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Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Evoque - Convertible SE Dynamic TD4

Our Opinion

We like
SUV origin produces uniquely spacious drop-top, well-executed conversion, quick and quiet roof operation, technology, surprisingly fun to drive
Room for improvement
Daft boot operation, rear seats a bit upright, scuttle shake, options gouging

Land Rover logo31 Mar 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Price and equipment

WE TESTED the Evoque Convertible in entry level SE Dynamic trim with the diesel engine option, which is priced at $85,343 plus on-road costs and $395 more expensive than the petrol-powered equivalent.

It is a hefty $17,792 more expensive than the equivalent five-door wagon Evoque, in which SE represents mid-spec. For the record, Evoque wagons start from $56,050 for a front-drive manual with less powerful diesel engine.

As well as all the engineering jiggery pokery that goes into making a convertible out of an SUV that was not originally conceived to have its roof removed, the ‘Dynamic’ moniker appended to the variant title of drop-top Evoques helps justify the premium through the standard inclusion of some sporty exterior styling bling along with Xenon headlights, electrically folding exterior mirrors with built-in puddle lights and a 10.2-inch touchscreen piping sound to a 325-watt Meridian audio system with 11 speakers.

The rest of the spec sheet reads like the wagon, comprising grained leather trim, eight-way electric front seat adjustment with memory, dual-zone climate control including rear air vents, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera with tow-hitching view (the Convertible can tow up to 1500kg braked), lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights and wipers, and keyless entry with push-button start, a perforated leather steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.

Being all-wheel-drive, there is also a version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system that alters various driveline and traction control parameters to best suit a range of off-road conditions, All Terrain Progress Control that is kind of an off-road cruise control to enable the driver to concentrate on steering and hill descent control that was invented by Land Rover in the 1990s for the original Freelander and is now ubiquitous on even urban-oriented front-drive crossovers.

Much of Land Rover’s extensive and expensive options list was lavished upon our test vehicle, bringing the total price up by almost $12,000 to $97,083.

In descending order of cost, these included an infotainment software upgrade with Meridian Surround Sound system that more than doubles audio output to 660W over the standard Meridian setup wile upping the speaker count to 13 including a subwoofer, for $2950. Another $1870 was spent on the Santorini Black metallic paint job, $1860 went on the surround camera system with towing assist, the blind spot monitoring with close vehicle sensing and reverse traffic detection was $1460, DAB+ radio a rort at $920, Wade Sensing that will never be used was specified at $720, we had a double-take at the $600 wind deflector that really should be standard, and again with the $520 ski hatch. A further $420 went on chrome tread plates and front fog lights cost the same again.

But people clearly pay these prices, otherwise Land Rover would not continue charging them.

There is plenty of scope to option the Evoque Convertible deep into six figures, for example the $10,310 Luxury Pack exclusive to the top-spec HSE ($92,800 diesel or $93,195 petrol) that has the full-house 17-speaker, 825W hi-fi, digital TV tuner and dual-view screen so the passenger can watch movies while the driver sees the sat-nav map.

On that note, the HSE ups standard kit to include things like perforated premium leather, heated and ventilated front seats with 12-way electric adjustment, a head-up display, colour-configurable ambient lighting, automatic high beam, illuminated tread plates, 19-inch alloys and a heat-shielding windscreen.

Interior

Back in 2011 the original Evoque set new standards for cabin presentation, particularly for a reasonably attainable luxury vehicle, and set the agenda for Land Rover interiors that continues to this day, with the Velar unveiled around the time of this road test being first to take this sumptuous look and feel a step further.

The convertible benefits from interior updates applied to the 2015 Evoque facelift, and in SE Dynamic trim tested here, becomes the first Land Rover product to get the huge 10.2-inch touchscreen that debuted on the Jaguar F-Pace with the same feature-packed InControl Touch Pro multimedia interface. It sits in the dashboard like it was always meant to be there, and as though technology had to catch up with the original design.

Alone the new screen vastly modernises a gorgeous cabin that was previously only really let down by the old-tech infotainment. Crisp and attractive graphics, quick responses, smartphone-like pinch-and-swipe controls and some bang-up-to-the-minute connectivity features are a revelation in comparison with the previous system that was the car equivalent of Windows Vista in terms of fit-for-purpose function and reliability.

Despite the high level of smartphone integration possible on this system through various apps, the lack of simplicity provided by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto disappoints. Getting to know all the whizz-bang features of InControl Touch Pro requires nerd-level commitment, but fortunately for everyone else the basic functions are reasonably easy to master.

We appreciated the fact Land Rover has resisted the temptation to integrate the air-conditioning controls with the touchscreen. Logical rotary dials are present and correct, manipulating a set-and-forget system that dealt admirably with lingering Queensland summer heat during our test, even with black paintwork, roof fabric and interior upholstery. Somehow the latter was not terrible for causing the singed, sweaty legs and back typical of this colour combination.

Our car also had the $2950 Meridian surround sound audio upgrade with 13 speakers and 660W amplifier. This sounded great and seemed well tuned for the fabric roof’s acoustics.

We had blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning tech at our disposal but no adaptive cruise control. And the cruise control was one of those woeful systems that really gathers speed down hills and slows right down on ascents before it realises what has happened.

The surround-view camera option had luckily been ticked, because with the roof up the huge fabric C-pillars and small rear windscreen made reversing into a game of guesswork even with the presence of sensors. The warped rear-view camera display didn’t help either.

More happily, the Convertible presented the first Evoque press car in which we found no interior quality issues. No rattles, squeaks or things coming loose.

It seems the factory has caught up with demand on this smash sales hit and is now screwing them together properly.

Front seat comfort is great for medium-to-tall occupants, although those with shorter legs found the thigh support too long and caused an uncomfortable angle for operating the pedals despite trying various seat angle and position combinations.

Two central cup-holders are of reasonable size and capable of taking a 750ml bottle, with a 12V power outlet and roof mechanism switch beside them. Behind these and beneath the armrest is a bin containing two USB sockets and another 12V outlet.

Receipt hoarders will appreciate the Evoque’s massive glove box, which offsets the smallish door bins that are fabric-lined in the front for rattle prevention.

Plenty of headroom and just enough legroom for two 186cm tall adults is provided in the individual rear seats, with the front pair set for people of similar height. with access provided in the same way as the three-door Evoque coupe the convertible replaces – forward-tilting front seats that creep forwards agonisingly slowly under electric power. That said, there was just enough room for our tall testers to step through the gap with the front seats folded without using the electric slide function as well.

The rear seat-backs have an unusually plush lumbar support area but are fairly upright, similar to most dual-cab utes. The quality of trim back here is consistent with the front, as it would be considering the entire cabin is visible to onlookers with the roof down. Shame, then, that some of the lower plastics throughout feel cheap and scratchy.

In interior space and comfort terms, the Evoque Convertible starts to make much more sense. The drop-top motoring experience can be properly comfortably shared by four adults – a rare treat at any price.

Stretching the limits of the practicality selling point, we explored the Isofix child seat anchorages and sensibly located top tethers beneath the headrests. A rear-facing infant seat will fit without robbing too much space from the person in front, but getting a wriggling youngster in and out it with the roof up would be near impossible.

Being pillarless, posting your progeny through an open window might work but the best solution is to just wait until they are old enough for a forward-facing child seat as access to these is pretty good for a convertible, courtesy of the Evoque’s taller stance and higher than average roof.

Sticking with the rear accommodation, large storage bins at the outer edges and tiny mesh map pockets (sized for an iPad rather than the traditional road atlas) are provided for back-seat passengers but there is no provision for securing drinks, the slim central armrest providing only access to the ski hatch of our test car that is a $520 option.

A pair of air-conditioning vents is present, with another small storage recess below them.

Behind the rear seats is a surprisingly large space that could be used as a parcel shelf if the roof was to remain closed. It also catches heaps of leaves and dust when exploring the Evoque’s much-vaunted off-road abilities with the top down.

The roof mechanism is almost silent, the loudest part of the process being the motors lowering and raising the frameless windows.

Considering its sheer size, the roof also feels much quicker to lower than the 18 seconds quoted, and those caught in a cloudburst can take comfort in the fact roof operation is possible on the move at speeds of up to 50km/h. Pitching the tent is a bit slower at 21 seconds.

Land Rover claims interior comfort of the drop-top Evoque is on par with the wagon while the roof is up. While it is impressively quiet even at motorway speeds, at times there is definitely more noise, especially when passing trucks on the motorway. Wind rustle from the big door mirrors is about as bad as a regular Evoque but sounds caused by the vehicle itself are well suppressed. We were subjected to other vehicles’ tyre roar more than anything else.

With the roof down, we were able to make a Bluetooth phone call – sound quality of which was good – at speeds of up to 70km/h before noise levels forced us to reduce speed and put the roof up in order to continue the conversation.

Land Rover charges $600 for the clip-on windbreak supplied with our car, which is a downright rort although this car is tolerable at 100km/h with the roof down and the windows up. Realistically we could live with the level of buffeting up to around 90km/h, which is better than most convertibles that can deliver a scalping at speed without the wind deflector fitted.

For us the least successful part of the convertible transformation process was the boot, which apart from an understandable drop in capacity from 420 litres in the wagon to 250L – unaffected by roof operation – uses a counter-intuitive top-hinged boot lid.

The opening handle is placed near the top and therefore provides too little leverage for easy opening, although a pair of gas struts is provided to assist and complete the raising process once the lid opened far enough. Still, a number of people who approached us for a look at the curiosity-causing Evoque shared our opinion once they saw how the boot worked.

A flip-down tailgate as used in a Mini convertible would make more sense and be appropriate given the original Range Rover – and every generation since – has this feature. Instead, the boot lid gets in the way when loading because its low hinge height and the angle it rests at when open places the lower edge at forehead height. The opening itself is pretty small, too, and we doubt a large suitcase would fit as the space is not rectangular and tapers toward the bulkhead.

Inside the boot are some classy chrome tie-down points and a 12V power outlet.

Beneath the boot floor is an 18-inch steel spare wheel.

Engine and transmission

Under the bonnet is Jaguar Land Rover’s new-generation 2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, producing 132kW of peak power at 4000rpm and 430Nm of torque at 1750rpm. It is coupled with a similarly modern nine-speed automatic transmission.

Although a little rumbly from cold start and under low-speed acceleration, once up to speed this engine provides easy, relaxed progress with good in-gear acceleration, a quick – dare we say petrol-like – throttle response and a decent turn of speed once up and rolling. It’s pretty smooth and refined for a diesel while it goes about all this as well and emits little sound while cruising.

Standing-start acceleration and getting up to 50 or 60km/h can feel a little strained owing to the added weight caused by body strengthening required to maintain rigidity after removing the roof. Numbers speak louder than words, with the diesel convertible’s official 0-100km/h time being 1.3 seconds slower than the equivalent wagon at 10.3s.

The quick-shifting nine-speed auto helps hide the sensation of sluggishness though, and we rarely felt left behind in suburban traffic because the engine was always in its sweet spot. The transmission did deliver some occasional harsh, clunky gear changes during our test but operated mostly invisibly as we travelled. In Sport mode it could be left to its own devices during our dynamic test, while its responses to manual shifts using the steering wheel paddles were admirably prompt, whether going up or down through the ratios.

Additional weight is felt at refuelling time as well, with the official combined cycle consumption figure of 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres two-thirds of a litre thirstier than the wagon. We averaged 8.8L/100km during our week-long test of mixed driving and 6.7L/100km on a motorway run, so the official figure barely reflects the real world.

More performance can be had from the slightly less expensive 2.0-litre turbo-petrol option, which produces 177kW and 340Nm to manage 0-100km/h in a claimed 8.6 seconds, with the same digits appearing on the official combined cycle fuel consumption figure. Given our diesel used more than that, we do not expect the petrol to achieve less than 10L/100km in the hands of humans.

Ride and handling

Upon collecting the Evoque Convertible after spending a week driving a Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, our first impression of how it felt by comparison was old-fashioned. A bit of automotive archaeology reveals underpinnings that can be traced back to 2006, when Ford still owned Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo under its Premier Automotive Group division.

The good news in all this is that independent Land Rover specialist British Off Road, on the premises of we photographed the Evoque Convertible for this test, told us models built on this hand-me-down Ford platform – also including the Freelander and Discovery Sport – were by far the most reliable in the brand’s stable.

Given Land Rover’s reputation (and personal experience among the GoAuto team), describing one of its products as reliable is like naming the most honest politician, but we’d be inclined to trust the opinion of a company that thrives on fixing broken Land Rovers without any official ties to the factory.

Anyway, some of the old-fashioned feel does come from the shuddering and scuttle-shake caused by the rigidity lost when removing the roof, despite a hefty 280kg worth of reinforcement bringing the total kerb weight to 1967kg before options. This is only really experienced on uneven surfaces and as with the upright rear seats, the occasional bump-shudder reminded us of driving a ute. Consider it part of this model’s charm.

We soon got used to feeling the body move around us and the door seals breathing. In any case, we felt the hard-topped Evoque was a bit flexy to begin with.

The rest is positive. The Evoque convertible’s firm but supple suspension feels pretty relaxed about the poor quality of Australian roads, at least on the 18-inch wheels of our test vehicle (19- and 20-inch alloys are optional).

Britain is just as bad in terms of road maintenance, so no surprises that Land Rover engineers know how to iron out a pothole or two.

Even on the awful combination of patchy, coarse-chip, rutted and ridged country lanes of our test, the Evoque remained composed and controlled on the road, holding its line through rough corners and its suspension apparently not upset by the cabin wobble and shudder experienced by the occupants. In fact, these effects seemed less obvious the quicker we went.

Coming back to the old-fashioned feel, this shone through in a good way during the dynamic part of our road test route. While the Evoque Convertible is clearly not optimised for carving up corners, there is a real sensation of speed and heaps of communication from the steering wheel (eventually) and chassis that make it fun to drive quickly. There is not the over-competent feeling that fun only starts after reaching a license-unfriendly lick, which blights many modern cars.

For example, the Michelin Latitude Tour tyres did not take much provocation to start screeching in the dry conditions of our test, nor did they provide heaps of grip, but this added to the sensation of speed and enjoyment factor at legal velocities without threatening to cause any unpredictable instability.

Compared with the light and easily modulated brake pedal action at urban and suburban speeds, pulling the Evoque up on fast roads uncovers a less linear feel and a firmness that causes them to grab a bit. But considering the Convertible’s considerable heft and the lack of cornering grip, the brakes sure do slow it down effectively.

We were pleasantly surprised to find how fun the Evoque Convertible was to drive vigorously. The stability and traction control do not provide the gently guiding hand of the very best systems but nor are they over-zealous or intrusive. Given the Evoque Convertible’s purpose in life, the typical owner is not going to trouble the technology unless there is some kind of emergency.

Initial steering bite is a bit lacking, but you know something is happening due to the onset of body-roll. Once accustomed to these quirks and desensitised to the early-warning tyre squeal, we were able to build faith in the Evoque’s abilities.

We put this sense of initial disconnection down to the lack of body rigidity because once settled into a corner there was plenty of interaction to be had from the well-weighted and pleasantly sharp steering and we could feel exactly what was going on at each corner of the car.

Oddly, part of the feel available was the forward bias of the all-wheel-drive system that caused the Evoque to frequently feel like a front-driver. We regularly chirped the front tyres when taking off briskly from a standing start, for example, and it rarely seemed to engage drive to the rear wheels during the tarmac section of our dynamic test. This was also true on hairpins, which had to be taken extra slowly if electronic intervention was to be avoided despite the obvious traction advantages of all-wheel-drive.

Through gravel-road corners there is an added sense of security provided by the availability of traction at all four tyres but the system seems set up to save fuel by sending power to the rear axle as little as possible.

As we know from the Evoque Convertible’s ambitious but successful launch on Queensland’s Fraser Island, it will go further than you think off-road. Our test vehicle, still full of sandy evidence of where it had been on the launch, even had the $720 Wade Sensing option that measures the depth of water crossings.

But come on, this car is more Toorak than Telegraph Track.

Safety and servicing

ANCAP has not rated the Evoque Convertible and awarded the diesel wagon a disappointing four stars because its frontal offset crash test score of 12.39 out of 16 – based on data from a diesel right-hand-drive UK model tested by Euro NCAP in 2011 –was below the 12.5 benchmark required for a full five-star rating.

The wagon got a perfect 16 in the side impact and a maximum two points in the pole test.

Standard safety equipment on the convertible comprises dual front, front-side, rear-side and driver’s knee airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.

Land Rover also developed a rollover protection device that deploys two aluminium bars within a claimed 90 milliseconds if imminent inversion is detected.

Servicing for diesel-powered Evoques is required every 24 months or 34,000km, which seems like a long time compared with the six months or 10,000km specified by, for example, Toyota.

However, Land Rover says these intervals only apply if the electronic service indicator does not recommend a sooner visit and the company also recommends “an optional vehicle health check for Australian vehicle operating conditions”.

A get-out clause but perhaps understandable for a company selling vehicles that might be subjected to some serious off-road use.

The standard warranty lasts three years or 100,000 kilometres, which also applies to genuine dealer-fit accessories if added within one month or 1600km of initial purchase.

Verdict

Plenty of people will sneer at the Range Rover Evoque Convertible and the people who drive it, but the person behind the wheel will have the last laugh as they enjoy open-topped motoring with three mates.

The ability to carry four adults in comfort is the biggest advantage to this unique convertible, an ability unrivalled even at this admittedly high price point.

Experiences are better when shared, which is ironic given the vain, selfish image jealously projected onto this vehicle’s buyers.

Brilliantly executed for its intended purpose – and far beyond if you dare – Land Rover should be applauded for the lack of compromise they have engineered into the Evoque Convertible.

Yes it is expensive, but so is taking an SUV and making it into a convertible.

Fair is fair.

Rivals

Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe 250d from $82,100 plus on-road costsSatisfyingly uncompromised by the coupe conversion process that builds on our favourite aspects of the brilliant GLC SUV. Makes the Evoque look expensive, considering the AMG-tuned GLC43 is a smidge over six figures.

BMW X4 xDrive 35d from $89,900 plus on-road costsFor less than the cost of our Evoque after options, you could be driving this awesome six-cylinder diesel beast with as much standard equipment as there is grunt.

BMW 420i Convertible automatic from $85,900 plus on-road costsGetting on a bit, but its timeless looks and imminent minor update will help it feel fresh. Really sharp dynamically and can also pretend it is a coupe with the metal roof up. Not suitable for Fraser Island.

Mercedes-Benz C200 Cabriolet from $85,900 plus on-road costsBang up-to-date and surprisingly spacious in the back, this slick and sleek sun-seeker would have us reaching for the chequebook. Can’t go off-road, though.

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