What is it?
As with the fixed-head Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover is offering the drop-top version of its smallest SUV with the option of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Called the Si4, it develops 237bhp to give performance that is significantly better than even the highest-output diesel.
Not only is it quicker, but opting for the petrol motor also saves you 31kg. While that may seem a reasonable amount, it’s a drop in the ocean when you consider the kerb weight is still a hefty 1936kg. Astonishingly, there are variants of the Defender that weigh less.
The reason for the massive increase in weight compared with the tin-top Evoque is all to do with rigidity. There are significant amounts of additional bracing that have been added to the car’s structure, enough for it to be able to cope with the kind of tortuous off-road action Range Rovers are famous for.
Like the diesel version, you can only get the petrol-powered Evoque Convertible in the luxurious HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux variants. That means the Si4 costs a hefty £52,400, £700 more than the TD4. Is it worth the premium?
What's it like?
As you would hope, the Si4 feels much more sprightly than the diesel-powered Evoque Convertible. With a 0-62mph time of 8.6sec, it’s not rapid, but you won’t find yourself being outdragged by humdrum hatchbacks.
After a slight pause from the nine-speed automatic gearbox, the Si4 pulls well enough from low speeds, as long as you’re prepared to rev the engine. It may be more powerful than the TD4, but it’s down on torque by more than 60Ib ft.
You therefore find the gearbox kicking down more frequently, making for less relaxed progress. While the engine’s tone isn’t unpleasant, it’s not tuneful either. It is still an improvement on the sometimes clattery TD4 motor at high revs, though.
Still, the Evoque Convertible isn’t the kind of thing you’d choose to fling down a decent stretch of road. It may be stiffly sprung and steer fairly accurately, but there’s little joy to be had from wringing its neck in a point-to-point blast.
If you do push on, you really start to feel the mass of the car. A brisk downhill run on a twisty mountain road will soon get the smell of toasty brakes in the air, while fast direction changes can sometimes feel a little ponderous.
Like the diesel, the Evoque Convertible is much happier cruising than charging. Dial back the pace and you start to appreciate the panoramic views offered by the open top that are enhanced by the tall driving position.
It’s at this point that you’d probably wish the suspension was more compliant; it doesn’t take a particularly rough road to have the occupants jostled around. On these surfaces, you might also notice the odd tremor through the structure. It’s certainly not floppy, but it’s certainly not as stiff as solid-roofed Evoques.
As for the interior, adults can squeeze into the rear seats, but only if someone short in stature is up front. Put even a reasonably tall person behind the wheel and leg room all but disappears, although head room isn’t too bad with the hood up.
Even if you do get four adults inside, you won’t have room for much of their luggage. The boot is much smaller than in the fixed-head models, although you do get a ski flap for longer items.
Should I buy one?
If you look at the Evoque Convertible objectively, it’s difficult to make a case for it. At more than £52,000, it’s expensive, not overly practical and, in Si4 guise, thirsty. More than the diesel version, you’ll have to be driving very sedately to get anywhere near the official economy figures.
However, those who are in the market for one aren’t likely to be particularly objective. The head-turning looks and draw of alfresco motoring from a lofty perch will no doubt seal the deal. The fact that it combines its high-quality interior and retractable roof with genuine off-road ability also makes it a pretty unique proposition.
If you are one of those people, we’d recommend saving some cash and going for the diesel. It may not be quite as refined, but the additional torque makes for much more relaxed cruising and far fewer trips to the pumps.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible HSE Dynamic
Location France; On sale Spring; Price £52,400; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbo, petrol; Power 237bhp at 5800rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1936kg; Top speed 130mph; 0-62mph 8.6sec; Economy 32.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 201g/km, 35%