Range Rover Evoque Convertible review - drop-top SUV carves a new niche
Land Rover’s niche-within-a-niche will undoubtedly be successful, but some rivals are still more fun to drive
What is it?
There can be few cars on the market where a review score is less important to the people that buy them than the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
Given the attention the roofless Evoque garnered around the glitzy ski resort of Courchevel, it is a car that will sell on image alone - if the car’s image tallies with your own, that is. But review it we must, if only to discover whether Land Rover’s claims of driving fun hold true.
Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time
Evoque Convertible powerplants and transmissions are as-per the Coupe and five-door equivalents: Both 2-litres, both turbocharged, one diesel and one petrol.
The diesel is Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Ingenium’ unit, which makes 178bhp and 317lb ft of torque. It’ll also do 49.6mpg in this application, which seems reasonable but does lag the lighter coupe (see ‘Technical highlights’) by a whole 8mpg. It’ll reach 62mph in 10.3sec and top out at 121mph.
The petrol - not driven here - is the brisker of the pair, with an 8.6sec 0-62mph time and 130mph top speed, thanks to its 237bhp and 251lb ft outputs. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range.
We’re loath to describe the addition of around 250kg of chassis bracing - necessary to mitigate unwanted effects of lopping off the roof - as a technical “highlight”, but according to Land Rover it’s enough to give the Convertible similar twist-resistance to the fixed-roof versions.
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The sills are thicker than before and large cross-bracing elements are affixed beneath the chassis. Their worth was demonstrated to us by perching a car on uneven obstacles - putting the car’s entire weight on just the front offside and rear nearside wheels - before opening and closing both doors and the boot with ease.
The downside, as implied, is weight. At 1687kg, a Td4 Dynamic Lux coupe is already portly. The Convertible in identical trim compresses the scales at 1967kg.
What’s it like to drive?
There’s no hiding that extra weight, particularly when accelerating or braking. Acceleration from rest feels more sluggish than the 1.3-second on-paper deficit to the Td4 coupe suggests, and the smell of overworked brakes is ever-present even in moderately brisk driving. Spongy pedal feel does little to add confidence when steaming into a downhill hairpin, though the stopping power is there when you need it.
Unfortunately, the Evoque’s nine-speed gearbox is a bigger barrier to quick driving: even in Sport mode it takes a while to think about the appropriate gear for firing out of corners, and using the manual paddles is largely futile. They’re slow to respond, and hanging onto lower gears for better progress only invites the vocal Ingenium diesel to disturb the slick roof-down image.
The extra mass returns when cornering, though Land Rover has done an admirable job of masking the car’s bulk with responsive, consistent steering, decent body control, and good balance. There’s not much steering feel and the Evoque does call upon its stability systems when attempting quick direction changes, but since this happens at a pace far above that which most owners are likely to experience, one has to conclude that the Convertible’s dynamics are fit for purpose.
There’s good grip too (despite our test car wearing snow tyres) and efforts to stiffen the chassis have been successful - jiggles and shimmies are largely absent. The ride is firm but never gets close to being uncomfortable.
Barrelling along a sunny Alpine pass with the top down, the Evoque Convertible was actually quite good fun, despite its bulk and overworked engine. On a rainy day in Britain though, with the visibility-compromising roof up, you might be better off with the lighter, quicker, thriftier Coupe or five-door - or one of the Evoque’s more dynamically-accomplished rivals.
Price and rivals
Our test car - a Td4 HSE Dynamic Lux - costs a not-inconsiderable £51,700, though in regular HSE Dynamic spec pricing starts at £47,500. The Si4 petrol HSE Dynamic begins at £48,200.
As we said at the top, nothing we say here will put off a customer already sold on the Evoque Convertible’s looks, but if dynamics are a priority there’s still only one car we can really recommend in this class, and that’s the Porsche Macan. There is no convertible variant (don’t get any ideas, Porsche…) but an entry price of £43,553 seems good value (particularly given the 6.9-second 0-60mph time) and the Evoque simply can’t match its polished chassis.