by Gabe Beita Kiser
What to do when your aging, small-yet-sporty SUV needs to be spiced up? You cut the roof off and throw on a ragtop, according to Land Rover. At least, that's what they have done with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible since 2017, after working on the concept for a good five years before making it public. Still, the Evoque Convertible has enjoyed immense popularity for its unique aesthetic, merging drop-top thrills with the crossover benefits of its tin-roofed siblings, unlike the poorly-received Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet that never really took off. Allegedly still able to take on rough terrain in this guise, and offering a powerful 2.0-liter inline-four engine for urban touring too, there seems to be nothing to gripe about with this design. Technically. It's a tad nonsensical, to say the least, but the same can be said for SUV-coupe mergers, too, and with niche vehicles like this raking in the money regardless of logic, the 2019 Range Rover Evoque Convertible will likely continue to do the same. A redesign for 2020 is on the cards, and with a few issues like cramped rear seats, limited rearward visibility, and laughable cargo volumes - not to mention expensive driver aids that should be standard but aren't - we hope Land Rover will improve on the design, if for no other reason than keeping the unique concept going. With no direct rivals offering a power-folding soft top, it's really a matter of weighing up this car's strengths and weaknesses on its own.
Not much changes for the 2019 model year and only the InControl TouchPro infotainment offering has been updated with enhanced graphics and better screen layouts to make for a more intuitive experience. This is now the same system that is used in fellow Range Rover siblings, the Range Rover Sport and Velar, and allows for customized wallpapers and pinch-to-zoom functionality.
Handsome, like the standard hard-top variants, the Evoque has strong, sporty lines and an aggressive stance, with the four wheels positioned at the furthest corners of the chassis. A power-retractable Z-fold cloth roof sets it apart in the Evoque family, while a flush-fitted heated rear glass window boasts acoustic insulation. Standard 18-inch wheels on the entry-level model, and 19-inch items on the top-end version, further the athletic theme with the latter finished in gloss dark grey. Halogen headlights feature at the entry point to the range, while the HSE Dynamic at the top-end gets xenons with LED signature daytime running lights. The Black Design Package can be optioned on to the range-topping model too, for even more blacked-out exterior accents.
The Evoque Convertible shares most of its dimensions with its tin-top stablemate: at 172 inches in length, 78 inches in width (with mirrors folded in), and set on a 104.7-inch wheelbase. It differs slightly in height being marginally shorter at 63.3 inches - just a bit more than an inch difference. It is, however, the heaviest in the range - no doubt packing on the pounds to accommodate the folding-roof mechanism - with a total curb weight of 4,440 lbs (575 lbs porkier than the base hard-top model). The drop-top roof tends to give the impression that the Evoque Convertible is not suited for the outback, and both models in the range do offer less impressive off-roading dimensions than the cars with the standard body kit: an approach angle of 17.8 degrees, a 31-degree departure angle, and a breakover angle of 18.9 degrees means some gentle off-roading can be attempted. Ground clearance for Convertible models remains the same at 8.3 inches.
Fitted with the same standard engine as the non-convertible variant, the Evoque cabrio has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four under the hood that produces 237 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a nine-speed ZF automatic, and equipped with standard 4WD, the Evoque Convertible also boasts a terrain management system that enables it to tackle any road condition. On the tarmac, however, the motor can hustle the beefy SUV to 60 mph in around 7.6 seconds - notably slower than any of its siblings. A top speed of 135 mph is also claimed and when properly equipped, it can tow up to 3,306 lbs. This is approximately 660 lbs less than the hard-top variants.
With all the technical specs mentioned, the question of engine and transmission proficiency remains: although not a segment leader in terms of acceleration and urgent power, the point of a convertible is to have a relaxed, comfortable drive with a no-fuss powertrain supporting you. Land Rover has done this well, with a velvety ZF auto 'box that does its job accurately and without hesitation. The combo works well, and the result is a compliant powertrain that doesn't frustrate the driver as they cruise the coastline.
As the smallest member of the Range Rover crew, the Evoque offers nimble and agile handling that can even be described as sporty - managing corners with confidence and taking on a winding road with the same enthusiasm as it would the rocks and sand off-road. The ride feels firm, however, and occupants will know when you've hit a bump or encountered some scarring on the road surface. Convertible vehicles generally suffer from a squeak-and-creak chassis due to the loss in rigidity from the roof, and while the Evoque cabrio is stiffer than most, it still transmits the odd groan from the chassis at times. Thanks to the diminished insulation from the fabric roof, road noise is much more obvious too, although the wind-deflector does a great job of reducing wind noise.
BMW's X1 and X2 are both much sportier vehicles that respond to inputs quicker and more intuitively - the steering on the Evoque can be a little dull, with less accuracy than we'd like, but it's far from unpleasant or worrying to pilot. Braking inspires confidence, at least.
Although fitted with the same engine as the standard Evoque, the Convertible offers a fraction less in terms of gas mileage than its hard-top sibling. Whereas the hard-top manages 22/29/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, the Convertible - with a few extra pounds to lug around - gets EPA estimates of 21/29/24 mpg with the same powertrain. With an 18.1-gallon fuel tank, the Evoque Convertible should carry you along 434 miles of scenic coastline before needing a refuel.
A key difference between the Convertible and the standard Evoque is the number of occupants it can seat - whereas the standard variant has seating for up to five, the Evoque Convertible is limited to housing only four. Rear-seat passengers are accommodated in fixed twin rear perches, but at least high-quality plush leather features throughout, and seating is generally comfortable. Longer trips may become uncomfortable for those in the back if they are blessed with long legs or are on the tall side and you have the roof up. Headroom and legroom are good for the driver and front passenger, but if you want to capitalize on space then drop the top for more freedom, especially for those in the back seat. The dashboard follows a minimalist design, and finding a driving position isn't hard thanks to 12-way power-adjustable seats. Rearward visibility is woeful, however, and the need for driver aids like park-assist and blind-spot monitoring becomes clear. Luckily, both models are fitted with a rearview camera, although park assist and a surround-view monitor have to be optioned on, and can only be equipped to the top-spec model. A blind-spot monitor with reverse traffic detection is standard on the upper trim and needs to be specced additionally on the SE Dynamic.
Even in standard Evoque derivatives without the folding roof, cargo space was slightly lacking. While these models offered 20.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 51 cubes with the rear seats folded down, the Convertible uses all that space for its folding roof and supporting mechanisms and leaves you with an odd little compartment flipped open by means of a tailgate - it opens up less than nine cubic feet for storage, and is unaffected by whether the roof is up or down. This may be enough for a slim baby stroller, but not much more. There is a nifty ski pass-through, though, which doubles as an arm-rest between the back seats.
Small items can be stored in the standard passenger-side glovebox, the average-sized cubby in the center console (which also features a sliding armrest), or slender door pockets. Only the driver and front-passenger are allowed a Starbucks drink of choice, with only two cup holders available up front.
Navigation Pro and a Wi-Fi hotspot are standard on both models, while a head-up display can be optioned onto the top-end model. Two 12-volt power sockets, keyless entry, and a universal garage door opener are standard fare. Perforated leather seats in the SE Dynamic are stock fitted, and are upgraded to Perforated Windsor leather on the HSE Dynamic. Front seats are heated on the latter, while this can be optioned on at base level. Both models feature automatic climate control and an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror. While standard ambient lighting features in the lower-spec model, the HSE Dynamic gets configurable ambient lighting.
Both models ship with a fabric roof that can drop out of sight in 18 seconds - the mechanism is hidden discreetly with panels that fold flush to ensure an aerodynamic appearance. Raising the roof takes 21 seconds. Both operations can be carried out at speeds of up to 30 mph. Additionally, a wind deflector is in place and does a great job of isolating the cabin from too much disturbance.
As far as advanced driver aids go, the Evoque Convertible has front and rear parking assist and a rearview camera as standard on both models. The HSE Dynamic gets blind-spot monitoring with reverse traffic detection additionally, but a surround-view monitor, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and traffic sign recognition must be optioned on by means of additional packages.
Standard on Evoque Convertible models for 2019 is the upgraded Land Rover InControl Touch Pro system, offering satellite navigation, smartphone integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, a CD player, Pro Services and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities. SiriusXM is optional. A ten-inch capacitive display screen is the center point for infotainment offerings and can be customized with wallpapers and widgets, much like a smartphone. Speaking of which, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't standard, but can be added on. The Convertible in either model configuration has a standard ten-speaker Meridian sound system with a subwoofer, which includes two USB ports on board. For the top-spec HSE Dynamic, the audio setup can be upgraded to a 12-speaker Meridian surround-sound unit to help drown out the road noise.
While the Evoque Convertible has not been rated by J.D. Power - nor has the standard Evoque - there are no complaints logged to indicate a cause for concern for this model year. The 2018 variants were subject to two recalls, however: one was for a fuel leak in the engine compartment and the other a failure in the tire pressure monitoring system. To give you peace of mind, Land Rover offers a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, as well as drivetrain coverage for the same period of time.
No crash test ratings are available for the Range Rover Evoque range, as neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has put the vehicle through any testing. Still, with eight airbags, front and rear park assist, a review camera and blind-spot monitoring (the latter being standard on the HSE Dynamic), there should be some reassurance. However, we advise equipping lane-keep assist, traffic-sign recognition, the surround-view camera, automatic high-beam assist, and driver condition monitor through the relevant package, regardless.
While this seems like an awfully loaded question for a car that you buy for only one reason - and that reason has nothing to do with whether it's really a good car or not - the Evoque Convertible does have a lot going for it. As for being a desirable car, the Evoque range stands its ground for being cheekily handsome to look at - even more so because of the drop-top thrill the Convertible adds. It may not be the most spacious or practical vehicle, but sometimes things don't have to make sense (especially when you are thinking with your heart, and not your logical brain or wallet). In this regard, if you are looking for a niche vehicle, a car with a different, sassy personality that will have all eyes on you wherever you go, plus the added benefit of wind-in-your-hair cruises with your buddies, the Evoque Convertible ticks all the boxes. If you have the money to splurge - and you don't need to ferry around a family regularly - just do it.
With two models to choose from, the Evoque Convertible comes cheapest in the entry-level SE Dynamic Model, priced at $52,100, while the fully-loaded HSE Dynamic will set you back at least $57,800 - both prices exclude a $995 destination charge, any taxes, titles, or licensing fees.
Although instinct may suggest jumping headlong into this purchase and going for the fully-loaded HSE Dynamic, we'd stick with the base SE Dynamic that has the benefits of perforated grain leather, a Meridian sound system and navigation. We'd spec it in Phoenix Orange for an additional $1,325, and add on the Driver Assistance Package for blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic detection, and automatic high-beam assist ($1,020). Lastly, we'd throw in the SE technology package too, for upgraded bi-xenon lights at $1,585, and cash out cheaper than the top-spec model. We'd miss the heated seats that are standard on the upper trim, but it's not like you're buying a drop-top to keep warm anyway. If a warm rump is important, you can always option it on additionally too for less than $1,000.
While there are no other convertible SUVs to compare the Evoque cabrio to, the Range Rover Velar presents an interesting comparison point. Bigger and with space for five, the Velar has three engine options to choose from that offer decent performance, and - in 2.0-liter four-cylinder guise - superb fuel economy figures of 26/30/28 mpg, which is excellent for its segment. Sure, it doesn't have the thrill-factor which the Convertible has, but it has a usable trunk, offers a much classier interior overall, and has the option of adding a booming 23-speaker Meridian sound system. With its entry-level model costing less than the Evoque Convertible's SE Dynamic, it's certainly worth considering. If you must have the rag-top and the "look-at-me" factor, you shouldn't even be reading this comparison, though.
Staying in the family, the Range Rover Sport offers a much pricier, much more premium option to the Evoque convertible. With the added bonus of an available Plug-In Hybrid model, the 2019 Range Rover Sport is far from the spring-break-nature of the Convertible. This is a serious, elegant and fully off-road capable vehicle that can be as athletic as it can be charming. The Range Rover Sport offers a loud-mouthed V8 engine that easily surpasses that of the Evoque - but it also offers gas mileage to match. As far as features and infotainment go, the Range Rover Sport really has it all - and this much is evident in the range's $67,500 starting price. Making a choice here is wholly dependent on your needs and your budget. If money wasn't an issue, we'd scrap the drop-top for its rugged big brother, any day.