After originally launching as a concept all the way back at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar Land Rover revealed the worlds first luxury compact SUV convertible, the 2016 Range Rover Evoque Convertible, in November 2015. The production model was shown to the public for the first time at the Los Angeles Auto Show during mid-November having gone through a rigorous testing program that saw prototypes cover hundreds of thousands of miles on test tracks, off-road facilities and public roads around the world. These tests pushed the Evoque Convertible to its limits, and whilst one fleet was being put through its paces around the clock on data rigs, with hydraulic rams simulating particularly harsh full-life mileages, another was enduring extreme temperatures, altitude and endurance to reach the necessary sign off. With that all out of the way and an order book of around 1,500 waiting before anyone had driven it, I headed to the French Alps to see what it was like!
It goes without saying, that the main design change between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Evoque Convertible is the brand new Ebony Black folding fabric roof. The Land Rover designers have managed to retain the Evoque’s bold and progressive exterior design of the five-door and coupe derivatives whether the roof is open or closed.
The Evoque Convertible was tested in the same off-road environments and to the same high standards as all Land Rover vehicles. This included loading the Evoque Convertible to its maximum gross vehicle weight and undertaking tough off-road terrain to subject the chassis to immense twisting forces, scaling 45-degree gradients, tilting to 35 degrees and wading through water up to 500mm deep. As a result of passing all the procedures it was challenged with, the Evoque Convertible offers a similar off-road performance to existing Evoque Dynamic derivatives.
After Land Rover’s designers had evaluated the possible options for their convertible roof system, they opted for the sophisticated Z-fold fabric roof from world leaders Webasto. With tension bow architecture and a flush-fitted heated glass rear window wrapped in Ebony Black fabric, it complements the Evoque’s crisply defined proportions. Additionally the new frameless doors ensure a clean profile when the roof and windows are lowered.
One of the advantages of the fabric roof design is, when compared to a folding hardtop solution, the reduced weight and improved centre of gravity. Another advantage is that the Evoque Convertible’s 251-litre luggage capacity is not affected whether the roof is open or closed. The roof system will lower in just 18 seconds and rise in 21 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph (48km/h). Additionally, all four windows are able to be simultaneously raised or lowered for maximum convenience.
An additional rear wind deflector can be quickly installed between the rear three quarter trim panels. When the roof is lowered, discreet hinged panels located at the rear of the interior fold flush to conceal the roof mechanism, ensuring Evoque’s contemporary lines retain a clean and uncluttered appearance.
For safety, a Roll-Over Protection Device (RPD), features deployable roll-over bars hidden in the rear quarter panel. In the unlikely event the Evoque Convertible rolls-over, the RPD automatically deploys two aluminium bars in 90milliseconds, to create a safety space for occupants.
The Evoque Convertible comes with the option of two levels of trim, SE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic. Both specifications feature a deeper, more aggressive front bumper and air intakes, than that is found on the fixed-roof Evoques. The SE Dynamic package includes Brunel Silver fenders, grille, fog light surrounds and optional bonnet vents, whilst the HSE dynamic package can be differentiated from the SE package by premium Narvik Black components, gloss-black bonnet vents and slimline LED fog lights. They both come with a Corris Grey front tow-eye cover. There is also the option of the “Black Pack” which provides an even more dramatic road presence with the use of unique Satin Black 20-inch alloy wheels, head-,tail- and fog-lamps featuring black non-reflective surfaces, exterior trim finished in Narvik Black and a black exhaust tailpipe finish.
The addition of body-coloured side skirts help to visually lower the vehicle, whilst the rear bumper houses the distinctive twin exhaust outlets. An all-new tailgate features a spoiler that houses the LED stoplight and aids the aerodynamics of the vehicle, which in turn improves the handling capabilities of the Evoque Convertible and built into the base of the door mirrors is a puddle-lamp graphic, which at night is projected to show the outline of the Evoque Convertible on the ground below.
The Evoque Convertible is available in 13 exterior colours, including new Baltoro Ice and Waitomo Grey metallics, and has a selection of 11 alloy wheel designs ranging from 17-20 Inches to further enhance the Evoque Convertible. The Evoque Convertible will be built alongside its five-door and coupé siblings at Land Rovers multi-award-winning Halewood manufacturing plant in Liverpool.
Engine & Performance
The Evoque Convertible is available with three different engines. Two of these are 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engines, with the other being a 2.0-litre Si4 four-cylinder petrol engine.
The entry level Ingenium diesel engine produces 150PS at 4,000rpm, and 380NM at 1,750rpm, whilst the top Ingenium diesel engine produces 180PS at 4,000rpm, and 430NM at 1,750rpm. The Si4 engine on offer will produce 240PS at 5,800rpm and 340NM at 1,750rpm.
Performance wise, the Si4 petrol engine goes from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds before reaching a top speed of 209km/h (130mph) with a combined fuel consumption of 32.9mpg. Comparatively, the 150PS goes from 0-100km/h in 14.5seconds, hits 180km/h (112mph) and has a combined fuel consumption of 49.6mpg, and the 180PS has the same 0-100km/h time and combined fuel consumption whilst reaching 195km/h (121mph).
Gearbox & Chassis
The gearbox is supplied by ZF and is a state-of-the-art nine-speed transverse automatic transmission with a closely staggered ratio set. This closely staggered ratio set gives a very low first gear, which is designed for a quick acceleration from a standstill, low-speed off-road driving and tackling extreme inclines and descents. Due to this, second gear is the default gear when the Evoque Convertible comes to a stand still. At the other end of the ratio set is ninth, which has been optimised to reduce engine speed for motorway cruising. As has become the norm, there is two steering-wheel mounted paddles that allow the driver to manually select the gears if they don’t wish to leave the transmission in auto mode.
To compensate for the lack of a solid roof, and therefore some loss of structual integrity, Jaguar Land Rover has had to add around 250kg of chassis bracing to give the Evoque Convertible as similar twist-resistance to the fixed-roof variants.
The inside of the Evoque Convertible is nicely specced, as expected for a £47,500 starting price. There are fixed twin rear seats, revised quarter trim speakers and central bolster of which the ski hatch that opens out through. For vehicles with the SE Dynamic package, there are eight-way electric memory seats covered in in a sophisticated Ebony/Ebony dual-tone grained leather. If you spec the HSE Dynamic package, you get 12-way electric adjustment seats wrapped in a choice of three Oxford leather combinations: bony/Pimento, Ebony/Vintage Tan and Lunar/Ice.
There is a perforated mid section and centre-ribbed sections available in Ebony/Ebony and Lunar/Ivory. Finally there is a 14-way climate control and a massage function that can be specced to the seats. The Evoque Convertible has 251-litres of storage space, down from 420 in the fixed-roofs, regardless of whether the roof is up or down, and the ski hatch helps to added more storage options when carrying larger items. When the roof is up, the reduced visibility is noticeable with only the two small rear quarter windows and letterbox rear window in the roof providing insight to what is behind you.
Mounted in the centre console is InControl Touch Pro with its 10.2-inch touchscreen and state-of-the-art 3G connectivity. Its super-wide 21:9 format and 1280×542 pixel resolution is 80% greater than the standard eight-inch touchscreen system found in the standard Evoque’s. The Evoque Convertible comes with a 60GB Solid Sate Disk (SSD) that has the ability, amongst other things, to store up to 16,000 songs. This can then be matted to either the standard 380W Meridian Digital Sound System, featuring 10 speakers and a dual-channel subwoofer, or the premium 12-speaker, 660w surround-sound Meridian audio system, that includes a dual-channel subwoofer and amplifier with advanced digital processing.
There are no ‘hard’ buttons on the system, so the four most commonly required functions are set on the home screen, Audio, Climate, Telephone and Satellite Navigation. As well as being accessible via the steering wheel-mounted controls, InControl Touch Pro also utilises capacitive technology, allowing swipe, pan, and pinch ‘n’ zoom to be used on several of the functions, including WiFi hotspot, parking cameras, Eco Data, Wade Sensing and rear-seat climate-control settings, in a similar way to a smartphone or tablet.
A wide range of Land Rover InControl technologies can be specced to the Evoque Convertible including InControl Pro Services, which allows up to eight devices to connect to the 3G hotspot. InControl Remote Premium, InControl Secure and InControl Protect are also available and allow the owners to unlock and lock the vehicle, rest the alarm, track the vehicle should it be stolen and summon roadside assistance or the emergency services. InControl Arrival Mode is also available and displays an interactive 360-degree street level imagery of your destination for seamless journey arrival, whilst InControl Apps syncs Apple or Android smartphones, via a USB interface, to provide access to well known apps optimised for in-car use on the touchscreen infotainment system.
One of the features that the Evoque Convertible comes equipped with is Terrain Response. This system tailors the steering, throttle, transmission, centre-coupling and braking response to the terrain via four settings; General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts; and Sand. Whilst Terrain Response is designed to match the terrain upon which you are driving, All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) allows the driver to set, and maintain, a given speed in off-road environments. Once setting your speed in ATPC between 1.1mph to 19mph (1.8km/h to 30km/h), the system constantly monitors and adjusts the vehicles settings to optimise traction and maintain progress without the need of the driver to apply the pedals. This also means ATPC can be used from a standstill, which can be a benefit in slippery conditions.
Another driver aids featured on the Evoque Convertible is Autonomous Emergency Braking. Helping to avoid accidents at speeds below 35km/h (21mph) and greatly reducing the severity of impacts between 50-80km/h (32-50mph). Using an innovative stereo camera mounted next to the rear-view mirror, it monitors the surroundings for objects that potentially could cause a risk of collision, such as queuing traffic. In the instance that a potential collision is detected, the driver is alerted by both a visual and audible warning. If the driver fails to take any action, then an additional driver warning is triggered whilst the system applies maximum braking pressure to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop. Autonomous Emergency Braking is available when Lane-Keeping Assist or Lane-Departure Warning systems are specified.
Another feature is Lane-Keeping Assist, which complimented by Lane-Departure Warning, alerts the driver when they drift out of their lane. Lane-Departure warns the driver by vibrating the steering wheel, whilst Lane-Keeping helps the driver to stay in their lane by applying steering correction as necessary. Lane-Keeping works by combining the input from a forward-facing stereo camera used to monitor the road markings, together with the electric power-assisted steering. When Lane-Keeping senses that the driver is unintentionally changing lanes, it gently applies steering input to return the vehicle to its intended position. It has been designed to be unobtrusive, so it does not activate when the indicators are active and can be easily steered against and be completely disengaged if the driver so wishes.
With driver fatigue being a major cause of road traffic accidents, the Evoque Convertible can also be equipped with a system called Driver Condition Monitor. This system monitors the driver’s steering inputs to guard against the driver falling asleep at the wheel. If the system detects a jerky, non-linear movement on the steering wheel, as commonly found when a driver is starting to slip off, it automatically triggers both an audio and visual warning. All three of these technologies help to make the Evoque Convertible a safer and more relaxing environment.
A new and exclusive feature to the Evoque Convertible is the 360degree parking aid that provides virtual object tracking along the sides of the vehicle at speeds up to 16 km/h (10mph). Traffic Sign Recognition is also included, scanning the road ahead for signs and displaying them via the drivers dash or HUD if detected. Due to the Evoque Convertible’s differing weight distribution and revised chassis settings, it required all parameters governing stability control, ABS, four-wheel drive and Terrain Response settings to be recalibrated on a comprehensive range of surfaces. The evaluation process took place near the Arctic Circle and lasted for four months during which temperatures frequently fell below minus 30 degrees Celsius.
To test the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible I flew to France’s second-largest city, Lyon, to start my journey to the French Alps and my overnight stop in Courchevel. There are several reasons why Jaguar Land Rover have picked this area to launch the Evoque Convertible, even though the main market for the vehicle will be the United Kingdom. It is expected that the Evoque Convertible will also have healthy sales in Europe and the variable weather in this area of France showcases its capabilities of being the first Convertible for all four seasons. With the Evoque Convertible mainly being designed for coastal drives and alpine trips, where better to show it off than the exclusive Courchevel ski resort!
Upon landing in Lyon, myself and the other journalists were greeted by the highly-visible Jaguar Land Rover event staff, who guided us to the airports conference room for some refreshments and a short presentation on our ride for the next two days. Following on from a short presentation we were lead outside to a line-up of 16 Range Rover Evoque Convertibles, 14 in Orange and two in Grey. We were then handed the keys to our Evoque Convertible and quickly set about finding our way out of the airport carpark and onto the highway towards the lunch stop at Restaurant Lamartine on the side of Lac du Bourget.
This first stretch was mainly highway based, and gave a good opportunity to experience the Evoque Convertible in a scenario that will become the norm to a large percentage of the Convertibles sold. As expected, the Evoque Convertible managed this without a problem. With the roof down, and rear wind deflectors up, the wind noise is reduced remarkably and for a SUV with plenty of off-road capability there were no complaints on the ride. After about an hour of highway and country-road driving we reached our lunch stop, Restaurant Lamartine overlooking Lac du Bourget.
Following on from our lunch stop at the fantastic Restaurant Lamartine, we headed into the Alps and to a specially closed off green-lane course that gave us a first taste of how the Evoque Convertible handles an off-road situation. Unsurprisingly, the Evoque Convertible handled the muddy and rocky terrain with ease and after navigating our way down the 5-minute long stretch it was back onto the A roads and onto our next stop, Forêt de la Dent. Here Jaguar Land Rover had created a unique off-road assault course for us to tackle with our Evoque Convertibles. Designed to showoff the offload capabilities and Assistance Systems of the Evoque Convertible, the course saw us tackle steep descents, 35-degree camber curves and more.
There was also a test where upon driving over an offset obstacle, the Evoque Convertible would perch on three wheels, with the weight either on the front offside, or rear nearside wheel. Whilst undertaking this test, the instructors encouraged us to open and close the doors to demonstrate the worth of the additional cross-bracing underneath the car. The last test saw us put the vehicle in ATPC and crawl up and down a 45-degree slope. After a couple of laps around the course and a fantastic hot chocolate in the support hut, it was back in the Evoque Convertible for the last short drive up through Courchevel 1650 and on to our hotel in Courchevel 1850, L’Apogée Courchevel.
The following morning we left our fantastic overnight accommodation and made the short journey across to Saint-Bon-Tarenaise, where another agility course was waiting for us. This specific course was entirely cut out of snow. The course was designed to show us how the different off-road settings on the Evoque Convertible worked. It was great fun and the course allowed us to experience not only driving on hard compacted snow, but also how changing the mode allowed us to drive with the same composure and confidence in the lighter, fresher, less compacted snow.
After several laps around the course it was time to make a move back down out of the mountains and on towards our lunch stop. One noticeable downside of the Evoque Convertible on our way back down and out of the mountains was, given the size and weight of the vehicle, that the brakes were put under a lot of strain and work, and at times you could get a whiff of the brakes getting rather hot. Shifting the transmission into Sports mode, and manually selecting the gears as we descended helped to shift some of the work away from the brakes.
Once we were out of the mountains and back on the A roads heading to our lunch stop, we put the roof up for the first time. The roof did a great job of cancelling out a lot of the wind noise that can be found on a fabric-roofed convertible. It felt a little dark and enclosed given the small amount of light that was coming in from the rear of the vehicle. After lunch, the roof was back down and we were cutting our way back through vineyard country, towards the highway and our last, small, blast to the the airport to catch our flight back home.
At the moment there is no direct competition to the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, but we’d expect to see the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes at least show concept/design studies of convertible SUVs in the near future, as they won’t want to be left behind, if as expected, the Evoque Convertible becomes a success.
Prior to driving the Evoque Convertible I was a fan of the concept, a luxury droptop SUV, and was surprised other manufactures hadn’t released a model earlier. Now, after spending a couple of days in the French Alps it definitely has met my expectations. At times its additional weight does make it feel a little sluggish when compared to its fixed-roof siblings, a “hotter” version wouldn’t go a miss. But with the roof down, sun-shining and a quick twisty country road, it is hard not to smile and enjoy this SUV. With a strong order book already in place, expect demand to increase when customer drives commence. The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is on sale in Spring of 2016 in over 170 markets worldwide.