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Roofless

By Paul Acres

Every now and then a manufacturer comes along and starts selling us a car we never knew we wanted. Often in great numbers and often for reasons that we, as buyers, will probably never quite understand.

The Evoque Convertible is one of those cars. The hard-top version was, after all, still selling strongly and, looking around on the roads, there was no obvious desire for a rag-top model yet, here we are and here it is.

 

The Evoque Cabriolet has very little competition

 

However, sitting behind the wheel, beneath what is the longest and broadest fabric roof on a production car, it does start to make sense. If you look at the position the compact SUV has assumed at the heart of many households, as an alternative to the humble hatchback, a cabriolet version suddenly doesn’t seem so absurd.

Nor does it feel as absurd as I feared it might, even with the roof down, a process that takes a reasonable 18 seconds at speeds up to 30mph. It is also when the Evoque Convertible is at its best – it would be a travesty if that was not the case – and confirming that there really are many compelling reasons for its existence.

 

It's a bit of a squeeze in the back

 

First up, a confession: I’ve never been a fan of drop-top motoring, even to the point where I find an open sunroof irritating. It’s the noise you see. The roar of the wind, the rumble of tyres on tarmac, it’s all just a bit too much so anything that can open, is shut.

That, however, changed while I was driving the Evoque Convertible. It was still noisy – you’re sitting in a giant shoebox without a lid after all – but even on the motorway I found it bearable and, with slightly raised voices, it was possible to have a conversation with someone who wasn’t me.

 

The cabriolet weighs a not insignificant 277kg more than the hard-top

 

You sit deeper in the car than you would normally expect in a drop-top – it’s the first time I can recall not having a need to crack open the super firm hold hairspray – and the windscreen extends a fair way back over the front seat passengers' heads. Consequently the deep sides and glass provide a reasonably effective sound barrier.

It is certainly the case that, even with the persistent noise created by other traffic on the road the Convertible is, with the roof down, an extremely civilised long-distance cruiser.  Raise the roof, should the weather require it, and you'll enjoy levels of refinement comparable with its fixed roof siblings.

 

The cabin is very well appointed, and appropriately robust

 

Given the extra weight that the four cylinder diesel is required to haul - the additional bolstering required to compensate for the loss of its roof adds 277kg - it would be unreasonable not to expect performance to be blunted slightly and so it proved.

The 180hp motor has its work cut out but while you'll find the nine-speed automatic transmission slipping through the gears frequently on tight and twisty roads there's otherwise very little indication, until you examine the fuel consumption, that there's any additional effort required.

 

The boot takes a bit of a hit too

 

There's some flex over poorer surfaces but body roll is very well controlled so it is entirely possible, though I can't recommend it, to hustle the cabriolet along quite briskly. However, this is a car that's best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, allowing yourself the time to enjoy the uniquely privileged position that you find yourself in.

You'll find the passenger space is both luxurious and robust. You get double-stitched leather, soft touch plastics and excellent ergonomics all beautifully bolted together.

 

It retains the handsome lines of the coupe with the roof up

 

The Convertible debuted Jaguar Land Rover's InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10.2in touchscreen. It's a competent system with 3G access that allows you to connect with the car via your smartphone using the firm's suite of InControl apps. While it still doesn't quite rank alongside some of the best multimedia systems used by rivals, it is by far the best the company has offered to date and functionality, ease of use and the quality of the display do not disappoint.

The Evoque Convertible's Achille's heel is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in its boot. While the hard-top can boast a reasonable 420 litres of luggage capacity, in order to accommodate the fabric roof, the soft-top will only swallow 251 litres and you'll probably have to consider alternative transport if you're trying to move bulky items because of the narrow boot opening..

 

Refinement is excellent with the roof raised

 

The Evoque Convertible is not a cheap car, but it is a rare proposition and, maybe, that exclusivity justifies a price premium over its less flexible siblings.  Dynamically it's not as sharp as the fixed-roof versions so this isn't the car for the keen driver however, for roof-down, very-little-wind-in-your-hair cruising, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better at almost any price.

Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2.0 TD4

Price: £47,500

As tested: £52,270

Engine: 2.0-litre TD4 diesel

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Max power: 180hp

Max torque: 430Nm @ 1,750rpm

Max speed: 121mph

Acceleration (0-60mph): 9.7sec

Urban: 42.2mpg

Extra urban: 55.4mpg

Combined: 49.6mpg

Emissions (CO2): 149g/km

For more information visit www.landrover.co.uk

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