OPEN-TOP RANGE ROVER EVOQUE IS DELIGHTFUL

range_rover_evoque_convertible_frontRange Rover Evoque convertible is an astonishing eye-catcher. Never before have we experienced more interest and comments on a new vehicle under test. With one exception all the comments were favourable, with people loving the style and cheekiness of the concept, and the fact it came as a complete surprise.

Only one comment was from someone who didn’t like the Evoque, or perhaps it was the two of driving the open-top Rangie. He said something along the lines of “you silly rich so-and-so’s”. You can fill in different words as they take your fancy.

Based on the three-door hardtop version of the Evoque, the convertible has had its entire upper body removed, with the obvious exception of the windscreen. The windscreen frame has been beefed up for rollover protection. A rollover protection system behind the back seats deploys two aluminium bars leap up in just 90 milliseconds to create a survival space for occupants.

A considerable amount of strengthening had to be added to replace the strength lost due to the missing roof. This is primarily below the floor and results in a significant weight increase of about 275 kilograms depending on the model. There’s also a slight loss of ground clearance, down to 206 mm from the 212 of the hardtop.

The lightweight fabric roof can be powered open in only 21 seconds and stowed in just 18 seconds, both at speeds up to 50 km/h. With the roof closed it remains surprisingly stylish, with a near flat top, a sharp angle at the rear leading down to a steeply slope fabric tail. It looks great to our eyes.

Rear seat legroom is the same as in the three-door hardtop, but the reduced width in the back means there are now two seats not three. Headroom with the top closed is the same as in the five-door wagon, curiously it’s slightly more than in the three-door.

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Headroom with the roof open goes up forever!

Boot size is quite good at 250 litres, illustrating the advantage of starting with a squared-off body in a vehicle class that increasingly populated by sleek wagons. The boot’s shape is good, but it’s a bit of a hassle to squeeze things in to the letter-box opening.

Power for Australian imports of the Evoque comes from the familiar 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, with 177 kW of power, or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 132 kW.

Four-wheel drive is through a nine-speed automatic transmission. There’s a Terrain Response system, Wade Sensing and All-Terrain Progress Control that makes the Evoque a convertible for all seasons and all reasons.

Range Rover put together an excellent drive program to introduce the Evoque convertible to the Australian motoring media. Based on Queensland’s Fraser Island it involved a long drive from Kingfisher Bay on the west coast of the island to the 75-Mile beach. Exactly the sort of trip for a full day of family-friendly adventure.

The run in the Evoque convertible across the world’s largest island involved many kilometres of sandy track through dense rainforests and wetlands. Up and down quite steep hills the tracks had some challenging soft sections and harsh surfaces that really do require a genuine 4WD. Crossovers that are simply a passenger car with a different body and a basic all-wheel-drive transmission need not apply.

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When we reached the beach that seemed to go on forever Evoque enjoyed a long romp north, then south, with the occasional splash through the edge of the surf. Great fun.

Fuel consumption was high, averaging 20 litres per hundred kilometres for the petrol and 16 litres for the diesel. So make sure you have a full tank before heading on your off-road adventures.

The next day we had a ride on the barge across to the mainland and some on-road driving to the Hervey Bay area and the hinterland behind it. Smooth road ride is good, but rougher surfaces did show up a little scuttle shake (body flex). We didn’t do any dirt road driving, but feel the Evoque convertible wouldn’t be too keen on it.

Later we will borrow a Range Rover Evoque for our usual week’s review and report on its ability in boring traffic, carparks and all the realities of motoring life. Then bring you a full report.

So great has been the interest in the Range Rover Evoque globally and in Australia (100 pre orders here, mostly from people who had never seen an Evoque) that it’s hard to imagine that every other upmarket car maker in the world doesn’t have some early sketches on their screens to compete with the very different Brit.

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