The summer is over now and not a minute too soon as Land Rover has just took the veil off the North American production version of their new 2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
Now a picture may be worth 1000 words (Thank God for that) because many of my fellow automobile journalists – the purest that love most all cars as long as they are loud as hell, wrapped in a V-8 and rear wheel drive – thought that this car was the first real and true automobile abomination for 2017. Words used at the introduction went from ungainly, miserable and ugly, to absolutely hideous. They hated the fact that it was a Range Rover, they hated the canvas top, they hated the corners and they hated the fact that it was an SUV. None of those words I’d use for myself, as I’m an absolute automobile whore for any company today that is taking a real chance on any new and inventive products.
And new and inventive is exactly what Range Rove did. What do you get when you combine a thick waterproof insulated canvas, four snow tires, a Swiss Army knife, and a nine speed transmission with an electric locking differential… The Evoque Convertible!
The “Baby Rover’ was first introduced in 2011 as a 2012 model. It bowed in with a Ford sourced 2.0 L turbo engine good for 240 hp, and 250 lb feet of torque. The six speed transmission, will be replaced this year by the aforementioned nine speed, allowing the convertible SUV to develop about 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. Not too shabby for any small, and luxurious SUV. It also bows in with Land Rover’s newly updated terrain response system and 8.5 inches of “go anywhere” ground clearance, which I am pretty sure that the target market in this particular case won’t give a damn about. These are point and shot people who don’t get their hands dirty, (except when counting money). They want to dress up, get in, push a button and drive while looking good doing it. And look good you will dammit.
The Range Rover Evoque comes in with a plethora of convenience features to help you in your urban escape get away. Conquering the many potholes on Peachtree in Atlanta, all the way over to Lenox Mall for a tiring day of shopping should never be a problem. This SUV coddles you with very comfortable heated and cooled seats, 20 inch wheels, a full array of sensors surrounding the car to help with parking, lane keeping and adaptive cruise for those days when you are just so exhausted from your $300 grape-seed facial to grasp the steering wheel. It has a 10.3 inch touchscreen monitor with a full web browser, an off road GPS screen with head up display and turn by turn directions, as well as mobile apps for your pleasure.
The ride is Euro-firm but never harsh, even around corners it never leans all that much. Compared to the standard Evoque, you can feel the heft of the extra body bracing. Not bad, just noticeable.
Space however is the Evoque’s achilles heel. In 2012, I liked the two door so much I was going to lease one. That was until I spent a week with the tester (thanks Land Rover of North America) and like all tall guys, one size definitely does not fit all. The center console was riding my right knee like a horse. It was so irritating that after a week it started to bruise. It can also get constrictive and claustrophobic as the hardtop Evoque has no sunroof option. After another week it became drudgery just to get into the vehicle. Not a good look.
There is room for four in the convertible and the designers had to go the extra mile in order to clean up the excesses made by the supplementation of the rag top. The under carriage is beefed up with an extra 500lb of body strengthening to combat body-flex from the loss of the hard top.
The trunk had to be built into the body a’la Mini Cooper, but make no mistake about it, it looks like fun but this is nobody’s toy. This is a see all, go all, be all and do all SUV from Range Rover that just happens to have a convertible top and with a price tag of $50,475 (near loaded tester) this urban beach cruiser will certainly not be filling up everybody’s garage.
For some folks wind buffeting may be a taste that some may need to get used to, and there is a lot of it. Me? I don’t mind. The buffeting wind reminds me of where I am; in the open air driving this remarkable machine with the wind constantly blowing across my scalp. For those of you that don’t dig that, Range Rover has an optional wind deflector that can be purchased with the lower models, and comes standard with the HSE fully loaded models. It cuts the wind down tremendously.
In my professional opinion I think that this design is hotter than fish grease. Its a hot little SUV for small families or singles looking to spend money up in that $45 or $50k. It’s guaranteed to be snatched up by yuppies all over the planet as nothing in the world beats a convertible and nothing in the world beats go anywhere capability. Who has put those two combinations together in an automobile as of late…anybody?
Jaguar, Audi, and Lamborghini have $100,000 plus all-wheel-drive sports cars with convertible tops. Not quite the same though. The answer is nobody.
This is an SUV; a vehicle capable of taking you up the mountain to the ski resort, while allowing you to stick your tongue out and catch snowflakes at the same time. Kudos to Range Rover for trying something different, unusual, and original.