First Drive: 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible
– Detroit, Michigan
I took it to Starbucks. Honestly, I couldn’t think of what else to do when the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible (what a mouthful) showed up at the Motor1 office. And while Land Rover will happily show you proof that the topless Evoque is just as capable off road as its other SUVs, I feel like the Starbucks drive-thru is probably a more appropriate test of this car’s capabilities.
The Evoque Convertible is a weird little thing. But I actually think if any vehicle is going to pull off the crossover-cabriolet thing here in the U.S., this is the one. Comparisons to the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet are indeed warranted, but this is different. The Evoque is already the perfect definition of a lifestyle vehicle, driven by fashionable, well-heeled people in fashionable, well-heeled places. If you’re going to go all-in on that luxury/lifestyle choice, go big or go home. Get the Evoque Convertible. It’s actually a lot of fun.
It’ll carry four adults in reasonable comfort, and you can still ford up a river on the way to the mall, as long as the water doesn’t exceed a depth of 19.6 inches.
The formula here is simple: Take one Evoque Coupe (yeah, those still exist), chop off the roof, and there you have it. Because of that, the Convertible retains all of the standard Evoque’s capability. It’ll carry four adults in reasonable comfort, and you can still ford up a river on the way to the mall, as long as the water doesn’t exceed a depth of 19.6 inches.
It retains all of the standard Evoque’s style, too. Especially here with the optional 20-inch wheels at all four corners, the Evoque looks great in two-door, topless trim. The small spoiler out back is a convertible-only update, and looks pretty good here. Taken as a whole, the Evoque Convertible is both butch and chic, combining sharp lines and creases in a fashion-forward package. With the top up, the original Evoque design remains intact, with large enough side windows to alleviate blind spots, and a small rear hatch window that allows for decent-ish visibility out the back.
The Z-fold mechanism contorts the roof in such a way that it neatly stows behind the rear seats – it doesn’t bunch up like, say, a Beetle Convertible. The fabric roof can be raised or lowered in a scant 21 seconds, at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. It’s fully automatic, no levers or latches. The only tough part is finding the control lever – it’s hidden inside the covered center compartment, next to the cup holders.
It’s kind of a fatty. But you aren’t buying this thing for its spritely performance or fuel-mizing abilities, anyway.
Like the rest of the Evoque range, the Convertible is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, with 240 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission manages the power, and the Convertible comes standard with adaptive all-wheel drive. This specific nine-speed auto isn’t as clunky and off-putting as it is in other 9AT applications, like the Jeep Cherokee, but it still fails to deliver smooth shifts at times, often lagging on downshifts and clunkily upshifting.
The huge difference here is the added weight. The Evoque Convertible weighs in at a portly 4,525 pounds – around 400 pounds more than the four-door hardtop – and that’s noticeable as far as dynamics are concerned. This car is hardly quick, with a 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds, or 1.5 seconds slower than the equivalent hardtop Evoque. And even with its relatively low power output and small engine, you’ll only see about 23 miles per gallon in combined driving. So yeah, it’s kind of a fatty. But you aren’t buying this thing for its spritely performance or fuel-mizing abilities, anyway.
Even on 20-inch wheels, the ride is comfortable, and the Evoque doesn’t hate being pushed through a corner.
It’s the hilarity of driving a crossover convertible that makes this Evoque so interesting. It’s still relatively small, and easy to maneuver. But because it rides high you have a commanding seating position and great visibility. Even on 20-inch wheels, the ride is comfortable, and the Evoque doesn’t hate being pushed through a corner. Yes, it rolls a bunch, but no more than its hardtop sibling. The added weight honestly helps keep it planted most of the time. The steering is quick to respond, with sharp turn-in and a nice heft. And while there’s a fair amount of turbo lag, once you get past that initial dead zone, power builds progressively and it all feels perfectly adequate. 0-60 time aside, the Evoque can pass with poise.
From behind the wheel, won’t notice any big differences between the Evoque Convertible and its coupe counterpart (except, uh, the roof being gone). The interior is nicely appointed with soft leather on the dash and doors, and the center stack is logically organized with HVAC controls and other functions, Land Rover’s round gear selector prominently in the middle. The company’s new InControl Touch infotainment screen is a huge step forward from the previous system, and the 10.2-inch color display is bright and beautiful in the center stack. It’s still a little laggy to the touch, but make no mistake, InControl is a vast improvement over what Land Rover used before, and is a fully modern and robust infotainment package.
To everyone else, it’s not a crossover convertible, it’s a droptop Range Rover.
All of this comes at a price, though: $52,000 to start, or roughly $65,000 as-tested in this HSE Dynamic trim with a number of goodies added on. To put it in perspective, you can have a very lovely Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet for just under $51,000. That, of course, is a more conventional approach, and I wouldn’t trust a C300 to wade through a river. Not that any Evoque Convertibles will actually do that sort of thing, unless the Starbucks floods, but the point is, they can. It’s not about what you will do, it’s about what you can do. I mean, hell, the Evoque Convertible will tow 3,300 pounds if you ask it to. Lifestyle!
Seriously, though, there’s a lot to like here. It’s cool and stylish like an Evoque, you can drive it anywhere (mountain-top shopping malls, anyone?), and people really seem to like it. Thinking back to my time in a Murano CrossCab, no one knew what the hell to make of the thing. But in talking to folks on the street with this Evoque, they’re impressed – to them, it’s not a crossover convertible, it’s a droptop Range Rover.
Think of it that way, and this Evoque starts to make a bit more sense. It’s the Evoque’s lifestyle factor turned up to eleven, and it’s a strangely satisfying way to experience a different kind of open-air motoring.
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Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com