The most ridiculous car of the decade just happens to be rather good.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible joins an elite category of cars that no one has ever really asked for. It’s the sort of car that the manufacturer decides to take a slight risk on, in the hope that it starts a segment all on its own.
This exclusive category has other notable examples like the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG and even the original Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Each one of those cars was considered a little bit ridiculous when it first hit the market – X6 for being utterly useless, and Golf GTI for wrongfully trying to blend sports and practical cars together. And – bar the R63, which still remains ridiculous but amazingly cool to this day – they have proven the critics wrong and charmed customers globally. And so, enter the Evoque Convertible.
Yes, it’s an SUV and yes it’s a convertible. However, here is a fact worth considering: SUVs will soon outsell what we currently refer to as standard passenger cars. They will soon become the norm. When that happens, we will likely look back at the Evoque convertible as a car that started what will then be regarded as an obvious trend.
Nissan did it first with the Murano convertible (North America only) and of course removable roof capable off-roaders have been around forever. But the Evoque Convertible is different. It brings together a luxury brand’s off-roading credentials and ability with a sense of unrivalled style and sophistication in addition to the almost audible screams of ‘look at me’ written all over it.
Yes, it does look rather odd at first but the more you look at it, the better it looks. No matter, its styling is not what's in question here, but rather the overall package.
The Evoque Convertible is a proper Range Rover. It has the same finishing and luxury touches as its hard-top brothers, it gains all the updates to the 2017 model year, including a better 10.2-inch infotainment system and other general improvements.
Even so, for the luxury of having its metal roof replaced with an automatic cloth item, which takes 18 seconds to lower and 21 second to close (and works at up to 50km/h), you’re paying at least a $15,000 premium over the five-door, depending on the grade (from $84,440 to $92,410).
The good news, however, is that it can still easily sit four tall adults. There is plenty of room in the back (with the roof open) and despite a full passenger load, the 251L boot is large enough to take general shopping duties and is not compromised by the roof operation. The luggage area is a particular shape that may be an issue for larger items, but realistically, this is a lifestyle vehicle, not a practical one.
On that note, then, it made sense to bring it to Fraser Island in northern Queensland. A place more accustomed to hardcore 4WDs and those that dare brave the soft sand. For the Evoque Convertible, however, it’s just another day. Not having a roof made little to no difference to its off-roading ability, although it did see a bucket load of sand find its way inside the cabin when the roof was off, which we wouldn’t recommend!
So, indeed, if you want a convertible that can also come on the beach, look no further. But realistically there is much more to this car than just its Land Rover heritage.
There are two engine options available: one diesel, one petrol. Ignore the (132kW/430Nm) diesel option as it’s just too sluggish with the extra weight of the convertible body structure. Instead, the ideal choice is the Si4, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 177kW and 340Nm. It has less torque, but on the road it feels much zippier – and as if fuel economy (5.1L/100km for diesel, 7.8L/100km for petrol) is the primary concern for this car?
The only real downfall for the petrol is that the diesel gets the benefit of a higher luxury car tax threshold thanks to its better fuel economy, which means you technically get more for your money in buying the diesel.
Behind the wheel and on the road, there is no doubt the Evoque convertible feels heavy. It’s about 280kg up on the regular Evoque and that’s the equivalent of having three big people on board, at all times.
That results in relatively lacklustre acceleration (particularly in the diesel) but also a noticeable sense of body-roll around corners. There is also very evident flex in the chassis (scuttle shake) when driven over rough roads.
Does it affect the driving experience? Not really. This is a cruiser that’s best enjoyed with the roof open in perfect sunshine with a backdrop that makes you want to live again. It’s dynamically compromised, no doubt, but for its intended purpose, it ticks all the right boxes.
So, should you buy one? That question is impossible to answer for this car, as it's inherently a personal choice.
Our logical advice would be that you should buy a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet or BMW 4 Series convertible instead, as they are both inherently better choices for the money in almost every way. But then, you’ll just be another one of the dozens in the crowd. No one ever made a statement with a German rainbow coloured C-Class or 4 Series.
To be absolutely fair, the Evoque convertible doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever, which is why it has such appeal to those that know, the moment they see it, they want one. They should feel happy in the knowledge that, it’s actually a rather good thing.