hybrid electric super cars. Why not an SUV cabrio too? That's what's on offer here in the form of this Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
There have of course been quite a few Land Rovers with soft tops. Go back to the Series 1 model of 1948 and the only way you could have it was with a canvas roof - but of course that's not quite the same thing. It's probably more pertinent to point out that prior to the launch of this car in the Spring of 2016, there had never been a Range Rover with a convertible bodystyle, apart from a few ill-conceived after-market conversions.
The concept behind it is as polarising as Donald Trump, something you'll either absolutely love or completely fail to see the point of. What's not up for debate is the thoroughness of the engineering on offer here. This Convertible model retains all the off road ability of its fixed top stablemates, can comfortably seat four adults and offers a five layer folding fabric hood that can seal out anything the weather can throw at it.
In concept, this car may be answering a question that previously no one was asking, but then all successful innovation starts that way. No one was asking for an SUV that could scale Snowdon then take you to the opera before the Range Rover first provided it in 1970. And no one was asking for a compact 4x4 with the cutting edge style of a sportscar before the Evoque first delivered it in 2011. With the Evoque Convertible, Land Rover moved the game on again, but this was perhaps a niche too far. It sold until 2019, when an all-new MK2 Evoque model range arrived, not including a Convertible variant.
What You Get
Translating a concept car into a production reality can be fraught with pitfalls and problems - which is why it took Land Rover four years to get this model into the showrooms, following its initial showing at the Paris Motor Show in 2012. You can imagine the head-scratching that must have gone on amongst the engineers. For a start, there would have been the usual issue that affects any cabrio design, that of maintaining torsional rigidity without a roof, a crucial consideration here given the need to retain in this variant the Evoque's trademark sharp handling. On top of that, convertible models aren't usually designed to pitch themselves at extreme angles, yet to maintain a Land Rover's standard of off road prowess, this one needed to be able to tilt to up to 35-degrees, without upsetting the kind of electronic roll-over protection system that any modern open-topped car these days has to have.
It's all been achieved though, thanks primarily to a very strong base structure that uses higher-strength steel in the door sills, added chassis bracings and larger-diameter anti-roll bars. Whatever the position of its top, the car has quite a purposeful stance that's embellished by nearly all the things that set any ordinary Evoque apart as a piece of pavement sculpture. Overall, it's a shape that works anywhere - on paper, in the showroom, on the Kings Road: wherever.
Inside, you'll find that the at-the-wheel experience is very much as it would be in any other Evoque. Well, in any other very plush Evoque anyway. Befitting their premium status in the line-up, Convertible models come as standard with luxurious 'Oxford' ebony leather upholstery, electrically-adjustable heated seats and top touches like illuminated tread plates and 'Configurable Mood Lighting'. The other key difference over an ordinary Evoque relates to the infotainment system, the 8-inch 'InControl' centre-dash touchscreen you'd normally get replaced here by a wider, more sophisticated-looking standard-fit 10.2-inch 'InControl Touch Pro' set-up.
And in the back? Well on the plus side, there's more head, shoulder and legroom than you'd get from a comparably-priced executive cabrio. Which would make it very comfortable in the back were it not for the fact that to accommodate the rear roof compartment, Land Rover had to position the backrests at quite a vertical angle. Go for a car whose original owner paid extra for the optional 'Ski Hatch' and you get a centre armrest. And the boot? Well we'd originally hoped that, in proper Range Rover style, this car would feature a fold-down boot lid you could sit on. Instead, there's the mild inconvenience of a lift-up one, though it can be operated by gesture control if you get a plush variant. Inside, instead of the 420-litre luggage area you'd get in an Evoque Coupe, capacity is limited to 251-litres. Still, at least the capacity doesn't alter with the position of the roof.
What to Look For
Land Rover products have been featuring much improved build quality in recent years but our owner survey revealed that the brand still has a little way to go to match its German rivals in this regard. We came across several owners who'd had issues, though none related to the powered hood. One found the headlamps filling up with water, had continuous coolant loss and found his car continually steaming from its exhaust five minutes or more after being turned off. Some complained about the sat nav (apparently it works better with the 'ProNav' upgrade applied to later cars). There were issues with the radio losing sound and the digital clock freezing (apparently, this can be fixed with a software update).
Another owner experienced a loose exhaust heat shield, a wire detached from the vanity light and his Evoque had to go through three sets of brake pads to try and stop a brakes squeal. The service light on this particular model came on after 7k miles and it needed an Adblue refill every 5,000 miles, rather than the 16,000 mile interval quoted. The door handle cover comes off if you jet wash it and some owners found that some of the external trim felt loose. The Aluminium centre console is very soft and can be dented by the seatbelt clip as its buckle is down the side. One owner experienced a fuel leak when refuelling that caused smoke from under car and found that vapours shot from the filler neck when refuelling. We also came across problems with DPF filter failures. In short, there are a few rogue examples out there: we'd advise buying from a dealer, insisting on a fully stamped-up service history and choosing carefully. Check for the usual scratched alloys, signs of off roading damage and child damage in the back.
(based on 2016 Range Rover Evoque Convertible TD4 - approx excl. VAT) A fuel filter costs in the £27 to £46 bracket and an air filter will cost around £26. An oil filter will be in the £8-£15 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £33 to £44 bracket for a set, though you could pay up to around £76 to £88 for a pricier brand. For rear brake pads, think £31-£55. Front brake discs are around £102-£155. For rear discs, think £120-£170, though you could pay up to around £120 to £170 for a pricier brand. A timing belt will be around £68-£77.
On the Road
So, what's it like to drive? Very nice indeed actually. The high-set driving position you get with any proper SUV feels even better when the roof's removed and you're able to enjoy the psychological superiority of peering over hedges and looking down on less fortunate folk who draw up alongside. The downside of this design is the extra 280kgs of weight it has to carry around, courtesy of the additional chassis strengthening necessary to maintain torsional rigidity and of course the Webasto hood mechanism. That fabric hood can be lowered in just 18 seconds, then raised again in 21 seconds, all at speeds of up to 30mph.
As a result of its extra bulk, this open Evoque doesn't change direction with the eagerness you'd get from a fixed-top model and, in a further bid to reduce chassis flex over the bumps, must ride a lot more firmly. As you might expect, it's a bit slower than a conventional model too, though in the TD4 diesel version - the variant almost everyone will buy - that lethargy is masked to some extent by the willing pulling power of the 2.0-litre 180PS Ingenium engine. This unit can't be as frugal here as it is in a conventional Evoque, but it still manages 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and carbon dioxide emissions of 149g/km. These are a lot better than the figures you'll get from the alternative powerplant offered to buyers of this variant - a 240PS 2.0-litre Si4 petrol unit. Both engines come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard and also benefit from Land Rover's superb 'Terrain Response' and 'All-Terrain Progress Control' systems that work with the permanent 4WD set-up to ease you over difficult terrain.