When you hear the words “Range Rover,” you think rugged luxury; a wood and leather-lined SUV fighting its way through an inhospitable desert. Or perhaps that of a 4X4 towing a horse trailer on its way to a dressage competition.
Either way, a Range Rover must be refined, luxurious, and highly capable. Which made the introduction of a two-door convertible Range Rover all the more surprising.
In recent years, Jaguar Land Rover has worked to expand the reach of its Range Rover family of premium SUVs, from the “entry level” Evoque to the ultra-premium Range Rover Autobiography.
In late 2015, Range Rover unveiled the production Evoque Convertible at the Los Angeles auto show to generally positive reviews.
Personally, I didn’t quite know what to think of the Evoque Convertible. From the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible to the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet, drop top crossovers have been disasters waiting to happen, until they do happen, and then they’re just disasters. At the same time, we’ve been thoroughly impressed by everything we’ve encountered from JLR in recent years, ranging from the Jaguar F-Type sports car to the Land Rover Discovery SUV.
So I was curious to see and experience the Evoque Convertible in the flesh. Recently, Jaguar Land Rover dropped of a 2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible HSE Dynamic in Yuling White.
The base SE Dynamic model starts at $84,480, but our HSE Dynamic test car came with a healthy complement of optional extras.
The cabin is stylish and well designed. The Oxford leather seats were extremely comfortable. The center console is dominated by the JLR's signature rotary gear shift and a sizable 10.2-inch touchscreen running JLR's InControl Touch Pro infotainment system.
The InControl system works well in the Evoque. We liked the intuitive menus and quick response. While this system has had reliability issues in other JLR models, we didn't experience any hiccups during our time with the Evoque.
In addition, the Evoque is equipped with a strong 380-watt Meridian sound system and Range Rover's advanced Terrain Response System.
The convertible roof certainly compromises cargo capacity. The Evoque drop top comes with just 8.9 cubic feet of cargo room. That figure remains the same regardless of whether the roof is deployed.
Under the hood, the only engine available in the US is a 240-horsepower, 2.0-litre, Ecoboost turbocharged four-cylinder sourced from Ford. However, JLR's new Ingenium four-cylinder engine is expected to replace the Ford unit in the near future.
The Evoque Convertible is equipped with a 9-speed ZF automatic transmission and part-time all-wheel-drive.
For the Evoque, Range Rover dumped its traditional body-on-frame construction in favour of a more car-like unibody setup. It's a sign that the Evoque's on-road performance superseded the need for off-road prowess.
On the road, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible is a rather pleasant experience, but it fell short in several areas
The combination of 2.0-turbo-four and 9-speed automatic transmission, while delivering enthusiastic acceleration, proved to be laggy. The gearbox simply took too long to react, especially when transitioning from cruising to hard acceleration in situations such as highway lane changes.
Since the part-time all-wheel-drive system only sends power the rear wheels when it detects slip in the front, the Evoque also exhibits torque steer under hard acceleration. Admittedly this is a common trait among front-wheel-drive focused crossovers.
With that said, the ride was smooth and compliant while the handling proved to be quick and perky. However, scuttle shake made frequent appearances, especially on bumpy roads. It's evident that cutting the roof off compromised the Evoque's chassis rigidity.
('Scuttle shake' is annoying vibrations commonly exhibited by cars with lower chassis rigidity that experience too much flex.)
With the top down, the Evoque proved to remarkably quiet and did not require the services of a wind deflector.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is a difficult vehicle to judge. As a convertible luxury crossover SUV, it has no true rival anywhere in the automotive industry. (The Jeep Wrangler is neither a luxury product nor is it a crossover.)
However, we can compare it to the high standards applied to the rest of the Range Rover line of SUVs. And in that regard, the Evoque Convertible falls short.
While the overall package is certainly stylish and charming, the execution of the vehicle could be better.
The interior felt less than premium compared to other luxury crossovers in its price point. In addition, the scuttle shake and laggy powertrain detract from the driving pleasure.
With that said, the Evoque is not without some appeal. Many will appreciate its fun personality and its unique position as a convertible SUV.
At the end of the day, the Evoque Convertible is simply not refined enough to carry both the Range Rover badge and a $84,480 price tag.
But if you've got to have a Range Rover convertible, then this is the car for you.
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