Who doesn’t love the British summer.
Short-lived 3 day heatwaves, thunder storms, hail, rain and not forgetting the cold evenings where unless there’s a heater you’re probably better off sat indoors. Or in front of a fire. With a jumper on.
We Brits might be a hardy lot, but when it comes to the weather, it’s what we complain about the most.
So could the Range Rover Evoque Convertible be the car that gets you through the rather unpredictable summer season?
I went for a leisurely drive in rural Dorset on the beautiful Jurassic Coast – home to some of the UK’s best driving routes – to see whether it really can get you through the summer, and beyond.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible review
in a nutshell:
Is this a joke?
Back in 2011, bemused, I stood in front of a Land Rover stand at Westfield shopping centre in London.
Parked in front of me and surrounded by a swarm of intrigued shoppers, was the new, smaller, Range Rover – a compact version of the original, but aimed at a different audience, to be called the Range Rover Evoque.
Honestly, I couldn’t contain the giggles. Less than 50 metres away Mini was promoting their new car – The Countryman, a larger version of the Mini Cooper.
The world is going mad, I thought. Here’s one company trying to make their small car bigger, while another is trying to make their big car smaller.
Most successful car
Five years later, and the SUV is one of the biggest selling concepts across the world. Gone are the days when people carriers ruled the world, and the crossover has become king.
And what’s more, Land Rover, the British car maker of the Range Rover Evoque, has had the last laugh – thanks to its distinctive sloping roof, iconic shape and top of the range tech.
In the first year (2011) the iconic British brand sold over 80,000 cars.
And in February this year, the 500,000th Evoque rolled off the production line in Liverpool.
Since then it has gone on to become the most successful car the company has ever sold, and is recognised the world over.
Five years on and Land Rover is ready to kick start what is likely to be a competitive market with the newly–launched soft-top version of the Range Rover Evoque – what Land Rover describe as ‘The World’s First Luxury SUV convertible’, just in time for that (unpredictable) British summer.
Setting off in glorious sunshine
Firstly, let’s get something straight.
This isn’t the car to replace your sporty little number, despite the retracting roof.
But if you’re looking for something to take the family or your friends out in, especially on a trip to one of Britain’s beautiful beaches, then you’re unlikely to find a good rival to this anytime soon.
Having first driven the Evoque in 2012, I was pleasantly surprised by how nimble and sharp it was compared to its Brut of a big brother, but still had the safe and sturdy feel to it that you come to rely on from the iconic Range Rover.
Nice touches like the park assist (model dependent) make it the perfect city as well as country car and its ability to off-road leaves it head and shoulders above the competition (and of course what you’d expect from Land Rover).
Setting off with the roof down from the rather gorgeous Captain’s Club in Christchurch near Bournemouth in glorious sunshine, we soon left the busy town behind and hit the open roads, passing through quaint little villages, zooming past million-pound beach-front homes and stylish seaside resorts including the uber-exclusive Sandbanks, which is home to some of the UK’s most expensive homes.
As we pulled up and parked alongside all the other Range Rover Evoque Convertibles on the Sandbanks ferry in convoy, we started to attract quite a bit of attention.
Looks-wise, it’s definitely eye-catching and stylish in the right places, retaining all the Evoque’s good looks and with the roof down attracts all the attention. I mean, how many convertible SUVs have you seen this year?
With the top up, i’m less-convinced that it rates highly in the style stakes, and was rather disappointed by the old-fashioned fabric roof (the only option available).
On the plus side, you can drop the roof down in driving speeds of up to 30 MPH and it takes less than 20 seconds to allow the British sun (and the rest of the elements) to come pouring in.
Once off the ferry, I finally got the chance to put pedal to the metal, and the Evoque responded nicely, handling the open country roads and corners really well thanks to its four wheel drive system.
I often feel a little let down when driving a convertible as it can leave you feeling less safe and sturdy at high speeds and round bends- for obvious reasons.
But I was pleasantly surprised by the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, even when pushing it a little harder around some of the bends. This though is in part due to its good suspension and the additional reinforcement added by Land Rover.
I couldn’t help but notice that it felt a little heavy while driving, which it is, thanks to the engineering inside.
There’s almost 300 kg more weight which you can really feel when you’re trying to accelerate, which is a bit of a shame.
It also means going from 0-62 increases by just over a second to 10.3 seconds (this improves in the petrol version), which isn’t huge, but is definitely noticeable, especially when trying to accelerate out of bends and up hills.
Along with the weight gain, the other disappointment for me was the boot size.
While the Range Rover Evoque Convertible can comfortably carry 4 adults, you would need to pack lightly, as it would struggle to fit your luggage in the boot.
The boot size is disappointly small compared to its hard-topped sister, due to the need to house the soft top when in use – managing a paltry 251 litres (at best, that means 2 very small suitcases).
There really is nothing like driving with the top down, wind in your hair as you cruise around the countryside and follow the gorgeous bends along the sea.
I can particularly recommend stopping off in the picturesque village of Studland and trying out The Pig on the Beach, a really unique place to eat and stay, with a fabulous restaurant.
Before too long we got to the stunning village of Corfe Castle, home to a stunning ruin that is an iconic survivor of the English Civil War. It appears almost out of nowhere as you enter the quaint little village, home to beautiful thatched little cottages and tea rooms.
As I carried on driving through villages and towns (including the seaside town of Weymouth) it became really apparent that the Range Rover Evoque convertible is incredibly adaptable.
The decent nine-speed automatic gearbox lends itself perfectly to town as well as country driving.
While not a huge fan of driving automatic, the steering wheel paddles allow you to take control when – and if – you want to.
The new 360 degree parking aid gives you the ability to fit into most spaces with multiple cameras showing you your surroundings without you needing to open the car door (and helps out when trying to see through the Evoque Convertible’s annoying blind spots).
It also helps you find a parking space as well as parking itself (great if you’re really bad at parallel parking) which means you no longer have to swear in frustration as you hold up traffic during your fifth attempt to park your car.
The first few hours were blissfully spent driving with the roof down, even in temperatures as low as 10 degrees, thanks to a fabulous heating system that keeps you beautifully warm (and no need for a hat or scarf, a la 1950’s sports car).
As the wind picked up and the rain came down, the hood was whipped up in just over 20 seconds while still on the move, because no one likes to have to find somewhere to pull over when a British downpour starts….
What a view
I was really surprised at how well the soft top keeps the noise out compared to other convertibles I’ve driven in the past.
In reality, I barely noticed that I was driving a convertible, until the sun came out and I was able to handily drop the hood again just as we approached the White Horse of Osmington, where you can see King George III on horseback on Osmington Hill, which is one of my favourite parts of the drive, and one not to miss if you’re visiting the Jurassic Coastline – just look at the beautiful scenery!
It’s easy to get lost in this part of the world, so I was pleased to find that the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible now features the updated Jaguar Land Rover ‘Infotainment’ system (InControl Touch Pro), which personally I find a real step up from the older system.
I really liked that I could plan the drive from the comfort of the hotel, before syncing it with the car as I headed on the open road. It also gives up to the minute weather information, which of course when driving it in Britain can come in very handy.
After a quick pit-stop for lunch (and a glimpse at the jaw-dropping coastline and sea) it was back into the cars and for a spot of off-roading, which if we’re being really frank, is what Land Rover is all about.
Heading off piste
And this is where the Evoque really does come into its own.
While it wasn’t possible to test in depth as it wasn’t particularly wet or muddy (or steep), the ground was slippery in places and for a novice off-roader like me it was really reassuring to know that the car’s ‘terrain response’ system was able to manage these situations with complete confidence, leaving me feeling very at ease.
In fact, it can even tackle gradients that you – or I – would probably most likely want to pass on if we had a choice.
The farmer’s field I presented it with gave it no problems, and the small hill and woodland was easily conquered.
This really has to be one of my favourite things about Land Rover cars.
They’re pretty much perfect if you get stuck in a rather sticky (or wet!) situation – which can often happen on country lanes across the UK – and at least you can rely on the car to get you out of trouble.
In fact the Range Rover Evoque Convertible can even wade through water up to 500mm so there’s no need to panic when faced with a flooded road ahead.
Next and final stop was the New Forest, one of the UK’s most famous National parks, situated on 375 sq.km of land in Dorset and Hampshire, and home to around 3,000 beautiful semi-wild ponies.
The beautiful countryside coupled with stunning roads means this really is somewhere fabulous to explore, and of course the perfect opportunity to photograph one type of horse power, with another.
The horses genuinely roam free, and many are rather inquisitive like this little fella, who, like me, clearly took a liking to the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
Having grown up in the UK and experienced exactly what the ‘British Summer’ is all about, I used to question why people go to the added expense and hassle of buying a convertible which in theory can only be used for a handful of days a year.
And even if the sun is shining, it can get so cold (yes, even in July!) you can’t feel your fingers and you end up either driving with little to no control (and shivering) or putting up the hood and turning the air conditioning on.
That was until I bought myself a Mini Convertible and quite frankly, never looked back. You drive it when it’s cold with the roof down, and even if you only really get to enjoy it for 2 or 3 days properly in the summer, those are the days that you can really say ‘I enjoyed driving today’.
While Land Rover’s offering isn’t quite as fun as a Mini convertible, I can definitely see the perks to owning a convertible Evoque.
Whether you have children, a large extended family, or just like travelling with friends, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible is a car for every single day.
Of course whizzing around the Jurassic Coastline and New Forest – one of Britain’s most idyllic places – was always going to make the experience that much more enjoyable but despite the rain, hail, and even snow (!) it took a while for me to want to actually put the roof up, which is really saying something.
It also retains most of the fabulous features from the original fixed head Evoque, and really does stand out from the crowd.
It’s fitted with the new ‘Ingenium’ diesel engine (2 Ltr) which also features in Jaguar’s XE. While the petrol engine will give you enhanced performance, I think (despite it being noisier) the diesel is the best way to go.
I was left somewhat disappointed about the amount of boot space and the way it handled around some of the sharper corners, and the fact that the weight slows it down, but these are compromises that as a convertible owner, you’re likely to be happy to make.
With record numbers of Brits staying in the UK for their holidays this could be the perfect car to get them to their destinations – whatever the weather.
Having been on sale for less than a month and with many dealerships already managing large waiting lists I think it’s definitely fair to say that Land Rover are on to another winner with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
To find out more, and arrange a test drive at your local dealer, visit Land Rover here: Range Rover Evoque Convertible