There is something about driving a convertible that invites conversation from other drivers. Stopped at a traffic light in the seaside town of Monterey, California, the driver in the car to my left leans out the window to comment on the new 2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible I’m driving: “When did they come out with that?”
“Just now,” I say, unsure of how much detail I can actually convey before the light turns green.
“Bitchin’, dude,” he says as he turns right.
A ringing endorsement, California style, and I’m suddenly wondering if I can fit a surfboard in the backseat. I’m not surprised, though, that the Evoque is a conversation starter as even a quick glimpse reveals it’s an unusual vehicle: an SUV with a soft top for that hair blowing in the wind experience that makes convertibles so much fun to drive. The difference here, though, is that it’s also got that very comfortable, high ride above traffic position that helps make SUV’s so popular. It’s a marriage of two worlds that works really well.
Part of the reason this pairing is so successful is that some hidden strengths have been brought to bear while still retaining the Evoque’s original look. The doors, for example, have been reinforced with high-strength steel for better overall rigidity. And if things should go askew, a stowed rollbar deploys in milliseconds. Other safety features like Lane-Departure Warning and Lane-Keeping Assist keep the vehicle—run by a turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower—on track. The engine also is rated to tow 3,307 pounds. Above 22 miles per hour, the Evoque convertible switches out of four-wheel-drive to two-wheel-drive for better efficiency, but can shift back in milliseconds should road conditions warrant it.
The soft top rolls down in 18 seconds and saves on weight and cargo capacity. The trunk is unusual too in that it’s more like a slot that opens in the rear to reveal a surprisingly roomy 8.9 cubic feet of space. Seats are comfortable and the overall aesthetic is sporty with padded armrests for extra comfort. With the top up, the interior is very quiet thanks to an acoustically lined fabric that shuts noise out.
That’s an important point if you plan on enjoying excellent, 380-watt Meridian sound system or if you want to pay close attention to the voice prompts that advise on traffic tie-ups and alternate routes. Navigation and entertainment options are controlled via a 10.2-inch touchscreen with a raised border trim that gives it a retro-scifi look.
I’m learning more California lingo as I drive. “Firenado” comes up on a newscast to describe the hazards of a swirling funnel of fire. I notice the horizon is a little smoky. Handmade road-side signs thank firemen for their bravery. A brush fire kicks up on the side of the highway as I drive by and firetrucks are already arriving with lights flashing and sirens wailing. With the top down, I feel more engaged in the experience—it’s all so immediate. And that’s what’s what convertibles have always offered, I realize. It’s a certain shift in attitude that makes you view the world a little differently. With its high waistline, the Evoque SUV convertible adds a new twist to that sensation.
HSE Dynamic version as driven, $57,700; landroverusa.com.