Range Rover Evoque Convertible blows into town like a refreshing drink
SINGAPORE – Car companies are constantly creating new niches, but with the Evoque Convertible, Range Rover could have stumbled upon the mother of all niches-within-a-niche: the soft-top convertible SUV. It defies categorisation with any of today’s labels, which isn’t so surprising considering it reminds me more of the past than the present or even the future.
Although unique in the market today, it’s not the first. That award goes to the Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet, but while the Juke we have with us today is/was a massive hit, the Crosscabriolet was only on sale for three years in a limited market before Nissan pulled the plug. The cost of developing the Crosscabrio was high, because most of it was brand new and not shared with the regular Murano. Luckily, this didn’t put off Range Rover from betting on its equivalent; it also helps that the Evoque Convertible is largely based on the 3dr Evoque.
As far as a automotive statements go, no other car will make the other road-users rubberneck as much, except maybe a Rolls-Royce Dawn with an orange interior. Especially if the Evoque Convertible is bright orange. As ours was. On the highway, we made many overtaking cars on the right slow down, but we’re not sure if they were in awe, or laughing at us three blokes in an orange crossover convertible.
Given Singapore’s weather, I hardly put the roof down in the daytime, especially since it attracts judging glares from people thinking, “Look at how stupid that guy is.” Not that we care, of course. However, strangely enough in the Evoque, I never felt self-conscious. This can probably be attributed to the lofty ride height, which gives you an added sense of security. In most other low-slung convertibles, the other road users are looking down on you, but certainly not in this.
Besides having a drop-top and its associated hardware take up a fair bit of the bootspace, the Evoque convertible is largely the same as the its coupe counterpart. There is an updated multimedia system, which is now easier to navigate and reminds me a little of a Windows ‘Start’ menu. The interior layout is straightforward and as tactile as before, with coverings of soft leather to ensure your passengers don’t mistake it for a ‘normal’ Land Rover.
My main gripe is that the front seats take their time in moving forward for passengers to get into the back, much like an old British butler who refuses to be rushed. The backseat itself is a squeeze for plus sized adults as they seem better suited for fetching lithe yogis from yoga class.
Driving with the rag-top up, I would have preferred if the roof was better insulated as a bit too much wind noise found its way into the cabin. Luckily, our testcar came with the fabulously powerful Meridian sound system to drown out the wind noise and with the top down, it further cocoons us from the traffic noise. The bass from this system is so strong, it rattles the whole car when cranked up to 11.
Under the bonnet beats the familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot that produces 236bhp/340Nm. We can’t tell if it was our imagination, but it felt a little more lethargic, probably due to the added weight of the convertible hardware. The 9spd auto gave us the ability to waft on the expressway and the exhaust emitted a lovely muted howl not unlike a sporty V6, but it can sound a little gruff when the car is overloaded with people.
Convertibles tend to suffer from poorer rigidity compared to their hardtop counterparts and this car is no exception. The suspension tends to be a little crashy over the harshest of roads and bumps, but funnily enough, loading the back seat with people made the ride really pliant. It may not be a sportscar, but the Evoque never feels out of place being driven briskly through the back-roads.
With the top-up and all windows down, the Evoque Convertible reminded me most of a Series 1 Land Rover Defender, which came with a canvas canopy and no air conditioning. We did a bit of offroading for the photoshoot and when driving the Evoque, it brought me right back to my National Service days.
Being so exposed and the ability to venture into the Great Outdoors endows the Evoque with an evocative charm. It can even be optioned with the full Terrain Response system so it can be a serious offroader, although we doubt many buyers will even venture onto a grass patch, let alone an off-road course. At least when there’s a heavy thunderstorm, your bright cabriolet won’t find itself stuck in a flood.
With the introduction of the convertible to the Evoque range, the five-door now starts to feel a bit too serious, especially since the Evoque Convertible brings some fun back into the compact SUV segment. It properly embodies the spirit of original compact SUVs like the Defender and the Wrangler, but successfully transplants this into a modern iteration. The car is bursting at the seams with charisma, and although a convertible SUV is niche too far removed for many, we can’t think of a more adventurous brand than Land Rover / Range Rover in bringing it to life. STORY SEAN TAY / PHOTOS ZOTIQ VISUALS
Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Engine: 1999cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission: 9spd auto
Top speed: 209km/h
Fuel consumption: 8.6l/100km
This feature first appeared in Top Gear Singapore #62 (May 2017)