(Pocket-lint) - Land Rover has taken the top off its Range Rover Evoque to make it convertible. Sounds simple, but this good-looking topless SUV is a feat of modern design, engineering and manufacturing.
This is the first convertible Range Rover, other than the Queen's bespoke model of course – but who'd want to run down to the shops in that? Apart from the Jeep Wrangler, there aren't many convertible SUV options out there.
We've driven the hard top Evoque, so the question with the Convertible is whether it can offer the same premium experience and handling both on and off-road, without compromise.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible comes in 4WD 2.0-litre Ingenium automatic with 180bhp and 240bhp engine options, starting at £47,500. We took it to the roads, complete with its striking tangerine coat of paint, to see what this convertible Range feels like.
The Range Rover Evoque hardtop starts at Â£30,600 for a manual 2.0 litre diesel. So if you want the new Convertible you're going to need to find an extra Â£17,000 at least. Our test model, at around Â£50,000, is dangerously close to Porsche levels of pricing.
But what sells the Evoque Convertible is that there's more-or-less nothing else like it on the market. It comes from a strong stock too: this topless Evoque feels spacious in the front, offers enough power to make you feel in control both on and off-road, and has the stunning InControl Touch Pro system as standard.
It's stunning to look at too. So if you want a soft-top and an SUV, while making a statement at the same time, nothing will do better than the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. It'll set the trend for convertible SUVs, much like the Evoque led the way for stylish, compact SUVs.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible first drive: Top down, revs up
Range Rover Evoque Convertible preview: Design and build
The Evoque Convertible is here to make a lasting impression. Coming from the attractively designed hardtop model it's already off to a good start - it looks much the same, like it's had its top simply cut off.
While that might seem simple at first glance it's actually an impressive feat of engineering. Removing the roof not only means the car loses strength and torsional rigidity but also adds risk if it were to flip. To counter this there are a lot of changes under the outer shell to offer levels of support that allow that window frame enough strength to hold the car's weight, should it invert. There's even safety roll-over bars that fire out of the rear, like car airbags, to support the passengers in the event of a flip. Not that we flipped it, but it's reassuring to know it should be safe.
From safety to sassy: the Convertible looks sleek thanks to those familiar lines that the Evoque is famous for. Side-on it almost looks smaller than the hardtop, even with the soft-top up – possibly thanks to body coloured side skirts. But this is still and SUV with decent riding position and height. It also has high sides which make you feel enveloped and protected from the wind.
The Convertible has a deeper front bumper than the original Evoque, which combines with the optional slim adaptive LED lights and larger air intakes to give it a more aggressive look. Wheels range from 17-inch to 20-inches, adding yet more beast points to the car.
The roof, a central part of this car, is a light fabric soft-top which can fold up in 18-seconds or rise out in 21-seconds – both while moving at up to 30mph. Despite this you still get the Evoque's 251-litre capacity boot storage, although don't expect a great deal of height. The rear seats are also snug but offer enough room for a comfortable ride if you've got the front seats forward enough.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible preview: Power and performance
The Evoque isn't made to blow your socks off and while the Evoque convertible can blow your hair back, it isn't going to win many races. Both model options feature 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve engines with 9-speed automatic gearboxes.
The top-spec model manages 240bhp, which equates to a 0-60mph time of 8.6-seconds, which isn't too bad. The entry-level 180bhp model will do it in 10.3-seconds. So on paper they're not mad fast, but in reality, with the top down, it feels super quick. There's enough power to get you where you want and to overtake if you need – it does the job. There is lag when you put your foot down but then a steady progression of acceleration from there.
Bear in mind that the 180bhp model will offer a combine 46mpg while the 240bhp version tops out at 32mpg, according to Land Rover.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible preview: Handling and comfort
This car is an SUV, albeit a compact one, meaning it's not built to cling to corners like a race car. That said, for something that's also heavy, it handles well enough both on and off-road.
The high ride position gives good visibility, but you're still low enough to feel the corners when going at speed - although there's a little waft at times, not that it's quite like driving an orange bouncy castle. The Torque Vectoring by Braking does a lot of needed correction work for you here.
What the Evoque Convertible is built for is comfort when on the go. The Electric Power Assisted Steering adapts well automatically to offer lighter steering at lower speeds, like when parking, and becomes tighter when moving at pace. The result is a decent level of responsiveness on roads and easy handling around town. The turning circle is also impressive, making short work of any tight turn-arounds.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible preview: Smart driving and infotainment
The InControl Touch Pro infotainment system comes with the Evoque Convertible as standard, including a 10.2-inch screen, which already outdoes the standard Evoque's 8-inch display.
This system is an exciting offering as Land Rover is working hard with app developers to create a setup that will enhance its cars with software updates for years to come. The touchscreen system offers pinch-to-zoom and general interactivity that feels more like using a tablet than a car system. Although, and as we said of the Jaguar XE, using touchscreen while on-the-go doesn't always feel like the most logical option, in terms of safety. As you can see in the picture below the angle of the screen isn't ideal for direct sunlight either with very little to be seen.
All this and the Convertible is 3G connected for in-car internetting too. How, without that rear twin fin antennae on the roof, you ask? There are two antennae mounted in the bumper and rear seats to ensure connectivity is possible.
The system also offers plenty of audio power with a 10-speaker, 380W, dual-channel subwoofer surround-sound Meridian Audio setup as standard. It sounds really, really good, even at high volumes while driving with the top down. So if you want to blast out some classical Bach as you saunter round your local rowing club car park, you're all set. Or maybe you're more a 50 Cent kind of person.
As standard you get lane assist, parking sensors and cruise control, but you'll need to shell out around £3,000 more for the upgraded LUX model extras. That includes automatic parking, 360-degree cameras, blindspot monitoring, keyless entry, traffic sign recognition a wind deflector, auto headlamps with High Beam Assist and more.