Range Rover’s New Soft-Top Evoque

Range Rovers and horseys go together like Roy Rogers and Trigger.

Which is why it seems perfectly natural to be cruising to the recent Land Rover Equestrian Showcase event in the horsey ground-zero that’s Wellington, west of West Palm, in Range Rover’s latest creation.

Even if the Range Rover I’m driving has no roof.

You heard it right; a convertible, wind-through-your follicles, sun-on-your-cheeks, go-anywhere Range Rover. It’s called the Evoque Convertible.

It’s not quite as mad as it sounds, though it does take niche marketing to a lofty new level. What’s next you ask; a mud-plugging, 4×4 Rolls-Royce SUV? No hang on a sec, that’s coming in 2018.

But why not a convertible Evoque? Sitting up high is great for better viewing your surroundings. Drive the backroads of Wellington and suddenly you can gaze over those mega-mansion fences into the horse paddocks and stables. 

And cruising along A1A, you see so much more of the ocean and beaches with no pesky hedges to hinder your panoramas. Worth Avenue? How elitist to be able to gaze down on the poor people in their Porsches and Ferraris.

The great thing about the Evoque Convertible is that unlike most convertibles that have seating for two, the Range Rover is a pukka four-seater. So you can share this decidedly cool, open-air experience with friends and family.

Surprisingly, the transformation from Evoque Coupe to Evoque Convertible has come out pretty well. Its multi-layer canvas top fits tighter than a Tupperware lid so that with the roof up, even at a steady 75 on I-75, there’s hardly a whistle of wind noise.

Of course, in the interest of exhaustive testing, I had to take it through a carwash. Even on the power-rinse cycle, not a drop of the wet stuff dribbled inside the cabin. Impressive.

The transformation from closed to open takes a mere 18 seconds, during which time all four windows drop, the roof automatically unlatches and the whole thing powers backwards.

What’s also pretty clever, and practical, is that roof up or down, the luggage space stays the same at 8.9 cubic feet. That’s roomy enough for a couple of decent-sized roller-boards or a trio of squishy tote bags.

Sitting in the back isn’t much of a hardship either. There’s decent legroom and elbow room, though getting in the back with the roof raised does require a little limbo-dexterity.

But in full open mode, this thing is just a blast to drive.

Under the hood is the Evoque’s 2.0-liter turbo four-banger that cranks out a meaty 240-horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque.

To add a little Red Bull to the performance, it’s mated to a 9-speed automatic with paddle shifters behind the wheel for manual control.

OK, the car’s not exactly a rocketship with its 0-to-60mph acceleration time of 7.8 seconds and 112 mph top speed. But punch the throttle from the green light and this ragtop Rangie will leap off the line like a spooked gecko.

And despite its lofty stance, there’s nothing tippy-feeling or unwieldy about the way it carves curves or zips around Interstate on-ramps. The Evoque’s electric-assist steering is surgically precise, its body I-beam stiff, and the grip from its 20-inch rubberware aided by standard all-wheel drive, is as unstickable as chewing gum on velvet. 

Range Rover designers have also done an impressive job managing the aerodynamics. Drop the top and keep all four side-windows raised, and you can cruise at 70mph with hardly a ruffle. And there’s even a folding wind-blocker for added breeze-baffling.

Two versions of the Evoque Convertible are on offer; the base SE Dynamic starts at $50,475, while the very nicely-equipped HSE Dynamic kicks-off at $57,700. My refrigerator-white HSE tester topped-out at $63,340.

No, Land Rover won’t sell a bundle of these convertible Evoques. But if you’re looking to have some fun in the sun in a vehicle that’ll turn heads faster than Gaga at the Grammys, this has your name on it.

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