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James Cleary road tests and reviews the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible SE Dynamic TD4 180 diesel, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you always should, like posting that hilarious nude selfie on social media, saying yes to a sixth margarita, or invading Russia in winter.
And that's exactly the thought that came to mind when Range Rover released first pics of its Evoque Convertible. Obviously, Land Rover has the technical expertise to lop the top off its ground-breaking compact SUV. It could probably slip the roof off the Houston Astrodome (before lunch). But is it a good idea?
Legendary examples of inappropriate roof removal came to mind. Who can forget the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, or the gloriously inglorious Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet? What were the designers and product planners thinking... or smoking?
But with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible teetering on the edge of the basket marked, 'Misguided attempts at lifestyle-focused range expansions', Jackson rode by.
Twelve-year old Jackson lives next door, and if you ever needed proof that kids still love cars, he's it. Constantly scrutinising each piece of shiny new metal that slides into our driveway, he's a Lambo fan with a keen, cool-hunting eye. And all he could say on first contact with the Evoque was, "That's awesome."
Okay, maybe I should pull my head in and think again? And as it turned out, Jackson wasn't the only one. Any preconceived ideas about the relative merits of this car were soon modified by a host of admirers keen to know more about the convertible of their dreams.
Land Rover's design director, Gerry McGovern, managed the rare feat of getting a genuine concept car past the keeper and into production, when his team's LRX one-off went (more or less unchanged) from Detroit show-stopper in 2008 to showroom floor, as the Evoque, in 2011.
The car is offered globally in three door 'Coupe' and full five door configuration, with McGovern taking a gas axe to the former to create the Evoque Convertible, which arrived here in late 2015.
The distinctive nose, front guards and doors remain unchanged from the hardtop, but the bodywork from there back has been substantially re-engineered to accommodate a 'Z-fold' fabric roof, structured to retain the coupe's silhouette when in place.
If you're looking at this Evoque and somehow thinking, 'Yeah, it's an SUV, it's practical', think again.
The electrically-controlled roof folds away in 18 seconds and raises in 21 seconds, operating in either direction at speeds up to 50km/h. The soft-top is neatly packaged, folding flat into the rear deck area, leaving room for a modest (251 litre) boot. The Evoque's signature tail-lights and twin exhaust set-up are also in place.
Inside, there's some pragmatic Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) parts sharing, with the 10.2-inch colour multimedia screen, TFT info screen between the main gauges, cupholders, rotary transmission controller, even the key, likely to look familiar to any Jag XE owner.
Otherwise, the interior is largely identical to the hardtop with uniformly grey materials (leather on the seats) offset by brushed metal inserts across the centre of the dash and along the edges of the centre console, as well as small piano black elements here and there.
If you're looking at this Evoque and somehow thinking, 'Yeah, it's an SUV, it's practical', think again. That might be true of the hardtop, but not here.
The fixed-roof Evoque is currently offered in Australia as a five door only, with the three door quietly making an exit (after four years in market) in the last half of 2016.
With rear seats upright, the five door offers 575 litres of load space, already more than double the volume of the Convertible's (251 litre) boot. Drop the five door's middle row and you're looking at 1445 litres, which is close to six times the drop-top's cargo capacity.
In stark contrast, we couldn't fit the CarsGuide pram into the Convertible's boot no matter how we manhandled it, although you will get a decent size hard suitcase and some soft bags in there.
There's an optional ($520) through port to accommodate the skis for a weekend off piste, but the rear seats don't fold, so it's definitely a case of day-trip rather than long-distance capacity.
Having lost two doors and the roof, you also give up a seat in the Convertible, with four positions available.
With roof up, head and legroom in the back (for this 183cm occupant) is surprisingly generous, and with the top down, headroom increases significantly. Big tick also for individual ventilation outlets for rear seat passengers.
Cupholder count tops out at two (in the centre console). Bins in the front doors and beside the rear seat passengers are reasonably large, but not shaped specifically to hold bottles. There's also a lidded oddments box between the front seats, a discreet tray hidden behind the curve of the console as it sweeps up to meet the dash, and a decent sized glove box.
There's a 12-volt outlet in the boot, with another alongside a pair of USB ports in the cabin.
Our SE Dynamic TD4 (diesel) is the entry-point at $85,343, with a $7.5k spread up to the top-spec HSE Dynamic Si4 (petrol) at $92,800.
That money puts this car squarely in the sights of the G3, with the same figure buying some pretty flash convertible metal from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. So you want to be certain you're ready to make an 'individual' choice and in saying yes to the Evoque Convertible, and say no to the Audi A5 1.8 TFSI Cabriolet, BMW M240i Convertible and Mercedes-Benz C200 Cabriolet.
Despite tipping the scales at a sturdy 1967kg this convertible is huge fun to drive.
If you are intent on heading down the Evoque SE Dynamic Convertible road, standard equipment includes cruise control, sat nav, auto wipers and headlights, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, a 'Dynamic Design Pack' (body-coloured cladding on the lower doors, and dark cladding on the wheel arches, sills and bumpers), perforated grained leather trim, electric front seats with memory settings on both sides, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, climate control air (with rear vents), ambient interior lighting, front and rear parking sensors, '360 degree Park Assist', keyless entry, a 5.0-inch colour TFT info screen (in the centre of the instrument binnacle), and an 11-speaker Meridian audio system.
Standard wheels are 18-inch alloys with 17s a no-cost option, while our car was fitted with optional '5 Split-Spoke' 20-inch rims ($3350) shod with 245/45 Continental CrossContact rubber.
The only colour, from 17 choices, that won't cost you extra is white. Our car's 'Firenze Red' metallic finish will set you back a not inconsiderable $1870.
It's a common rail, all alloy, 16-valve, DOHC design producing 132kW/430Nm thanks in no small part to the inclusion of a variable geometry intercooled turbo and variable valve timing.
Roller bearings on the camshafts and twin balancer shafts minimise vibration, and close attention has been paid to details like the specific relationship between the crankshaft and cylinder bores to minimise friction between the piston rings and cylinder wall. Impressive.
The ZF 9HP nine-speed automatic transmission, standard on the SE Dynamic, was introduced in the Evoque in 2014. It sends drive to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled Haldex centre coupling (with torque on demand to the rear axle).
Land Rover claims the Evoque SE Dynamic in diesel form consumes 5.7L/100km for the combined (Urban/Extra Urban) fuel economy cycle, emitting 149g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over a mix of city, urban and freeway running we achieved 8.1L/100km, according to the on-board trip computer. Not brilliant, but not bad when you consider this convertible is giving two tonnes a serious nudge.
We know from past experience that Range Rover's 'Terrain Response', 'Hill Descent Control', and 'All-terrain Progress Control' systems, as well as finely tuned approach, break over, and departure clearances allow the Evoque to crawl and wade like a nappy-clad baby. But for the convertible we thought it appropriate to stay in line with the car's intended market and stick to the confines of the city. Skinny latte anyone?
At 4.4 metres long, 1.6 metres high (with roof up), and a beefy 1.9 metres wide the Evoque is compact rather than small. But despite tipping the scales at a sturdy 1967kg this convertible is huge fun to drive.
A 0-100km/h time of 10.3 seconds certainly doesn't threaten any land speed records, but with peak torque arriving at just 1750rpm the diesel engine delivers useful mid-range oomph.
Peak power takes over at 4000rpm and the buttery smooth nine-speed auto makes it easy to keep things on the boil in that sweet spot band between the twin peaks.
There's plenty of feel and a reassuringly linear response from the electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering.
Suspension is by struts all around and the Evoque Convertible delivers an impressive blend of ride comfort and dynamic ability.
There's plenty of feel and a reassuringly linear response from the electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering, while the torque vectoring (by braking) system subtly discourages the front end from pushing into understeer in rapid cornering.
The fabric top is produced by legendary convertible and sunroof specialist Webasto, and features loads of acoustic insulation for a beautifully refined roof up drive.
The torrential rain we saw on test would have put Noah straight on the tools, but we remained dry and comfortable, to the point where it was easy to forget this Evoque was a convertible.
Taking advantage of the odd patch of blue proved enjoyable, with the roof swiftly lowering to add a world of summer sights, sounds and smells to a shake and shudder-free driving experience. If you're keen to hit the highway in this mode on a regular basis an optional cabin windbreak is available for $600.
In line with the car's hefty kerb weight brakes are 325mm ventilated discs up front, with 317mm solid rotors fitted to the rear. They work beautifully.
Land Rover is keen to help its owners avoid unwanted contact with a raft of standard active safety features loaded on board the Evoque, including ABS, DSC, traction control, roll stability control, Emergency Brake Assist, EBD, Lane Departure Warning, AEB, and Trailer Stability Assist.
There's also a standard rear view camera to supplement vision over the Evoque's high-riding rear end.
But if all else fails the standard equipment list also includes two front, a driver's knee, and side curtain airbags, the latter a pretty neat trick in a convertible. And the 'Roll Over Protection Device' features aluminium roll-over bars located just behind the rear passengers' heads and ready to deploy within 90 milliseconds.
ISOFIX child restraint anchor points are built into each rear seat position.
The Evoque Convertible is 'unrated' by ANCAP, but for reference the five door, fixed-roof version was tested and awarded a maximum five stars by EuroNCAP in 2011, although in line with local spec, ANCAP rates the hardtop at four stars.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty and diesel models require servicing every 16,000km/12 months.
Land Rover's capped price servicing scheme limits each service cost to $1460. Still not cheap.
|Sd4 (177kW) HSE||2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO||$68,200 – 78,430||2017 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE 2017 Sd4 (177kW) HSE Pricing and Specs|
|Sd4 (177kW) HSE DYNAMIC||2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO||$79,990 – 109,554||2017 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE 2017 Sd4 (177kW) HSE DYNAMIC Pricing and Specs|
|Sd4 (177kW) SE||2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO||$61,800 – 85,888||2017 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE 2017 Sd4 (177kW) SE Pricing and Specs|
|Sd4 (177kW) SE DYNAMIC||2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO||$72,888 – 76,888||2017 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE 2017 Sd4 (177kW) SE DYNAMIC Pricing and Specs|
“During our time with the Evoque Convertible SE Dynamic, multiple punters got on the Jackson train and told us how much they liked it.One bloke made sure we knew his daughter had a three door and hankered after the soft-top. Another just, kind of, hung around, and had a damn good sticky beak as we grabbed a few pics.And while we understand where these fans are coming from, we're still sure it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea.The Evoque Convertible is a thoroughly civilised, well-equipped and fun to drive machine. Just be sure you're ready to push aside some high quality alternatives before put down your hard-earned.”
Would you opt for the Evoque Convertible or one of its German rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.