From the Jungle Track at Eastnor Castle to the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and everything in between… meet a new Land Rover that really can claim to be in its element everywhere.
It’s a Range Rover Evoque but one with a twist: it’s a convertible. Banish now images of flapping canvas on soft-top Defenders. The new model – unveiled today ahead of its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 18th – promises to be just as much 130mph open-top sports coupe as it is rugged off-roader.
The car that people thought Land Rover would never build when it floated the idea of a convertible Evoque a couple of years ago, goes on sale in the UK next March at prices starting from £47,500 – it’s only available, to begin with at least, in top of the range HSE Dynamic form.
There’s a choice between either petrol (240PS) or diesel (180PS) four-cylinder engines, linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission with four-wheel drive.
Apart from the surprise of the car itself – and its combination of four seats, four-wheel drive and fresh air is certainly a rarity in the marketplace – everything else is as we expected after the various concepts, videos and teasers that have preceded its unveiling.
So that means a two-door that’s pretty much standard Evoque below the waist with an electrically operated fabric roof above it – it takes 18 seconds to disappear and you can go topless at speeds up to 30mph. There’s a small boot at the back, offering the same 251 litres of space whether or not the hood is down. While the back seats don’t fold down there is the option of a ski hatch. And it will still tow: with a detachable tow bar, up to 1,500kg can be pulled along behind.
Perhaps one surprise is that, while it’s certainly chunky, the design overall looks good, even sporty in a very Range Rover sort of way. Sleek? No, but the bold profile, uncluttered by protuberances, is surely as good as it could be. And with the hood up the soft-top Evoque has very crisp, coupe-like lines. All four windows retract fully so with no B pillars the car even has an elegant, pillarless look.
Other surprises? The car has had to be strengthened, and by quite a lot it seems because the weight has shot up by up to 300kg (the convertible weighs up to 1,967kg). Understandably there must have been some unique challenges in maintaining torsional rigidity in a vehicle sans roof but still designed to dangle its wheels over rocks, climb 45-degree hills and tilt over at 35 degrees…
Although the extra weight inevitably means a drop-off in performance (by about a second to 62mph, now 8.6seconds for the petrol, 10.3 for the diesel) it does also allow the company to say it is ‘every inch’ a Land Rover. With the same Terrain Response 4×4 system, hill descent control, ground clearance and wading depth (500mm) it is just as capable off-road as hard-top Evoques, says Land Rover. The most capable convertible ever? It’s difficult to argue against.
It should be just as capable too as the normal Evoque on-road, which is of course where the convertible will spend most if not all of its life – and where the Evoque has already won hearts for its fun drive. Now it’s fun with fresh air – plus the safety back-up of protection hoops that pop out of the rear quarters in a fraction of a second should a rollover situation be detected.
In £47,500 form the Evoque convertible is, as you would expect, comprehensively equipped as standard – you get a host of driver assist systems, leather, satnav and, from Jaguar, the new 10.2 inch high-resolution touchscreen infotainment system, the first time it has been used in a Land Rover. Other delights include ‘puddle lights’ (you know, the downward pointing lights under the doors mirrors) that project an outline of the car on the ground.
Land Rover says a full convertible model is a first, not only for the company but also in the global luxury compact SUV market (others, though, have had a go before at such a car, see more on that here). What is certainly true is that, however left-field the idea of a drop-top SUV sounds, four seats, four-wheel drive and fresh air is a very rare mix, at any price point. Well, what rivals for it can you think of?
With global SUV sales expected to grow by 20 per cent over the next five years Land Rover sees an opportunity here to make hay while the sun shines – and before others join the bandwagon.
As undoubtedly they will.…