Range Rover Evoque: Open-top off-roader
Enjoy overhead views and the elements from within the confines of Land Rover's first-ever convertible SUV, the Evoque HSE Dynamic
It's rare, but we've had convertible SUVs before. If you think about it, the Jeep Wrangler is one; then there is the G-Class and, more recently, the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. In 2010, Land Rover revealed the spiffy-looking Evoque compact SUV. Now, they have introduced its convertible version. Recently, we had the opportunity to drive the 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible HSE Dynamic. Yes, the name is a mouthful and so is its hefty Dh250k starting price. While trying to make sense of this vehicle, one that sits on the line that separates madness and genius, we took it for a stroll around the city. Here's what we thought of this topless utility vehicle.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The 2018 Evoque Convertible is not your everyday vehicle; having a Range Rover badge on the bonnet means it is even more magnetic for brand lovers. Wherever we went, people stared: this thing can grab attention!
Like all manufacturers do with the convertible counterparts of their coupes, Land Rover, too, has tried to keep the silhouette of the evocative hardtop Evoque. It's got a sharp snout with an air of sophistication, thanks to striking LED day-time runners, bright-shining LED headlamps etc. The sides have pronounced wheel arches, which add the athleticism needed to put justify 'Sport' in SUV. Again, with the soft top up, it mimics the coupe's silhouettes fairly successfully. But with the top down, it does look a tad bulky. Perhaps some familiarity will help its case. The rear is characterised by squarish LED luminaires and trapezoidal exhausts of the coupe - it's a decent view. The convertible is available in SE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic variants with a Z-folding Convertible Roof System in Ebony fabric. You can drop the soft roof down in as much as 18 seconds at upto speeds of 50 km/h. Raising it up takes a little longer at 21 seconds. Either way, this is something you can't expect of other SUVs.
Unlike other convertibles we are used to, you have to step up to seat yourself. The front cabin is accommodating, but visibility is not the greatest from the driver's seat with the top up; and that is where the rear-view camera comes handy. The rear is only meant for two average-sized adults making this a strict 4-seater, and there isn't a lot of storage space back there either.
Cabin fixtures and furniture are the same as in the hardtop Evoque, which is a comfortable place to be. The plastics aren't the highest grade; then again, that isn't a Land Rover forte. They can feel scratchy and flimsy in parts. The steering wheel has a decent diameter and is equipped with a range of large-sized and accessible buttons; this is the kind of ergonomics expected of a luxury vehicle. The same can be said about the rest of the switchgear. One thing that justifies its price is the large 10.2-inch In Control Pro Touch screen with its 21:9 wide format and use of 80 per cent more pixels than the standard vehicle's 8-inch screen. Expect ease of use for the HVAC controls as well. Below it is a special rotary gear selector we have seen in Jaguar vehicles - it pops in and out with the ignition, like a neat magic trick.
Regarding luxury aspects, the sky is quite literally the limit; it lets you get to places where you wouldn't in a sedan or coupe, and allows you to enjoy nature at its finest while being cosseted in leather-bound surfaces. All you need to do is press a button to recline!
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
I remember the Evoque 5-door being rather quick the first time I drove it a couple of years ago, even though it was an SUV with only a 2-litre displacement. Like the hardtop, this one, too, has a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder engine that makes a healthy 237 horsepower and 340 Nm of torque. The added weight means it gets to 100 km/h a second slower, at under 9 seconds; but sprints around town and drives on the highway never feel sluggish.
For everyday purposes of driving, it behaves quite dynamically; the added weight and slight drop in structural rigidity doesn't dissuade its temperament to turn. But get adventurous with the right foot and the body does roll when negotiating corners. Even though this is an SUV, this isn't an all-capable off-road vehicle judging by the approach and departure angles, clearance and low profile tyres. They negate the advantages of the terrain management system provided. Of course, if it's just a splash in shallow sand at the beach, plunge right in. But do it with the roof up, else you will be stuck with interiors that cannot be hosed down like in an FJ Cruiser.
The ride is comfortable for the most part - even with the available 20-inch wheels. wind buffeting isn't a big issue either. Braking feel is a non-issue as well, with the calipers clamping down hard on the ventilated disc upfront and solid discs at the rear. But it does take up extra bits of the runway - stopping from 100km/h in an average 115 ft.
The 68.5-litre tank capacity is aptly generous in range and won't bother you to visit the pumps too often, while the low 2-litre displacement keeps C02 emissions to 185 grams per kilometre.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
With the roof up or down, luggage capacity remains a low 251 litres. That's average for a convertible, but terrible for an SUV. The rear seats don't fold so that's another issue. There is a ski hatch for longer, slimmer items - but who keeps skis in Dubai? And since the rear tailgate is top hinged (for some unusual reason), you can't have a sit down with your friends and enjoy your chai like in other SUVs. But at least you can haul 1,500kg on a trailer.
Luckily, there isn't anything lacking in the creature comforts department. Expectations of audiophiles are met with a 380-watt Meridian surround sound system with 11 speakers. For a little extra, you can upgrade to a 660-watt unit. The Pro Services that accompany include Wi-Fi hotspot for the family that likes to share its data but maintain individual privacy. The system also allows you to share route and ETA with others; then, there is that fancy dual-view screen that keeps the driver's screen locked on navigation while the passenger watches a movie, although I have never actually seen anyone use it.
There is plenty more kit - like the much-needed surround camera system, laser-based Head-Up Display (which apparently doesn't get washed out like a regular LED-based system), Blind Spot Monitor with reverse detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, tyre pressure monitoring system, ISOFIX points etc.
Although the idea of a convertible SUV is confusing to some, it gives one the option of enjoying Dubai's skyline from a commanding position in traffic, or the elements from amongst the sandy dunes. It is slower and less fuel-efficient than the hardtop and lacks the cargo capacity people expect of an SUV, but the simple truth is that there is nothing quite like it and solely for that it wins big.
The Evoque is designed with a "life cycle" approach, aiming to minimise the environmental impact by considering the entire life cycle of the vehicle: from development and manufacturing, through customer use, to end-of-life recycling and re-use.
Body type: 4-seater; 5-door premium crossover convertible SUV
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Peak output: 237 PS bhp @ rpm; 340Nm @ 1,750rpm
0 to 100km/h: 8.1 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 217 km/h (drag limited; claimed)
Price: Starting Dh246,645; Dh272,370 as tested
AT A GLANCE
Pros: Attention-grabbing form; easy to drive; comfortable
Cons: Lacking cargo capacity; pricey; not a true off-roader
Author's rating: 7/10 stars