2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible Road Test Review

By : Trevor Hofmann
  Note to Range Rover: shelve your 2017 advertising campaign. Just make sure Adele, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Drake, Justin, Lukas, Sturgill, and don’t forget James Corden, roll up to the 59th Grammys at Staples Center on the eve of Feb 12 in Evoque Convertibles. It’ll immediately be the must-have ride in LA, and that’s the only place an SUV like this matters. No doubt it’ll find pockets of fashionably forward urbanites in Canada too, the world’s 1st and only luxury SUV drop-top as comfortable as it is unusually stylish. Check out our in-depth review now.......
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
       
 
If you want to stand out in the world of luxury, you can't merely imitate. You've got to innovate. Mercedes did this by introducing
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
the world's first four-door coupe in its CLS, and then followed it up with the ultra-popular CLA; BMW took the same concept to new heights with their sport coupe-like X6 SUV and more recent X4; and now Land Rover's most premium Range Rover division brings us the world's first luxury SUV convertible.

World's first? I suppose we should have already given Land Rover that title for its Defender 90, which was certainly luxurious when it came to pricing and features, at least for the '90s (it was dubbed 90 for its wheelbase, not the era), and of course included a removable top, but the new Evoque Convertible is the first modern-day drop-top SUV with a fully automated and insulated power retractable roof and a truly luxurious interior. That it's based on the only true two-door SUV coupe
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
in the industry just goes to show that innovation is nothing new with Land Rover's Range Rover division.

In Canada the Evoque Convertible actually replaces the Evoque Coupe, which is still available in the U.S. and other markets. The four-door Evoque continues forward as the Range Rover brand's entry-level SUV, albeit despite a base price slightly below $50k it's not its bestselling model. That would be the mid-size Range Rover Sport that starts more than 50 percent higher, while the top-tier full-size Range Rover, which enters the picture at more than twice the Evoque's price, is two-thirds as popular.

To
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
make that clearer, the numbers are 1,568 Evoques down the road so far this year, 2,737 Range Rover Sports (which after 11 months is already 57 more units than LR sold through all of 2015 and considerably more than all other years the Sport has been available), and 1,060 full-size Range Rovers over the same period (which puts it on target for last year's sales, both of which have been stronger than ever before). Last year's 2,162 Evoque sales made for a best 12 months ever too, although with one month left to sell 594 units it doesn't take a prognosticator the likes of Nostradamus to figure out calendar year 2016 won't measure up.

This result is strange considering a burgeoning compact luxury SUV segment and that
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
the Evoque received a mid-cycle makeover for the 2016 model year, which, other than the addition of this new Convertible, carries over unchanged into 2017. Then again it might be the most conservative update of an SUV ever implemented, only including a mildly reworked grille, larger air intakes, new available "slimline" fog lights, restyled headlamps, the inclusion of the coupe model's hood vents on the two topmost trims of the hardtop and this new Convertible, and a new rooftop spoiler with a new wider CHMSL plus a new rooftop antenna for the hardtop, whereas the revised interior features gorgeous new sculpted front seats, redesigned door panels, more soft-touch materials all-round, new colour combinations, much improved centre stack infotainment, new massaging front seats in top-tier trims, and the list goes on.

Speaking
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
of styling, the new Evoque Convertible looks superb with its powered Z-folding fabric roof in place. Grafting a soft top to a vehicle that most likely was never initially meant to wear one is a hit and miss proposition that's hard enough to do with sport coupes let alone SUVs, but Land Rover's designers made the cloth roof flow fluidly into the rear portion of the vehicle, with only a slight semblance of a rear deck lid remaining, the latter seeming more like a big spoiler across the SUV's backside than the top of a trunk. The unusual ragtop has a particularly nice visual flow from front to back, unlike a previous non-premium SUV convertible that will remain unnamed so as not to conjure repugnant thoughts, and therefore merely gets points for being brave.

Say what you want about the new Evoque Convertible, but I received more positive feedback while taking notes during its photo shoot than anything I've driven
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
in recent months, and I've enjoyed some exemplary rides. Likewise while driving around on an ideally sunny afternoon most onlookers smiled and raised their thumbs high, while others merely looked on in stunned disbelief. I think Range Rover has a minor hit on his hands.

It might not sell as well in Montreal or Toronto as it does in Vancouver, but from what I've been told, fashionable Londoners, which admittedly are patriotically biased toward the Range Rover brand, have been snapping them up despite the city's often depressingly dreary conditions (although it's been unusually balmy this December). That's not to say it'll be a hit in Canada's colder regions, but I could see pockets of the ultimately stylish not being able to live without one. Even if it doesn't
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
become an overwhelming must-have SUV sensation, it should at least draw greater attention to the more practical four-door version of this particularly well-made subcompact SUV.

Then again my local dealer sold three Evoque Convertibles in one day: one to a couple that were riding their bikes past the dealership when they noticed it, and the wife said to her husband, "we must have that" or so I was told. It just so happens they already owned an Evoque Coupe, so the transition to the open-top version made perfect sense. This also says a great deal about Range Rover customers, they're amply satisfied to stay in this British SUV family. This couple called a friend while they were writing up the deal, she and her husband came down
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
to see it and factory ordered one, while a third customer anted up later in the day.

Other than its augmented roof the Evoque Convertible is pretty much identical to the two-door coupe that's gone away, at least ahead of the rear seatbacks. Instead of the usual large roomy cargo area there's a wide, deep, albeit shallow trunk behind a fixed rear bulkhead designed to increase structural rigidity, with just a small pass-through at centre for fitting longer cargo. Compared to most subcompact or even compact convertibles the Evoque's cargo carrying capability is impressive at 251 litres (8.8 cubic feet).

Unlike the regular four-door Evoque, the Convertible can only be purchased in mid-grade HSE Dynamic trim at a base price of $65,990 plus freight and dealer fees.
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
This makes sense as it'll only sell in comparatively small numbers and most buyers will want it as fully equipped as possible without pushing its price into stratospheric Autobiography territory; the top trim adds $14k to the Evoque hardtop's base price.

Without turning this review into a brochure, some feature highlights include the pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding heatable side mirrors with approach and puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors, heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, reverse camera, 380-watt 10-speaker Meridian audio, 12-way powered and heated front seats with three-position memory for both, and all the expected active and passive safety features from the four-door's base SE model (plus structurally
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
upgraded roof pillars, a reinforced centre cross-member, and deployable roll hoops behind the rear seats); the HID headlights, fog lamps, proximity-sensing access, configurable mood lighting, Homelink garage door opener, larger 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment touchscreen with navigation, Oxford leather upholstery with perforated inserts, and powered tailgate from that more conventional body style's HSE trim; and the previously noted hood louvres, additional exterior styling upgrades, 20-inch alloys on 245/45 Continental Cross Contact rubber, illuminated metal treadplates, and yet more interior trim upgrades from the HSE Dynamic.

This means it does without the Autobiography's satin silver exterior trim (I think the Narvik Black details look nicer with lighter colours like my tester's standard Fuji White anyway), adaptive cornering HID headlights with auto-leveling and unique
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
signature LED design, full Oxford leather interior, 14-way powered front seats with adjustable side cushions, ventilation and massage (the latter featuring various preset programs), 825-watt Meridian audio upgrade, etcetera, but you won't feel like you're missing anything as even without these upgrades the Evoque is more opulently attired than most of its rivals, and then some.

Still, you can add most of these features on as options. My tester included the full leather upgrade, a $1,300 addition that covers the instrument panel and door uppers with contrast-stitched leather and upgrades the upholstery to all Ebony black with contrast white thread or a variety of colours added to the seats, door inserts
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
and stitching, my car's black interior complemented with fabulous Pimento red, while Lunar grey with Ivory cream, Ebony with Vintage Tan, or Lunar with Ice blue/green is also available. Additionally my example swapped its standard textured aluminum dash inlay for $400 worth of Gloss Black Strata veneer, while the stock stereo was improved to a 12-speaker Meridian system with 660 watts of power for an additional $1,100, which was really useful due to the open-top SUV's inherently louder ambiance when the top was down.

Lastly, a $2,300 Advanced Driver Assistance package added a crystal clear 360-degree surround camera with visual park distance control and towing assist, automated parallel and perpendicular parking with parking exit, enhanced navigation with traffic sign recognition, attention assist to make sure you're not falling asleep at the wheel, lane keeping assist with autonomous braking if you do, plus
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
blindspot monitoring with reverse traffic detection and closing vehicle detection. Altogether it came to $71,090 before adding freight, fees and taxes, a reasonable price for such a well-equipped luxury SUV convertible, not that there's anything to compare it to.

If you fully load up your Evoque Convertible with the nicest paint, priciest wheels (there are four alternative 20-inch alloys from no-cost black rims to $500, $1,000, and $1,500 versions to choose from), the aforementioned $1,700 adaptive headlights, $1,500 adaptive cruise control that also adds Queue Assist, Forward Alert, and High Speed Intelligent Emergency Braking, $1,300 luxury seating package, $1,300 head-up display, $450 satellite radio (yes, strange that's not included
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
with the base model), $400 rear seat wind deflector, and every other feature available you can tack on an additional $10k to the model I tested, but you'll have created a little Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe in the process, albeit one that'll go just about anywhere.

Remember that Defender comment earlier? I'm not going to even pretend the Evoque Convertible could keep up with the legendary off-roader on the most treacherous Class V and VI trails, but it's certainly more than capable for Class III terrain, even on a bad day, or venturing into rougher Class IV territory for those willing to scratch its gorgeous paint and wheels. In other words it's a true 4x4 that can crawl over rocks and roots, straddle deep divides, clamber up steep embankments of loose gravel or snow, wade through mud and muck and even ford
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
more than knee-deep puddles and slow running rivers as long as they're not more than 500 mm (20 inches) in depth. There are some great videos of Evoque Convertibles waist high in swampy waters you should check out. Range Rover includes four Terrain Response settings for overcoming all kinds of obstacles from grass to gravel and snow, plus mud and ruts to sand, as well as general driving of course.

Some of the tech that goes into its off-road prowess also makes the Evoque one of the best performing SUVs on pavement, from conveniences like hill start assist and hill decent control to an active driveline that continuously monitors the vehicle's parameters and those uncontrollable ones outside before seamlessly engaging four-wheel drive within 300 milliseconds if needed. Available ABS brake induced
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
torque vectoring also continuously monitors the SUV and road surface below before distributing available torque between each wheel for the best possible steering response and grip. There's more, but I'll leave it there.

All Evoques utilize the same Ford-sourced direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder that's good for 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, which when fitted to the regular SUV is capable of a fairly energetic 7.6-second dash to 100km/h and a 217 km/h (135 mph) top speed, but the extra reinforcements needed to strengthen the Evoque Convertible's unibody add about 280 kilos (617 lbs) to its total curb weight so its ability to canter up to highway speeds results in an 8.6-second trot, while its terminal velocity slips to 180 km/h (112 mph). Still, the little four pulled away from standstill with ample energy and its nine-speed auto
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
was wonderfully smooth, even better than I remember last year's version being, and brilliantly quick shifting via paddles no less. That its rotating gear selector actually powers up out of its otherwise flush lower console position upon startup is just one of those wow-factor moments that never gets tiresome in this ultra-special ute; the Brits certainly know how to make a grand entrance. 

It happily snaked through serpentine stretches of roadway too, the impressive electronics just noted no doubt coming into play, although you could feel the extra weight of this drop-top compared to the much more playful feeling four-door model. Still, putting it in perspective the Evoque is already more capable around corners than many of its peers thanks to a particularly wide and low stance, so this topless version is still agile enough when pavement starts to wind, while ride quality was plenty compliant too.

All
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
this is fine, but the speed you can retract the Evoque Convertible's top and let the sunshine in is probably more important to its targeted buyer. That would be 18 seconds, and you can do so up to speeds of 48 km/h (30 mph), relieving the stoplight anxiety some experience when attempting to power a more common convertible's top down or up.

Fuel economy? If you must ask it's quite efficient at 11.4 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 8.6 combined, while its tailpipe only wafts out 201 g/km of CO2 emissions, which is hardly enough to feed a common shrubbery.

So should we expect to see more luxury SUV convertibles in the near future or is this a one-off that no one will dare emulate? Of course such decisions by other automakers will come down to Range Rover's success with this newcomer, which as
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
 
noted by my personal experience could at least initially be quite strong. Digital renditions of an Audi Q2 convertible have been circulating the interweb (the hardtop version slated to arrive in North America next year), as have some stunning topless images of Mercedes' larger GLC. Could Range Rover be onto something? Only time will tell.

As it is the Evoque Convertible, and any follower, will be a niche product no matter how you slice it, but at least with respect to this go-anywhere SUV there's something romantic about dropping the top while exploring the wild unknown a la classic Land Rover Series I, II, III, or Defender 90 style, and it'll likely cost you less to do so in this brand new 2017 model than attempting to snatch up one of the few available 20-plus year old Defenders on the pre-owned market. Kudos to this revered British brand for having the courage to create something that's unique and appealing enough to become yet another future collectable.

I must say after a sunny stint behind the wheel I like the Evoque Convertible much more than I expected to.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)
 
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