The idea of an SUV going convertible should not be surprising to us Indians after all Maruti Suzuki Gypsy and Mahindra Thar are still used with a soft top roof or no roof at all. The increasing dominance of SUVs in the Indian market has created its own niche segments and the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible is another niche but promising SUV that gives this compact luxury SUV segment a new style statement. Range Rover Evoque Convertible is all about the way it looks and not about practicality. But then, most of the convertible cars (especially in India) are about showing off and the Evoque Convertible we drove recently certainly attracted all the attention possible on the road. Considering, the company only makes rugged SUVs, the open roof concept did come as a surprise but to be fair if there’s one SUV that could have been a perfect convertible it is the Range Rover Evoque.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible looks very much like the standard Evoque and it continues to get an aggressive face with the large air-intakes in the sides. With no solid roof, one might argue that the actual design of the Evoque has been compromised but there has also been some significant engineering in developing this fancy SUV. The A-Pillar of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible is a bit more diagonal than the standard version and the vehicle is also a bit heavier. We were driving the 2.0L petrol HSE dynamic variant which is the only option here in India and costs almost Rs 20 lakh more than the standard Evoque.
Now the special novelty of this convertible SUV is its roof. The roof is finished with a polyacrylic material and made up of as many as five layers to provide a proper acoustic and thermal lining. The four electric motors in a Z-mechanism provides silent operations of the roof that weighs about 68 kilograms. The overall process of putting the roof down takes about 18 seconds and about 21 seconds to lock it back. You can also fold or unfold the roof while driving at speeds less than 48 kmph. Land Rover says that this roof on the Evoque Convertible has undergone over 6000 test cycles in various conditions and at a temperature ranging from -30 degree Celsius to 90-degree Celsius. While the temperature was not the issue for us, the soft roof was done counter the heavy Mumbai rains well as not a drop of water entered into the cabin but I have to admit, I did not enjoy the roof down much as rains spoilt the play most of the day.
Having said that, I did get the roof down on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and was a completely fun drive throughout. Surprisingly, the Evoque Convertible handles like a charm and even with the roof down the wind & road noise are not a big trouble. However, driving through the tunnels on the expressway and the hollow sound is unpleasant and water leaks in the rainy season inside the tunnel can spoil the interiors while driving. The engine is silent and at no point is short on power, gearshifts are quick and can always be quicker using the paddle shifters. However, we would have liked the Convertible to have had a bit distinct feel than the standard Range Rover Evoque. Maybe the company could have removed the rotary gear know with a stick to give a bit more sporty appeal to the overall drive.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is still a fun car to drive and with the attention, you get from the traffic and onlookers will divert you from the fact that it isn’t as good to drive as the standard Evoque. The main reason for that is the loss of structural stiffness due to the absence of a roof. Although additional, strengthening of the chassis base does compensate for it, the hardtop version is lighter and slightly more fun-to-drive.
Otherwise, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible continues to get its off-roading DNA with 4WD as standard and comes with various drive modes. The two-door Evoque makes it difficult to get to the rear seats which are highly recommended for kids and shorter people. The legroom on the rear seat is still more than other other convertibles on sale including the E-Class Cabriolet and A3 Cabriolet but getting in and out can be a pain. The boot space is still generous but has been placed at a lower level that will make you bend a lot while using the boot. The screen size inside on the infotainment system makes the operations very easy and the inbuilt navigation works like a charm. However, it does not support Apple Car Play and Android Auto which is a big miss in an SUV at this price point.
Will the Range Rover Evoque find its own niche in India:
Just the thought of owning a Range Rover Evoque can put many people into a happy state of mind. Despite the fact that you will compromise on space, driving dynamics and pay more, the buyer will not regret buying this convertible SUV. It is a bit uncomfortable and less practical to own but so is any other convertible car on sale in India.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible in itself is a style statement and with the changing trends will see scripting its own success story in its own niche. Also, this is the only premium SUV that can deliver the thrills of drop-top motoring in an unmatched manner!
Pictures: Jatin Kakkar