Into the category of things people don’t generally don’t need, you can include boomerangs, pet lions, and personal submarines.
You might think you could easily add “convertible SUV,” but then you wouldn’t be Jaguar Land Rover, which on Wednesday unveiled its Range Rover Evoque Convertible at the LA Auto Show.
This wasn’t a vehicle that was greeted with overwhelmingly good vibes when it was first announced earlier this year, despite the superb track record of the Evoque, a midsized crossover that has sold well for JLR. The hangover from the ill-fated Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, which arrived in 2011 and will soon depart, leaving the Evoque Convertible as the only off-road ragtop in the market.
Everyone thought the CrossCabriolet was daffy, according the boomerangs-lions-submarines analysis. It follows that the Evoque cabrio would fall prey to its inherent illogic. The other car that JLR revealed in LA is quite logical: the Jaguar F-Pace ultra-luxury SUV. Brilliant! SUVs and luxury cars in many ways define the current US auto market, and Jag didn’t have one.
The Evoque Convertible is a different story, by design. And JLR admits that it isn’t likely to see very many, although they think its could be a hit in LA, where anything that can lower its roof has a shot at success. The car’s designer, Gerry McGovern, didn’t express particular grand ambitions for the car when asked about it by Business Insider. But he did stress that it’s capitalising on an opportunity in the market.
When the vehicle as revealed, he didn’t back down from celebrating its rugged bona fides. This is, according to JLR, every bit a Range Rover. “It can wade through 20 inches of deep water,” McGovern enthused.
It’s an “all-season” convertible, he said, as comfortable on a sunsplashed LA boulevard as at an Alpine ski resort. In other words, it’s a legit off-roader. You don’t have to put it away when the weather would have you retiring most drop-tops.
“It can tackle challenges without compromise,” McGovern said, speaking as a Englishman who doesn’t mind motoring through sunshine, downpour, and everything in between, with nothing between him and heavens but sky.
A big challenge, of course, will be convincing customers that a convertible SUV is something worth wanting. A cynic might say that a booming car market in which a luxury automaker feels confident enough in the upward trajectory of sales to debut an SUV that comes with its own sunburn-delivering system is a market that has topped out. Indeed, we may look back at November 2015, as the US auto market surges toward an annual sales tally of 18 million new vehicles and the Range Rover Evoque Convertible landed, as the official beginning of a downturn.
But maybe not. In person, the Evoque Convertible is rather impressive. It looks like it makes sense, as an open-air off-roader. McGovern had spoken in the past of how folks outside JLR told him he was nuts to create the Evoque in the first place. Obviously, he wasn’t.
Nobody thought the world needed a little Range Rover. They were wrong. Perhaps the notion that the Evoque can’t possible lose its roof is just as mistaken.
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