Land Rover acknowledges that few owners will venture far off-road in their Evoque Convertible - starting price £47,500 - but the company was adamant from the outset that its newest offering must be as capable off-road as other Range Rovers.
Chris Edwards, off-road capability engineer, took us on a passenger ride around JLR’s Fen End off-road course in Warwickshire to show that the Evoque Convertible is capable of more than posing with the roof down.
“This car has got to look good but do all the right stuff for the Land Rover badge,” says Edwards. "It was the same as when the Evoque was launched."
He presses the button to retract the roof. It’s drizzling, but it feels only right to get the full wind-in-the-hair experience. Indeed, looking at the state of the course, I wonder if this test will end up being mud-in-the-hair.
The drop-top is fitted with Land Rover’s suite of off-road driver assistance technologies. These include Terrain Response, which offers four driver-selectable settings tailored for driving on road, grass/gravel/snow, mud and sand, and All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), where the car maintains a pre-set speed, leaving the driver to focus on negotiating off-road obstacles. Other driver aids include hill descent control, start assist and gradient release control.
“The technology, and the ability to maintain traction and get up slopes, get round rough areas, are all present on this car,” Edwards says. “We’ve got the same engines, gearbox and differentials.”
Edwards engages ATPC and we set off at a steady pace. He guides the Evoque up gradients, through muddy ruts and then traverses an uneven slope, keen to prove the on-paper claims that the Evoque Convertible can scale 45-degree gradients and traverse a 35-degree slope.
Being exposed to the elements means I can hear squelches and splatters as we plough through some deep troughs, and smell the fresh rain as we thread through long grass.
The lower bodywork of the Evoque is identical to the hard-top's, which means it retains approach, breakover and departure angles of 19, 18.9 and 31 degrees respectively.
The Evoque Convertible can also wade through water up to 500mm deep. It is equipped with a Wade Sensing function, which uses sensors in the door mirrors to inform the driver of the water depth and sounds a warning tone as the depth rises. It should come in handy if you're brave enough to try deep wading with the roof down.
The interior, bar an extra switch for the roof, is the same. Edwards says: “The driver’s experience in the car, with the switchgear, the way the vehicle reacts, the steering feel, even the engines, are not a huge step away from the Evoque – it’s predictable and easy to use.”
As you can read in our story on the new model here, Land Rover has been able to build more rigidity into the Evoque Convertible via chassis bracing and strengthening, although this has come with a weight penalty that pushes the car towards the two-tonne mark.
Nevetheless, Edwards reckons, “In general driving it is very similar to the Evoque. For off-road work, we’ve benchmarked this against the standard Evoque and you can’t split the difference between the two of them, when you take out the perspective of ‘I’ve got no roof’.
“When the first prototypes came out, we were initially careful with them,” he adds. “We took them to our off-road test track at Eastnor and did some gentle routes, but it was doing them too well and it wasn’t telling us much about how the car performs, so we had to up the ante and push closer to its limits.
“Everyone was nervous about the concept of this and you can understand why. But fundamentally, all the structure and metal of this car that makes an Evoque what it is, all the hardware we have, hasn’t changed. So this is just as good. We took it to the same places. We had great fun at Walters’ Arena in Wales with the roof down and it coped with the snow in Sweden and the desert tests.”
So the Evoque Convertible can go off road, then, but the question that remains is whether many owners will feel brave or enthusiastic enough to try.