Second Drive

The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is absurd and strangely appealing

Where wants and needs collide, a niche appears.

  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Image Credit: Land Rover
  • Engine
    Turbo 2.0L I4
  • Power
    240 HP / 250 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    9-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    8.6 Seconds (0-62)
  • Top Speed
    130 MPH
  • Drivetrain
    All-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    4,268 LBS
  • Seating
  • Cargo
    8.9 CU-FT
  • MPG
    20 City / 28 HWY
  • Base Price
Fog-swaddled Monterey is bursting with classics during Pebble Beach weekend. A Porsche 356 coupe, subtly perfect in gloss silver over deep red, and a Maserati sit in front of a sushi joint. Across the street, a BMW E9 naps while its owners shop. The few pedestrians here on Lighthouse Avenue are gawking at the Range Rover gliding by.

We haven't driven this British chimera in the US yet; our first drive was in the UK, so we took this opportunity to drive the Evoque Convertible around the peninsula for the weekend to see what the reaction on the street, from real live Americans, would be. Even in municipal-fleet white with as anonymous a black soft top as they come, this thing roots bystanders to the curb and sends out tractor beams to draw their eyes to its flanks. You'd think these people had never seen a convertible crossover before. If you want anonymity, park yourself in an orange Miura next to a white Evoque cabrio.

Maybe in another era this tall, retractable-roof oddity sharing a brand name with a rugged British icon wouldn't draw so much attention. But today, flash is in. This is sheer spectacle, basically a roadgoing Cirque du Soleil tumbling into view as the townies stroll home from the cantina. Suddenly it's full-body leotards and strange lights and they're stacking a bunch of chairs and would you believe that Range Rover over there is a convertible? The gray Porsche, dignified and understated, is invisible.

I can believe it, because the Convertible arguably works better than the Coupe. It's a practical package with a hell of a party trick. Those rear seats aren't for show; real humans who aren't professional contortionists can fit comfortably behind a realistically sized driver. I'm 5' 10" and slightly built, and if you cloned me, four of us would be comfortable in there, top up or down, for a couple hours. Body types vary, as will your own experience, but the rear accommodations are generous for a vehicle this size.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible

The biggest gripe from the rear seats isn't a lack of headroom (it's fine; not generous, but adequate) but rather the lack of a place to put your outboard elbow other than a strange hollowed-out spot in the hull. A small but well-placed armrest folds out of the center of the rear bench, so your inboard arms get the treatment they deserve. The sill is way too high to put your windward arm up on it, but at least there's space for knees and feet – both of them. The grandkids will have plenty of room to wind up for a really satisfying seatback kick.

Pop up the little hatch under the spoilerette and there's a deep space for luggage – nearly nine cubic feet, which trounces the cargo area in the Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper droptops. An origami wind blocker folds into a wide, flat shape when not in use, and doesn't eat much precious cargo room. Two regular size roll-aboards fit perfectly, but everything else must go in the back seat. Plan accordingly based on expected use; two couples seeking a weekend getaway can pile in, but the luggage won't.

As is standard practice, there's a brace of extra bracing under the Evoque Convertible to keep it from shimmying over rough spots. There wasn't enough scuttle shake to be worth mentioning, but the dash and doors emitted strange and transient rattles. Convertibles make noise, sure, but pay attention on your test drive if this sort of thing drives you bonkers.

That extra metal and the top itself are the reasons the Convertible is a few hundred pounds heavier than the last Evoque Coupe we drove. It's still spry thanks to the 240-hp turbocharged inline-four. Ask for a little scoot and you'll have to wait for the boost to build before it scampers away. Ask for a lot, and suddenly the ZF nine-speed transaxle has to rouse itself, rub the sleep out of its eyes, make a pot of coffee, kick the slippers out from under the bed, and shuffle off to rummage for that gear you requested. The Sport transmission setting takes some of the pain out of the process, but not much. This is not my favorite automatic out there, but at least things are lively on the way up the range, and the engine makes whooshy go-fast sounds and gurgly exhaust noises.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible

Top down, on the quick windy section of CA-17 coming out of Santa Cruz, the Evoque's direct and honest steering is an asset. This is a mountain freeway, sinuous and narrow, so the ability to place the car accurately while overtaking mid-curve is appreciated. It seems like it'd be a tippy little thing, tall on a short wheelbase and with heavy convertible machinery up top, but it's not. Do not assume it has transcended Newtonian physics and there's a Miata under the Rover bodywork, but by all means, take a few corners hard and make your passengers giggle. Spectacle, right?

If you're wondering what sort of customer might be drawn to this Mini Convertible on stilts in a duffel coat with a stern male-model look on its face, I'll tell you: my mother. It's as if the product planners were listening; perhaps my folks' condo is bugged. She has a Cooper Convertible and frets that she'll have trouble packing as-of-yet hypothetical grandkids in it. And then there's winter, which in Seattle is as hypothetical a threat as the space these imaginary grandkids need. Even so, she's eyeing the all-weather practicality of a CUV while prematurely mourning the loss of open-top motoring during Seattle's five-minute summer.

The Evoque Convertible is not cheap for its size; a base model starts at $52,095, which is $5,400 more than the Evoque Coupe. The HSE model we drove had $5,100 worth of active safety features tacked on; the head-up display, park assist, and adaptive cruise helped push it to somewhere north of $64,000. There's a niche for everyone, if you've got the scratch.

Land Rover thinks there are enough customers to justify limited production of this all-wheel-drive circus with a view. It was smart to have us rolling around Monterey like billboards. The Evoque's rough edges disappear once the top is stowed, and what's left is both the medium and the message. More power to 'em, buyers and builders alike.

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