- Published: Sunday, 04 December 2016 02:01
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible doesn’t seem like a promising car, but it’s surprisingly fun, and it does have its place
SINGAPORE — Here’s a car I was almost certain I was going to dislike. The Range Rover Evoque Convertible’s recipe isn’t promising, after all. It takes a car that isn’t great to drive, and chops its roof off, which makes any car worse to drive by adding weight and subtracting rigidity.
And sure enough, the Evoque Convertible doesn’t impress, especially from behind the wheel. It’s not that short on cornering grip, but there’s a fundamental finesse missing from the basic Evoque’s chassis, and the Convertible only serves to exacerbate that.
It’s a whopping 280kg heavier than the coupe version (snipping the roof off a car obliges engineers to brace what’s left of the body with extra metal), and the extra flab manifests as a general lack of enthusiasm for turning into bends. The steering lacks any precision whatsoever, too, so trying to trace a definitive line through a corner in the Evoque is like trying to write something on paper with a peeled banana.
You certainly don’t get go-kart handling. Unfortunately, you do get a go-kart ride. The suspension is set up like Range Rover owns a stake in your nearest chiropractor clinic.
The straight line performance is okay as long as you’re willing to pretend the accelerator is your worst enemy’s throat, but you do tend to expect more from a turbo engine with 240 horsepower. Part of the problem is that the nine-speed auto is a dozy thing, taking its time not only to choose gears, but to change them.
And in spite of the massive weight gain, the body is still as wobbly as a fat man’s buttocks. You can sometimes see the back half of the car shuddering when you peer into the rear-view mirror.
So far I’ve made the Evoque Convertible sound like a disaster, but in spite of it all I enjoyed driving it immensely.
That’s because I have a thing for open top cars (and I’m assuming you do too, or you wouldn’t be here), and the Rangie works well as one.
For starters, the roof is a brilliant thing, folding out of the way in just 18 seconds. The motors that perform the operation are so quiet that it feels like ghosts are stowing the top for you, and the Z-shape bend of the mechanism means it folds down impressively neatly.
That brings me to the car’s second winning attribute, which is its visual charm. The basic Evoque sells well because it’s a looker, but the Convertible is on a different plane of glamour altogether. It’s rugged-looking too, and is the sort of car you could imagine, say, Amelia Earhart driving if she hadn’t vanished.
It drew admiring glances, anyway, along with plenty of questions from people — always a sign that the designers did their job well.
The sound system’s clear and powerful, which you’ll need if you’re going to blast music above wind roar.
Last, the open-top format neatly addresses two Evoque flaws, which are that it has little headroom for the poor sods in the back, and that it’s damn hard to see out of one. Keep your finger on the roof-go-down button for long enough, and both those problems vanish.
Even with the roof overhead, there’s enough headroom in the back to be considered generous, now that you’re comparing the Evoque to other convertibles.
There are other wrinkles to note, however. At 251 litres in size, the boot is a token one, and some of the plastics in the rear would look at home in a Chinese car. The storage bins back there aren’t even lined, which only serves to make the Evoque’s price look audacious.
Indeed, for similar money you can have the Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabriolet, which is plainly a better car — more comfy, better to drive, more practical, and pretty much just as glamorous to look at.
Yet, the Evoque Convertible has two things going for it. If you want a convertible but don’t want to feel like a jockey standing amongst NBA players, the height of the Range Rover is a huge bonus. The visibility out of one is far greater than you’ll find in the typically low-slung cabrio.
And of course, it’ll do some off-roading, though in my view you’d have to be insane to take one into the jungle and scratch up its pretty flanks.
Still, some people think that just having a car whose roof comes off is crazy enough, so the Evoque Convertible basically pairs two kinds of perceived insanity.
That makes it a neat way to signal to people how little you think of conventional wisdom, but it’s also just plain jolly. Life is more fun if you’re a little nutty, anyway. Drive this and you’ll know what I mean.
NEED TO KNOW Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2.0 Si4
Engine 1,999cc, 16V, turbo inline-four
Power 240hp at 5800rpm
Torque 340Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 209km/h
0-100km/h 8.6 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 8.6L/100km
Price $293,999 with COE