THE Alpine retreat of the rich and famous has a new star of the ski slopes in the shape of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible.
The drop top version of Land Rover's top seller is making its debut in and around the exclusive winter resort of Courchevel in the French Alps.
And as the world's only four seat, four-wheel-drive, four season convertible the latest Range Rover is living up to the brand's reputation of blending luxury with astonishing ability on and off the road.
On the piste high above the VIP destination - visited only a couple of weeks ago by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - late season skiers saw the new Evoque go through its paces on the downhill runs, slaloms and over technical obstacles created specially to show off the car's all terrain prowess.
It may have shed its metal topped body but the latest Evoque has lost none of the strength that gives every Land Rover a tough and ready image.
Opening and closing the doors and boot while the vehicle was balanced in mid air proved its rigidity as the new Evoque negotiated a series of axle-twisting ramps in a snow field thousands of feet above sea level.
Making the transition to soft top has involved fitting the car with underbody bracing and strengthening the windscreen surrounds adding some 200kg to take its weight to 2.4 tonnes.
That's had a slight impact on fuel economy - especially on diesel versions - but has done nothing to its feel which remains surprisingly agile for a 4x4.
The fabric hood is well insulated, comes with a heated glass rear window and folds away electronically in 18 seconds stowing flat above the boot. It can be operated on the move at speeds up to 30mph and closing takes 21 seconds - all of which is done very quietly with no moans from the four electric motors which power the system.
Roof up and it is almost as serene inside as any other Evoque and if anything rear visibility is better than that of the three-door coupe. Parking sensors and cameras are available for close quarter manoeuvres.
Roof down and the Evoque Convertible is highly amenable with minimal bluster in the cockpit, even at motorway speeds.
The heating and air conditioning is more than adequate and even with temperatures hovering around freezing it was warm enough inside to experience two full days of top down motoring. A heated steering wheel is a welcome bonus.
With a wind deflector fitted across the back seats it is possible to hold a conversation and listen to sat nav instructions regardless of how fast you are travelling and although leg room in the rear is generous for a convertible it is probably best to think of this as a two seat, three-door model. Use the back for extra storage when travelling.
Boot space at 251 litres is roughly half that in the regular models but still sufficient for three good sized bags. Luggage capacity is the same roof up or down and that's a strong point when it comes to open top touring.
As a convertible the Evoque looks fantastic and even for the A-list audience of Courchevel it was a head-turner.
Roll over protection - which deploys in milliseconds but has been specially calibrated to allow for severe off-road work - is concealed within the bodywork and when open to the elements all that protrudes aft of the windscreen are the head rests.
There is also a delightful upward hint to the body line culminating in a subtle boot-mounted spoiler which gives the car a remarkably classy poise. Bonnet flutes and vents in black add to its overall street cred.
Inside it is decked out in traditional Range Rover fashion with leather trim and upholstery and a 10.5-inch touchscreen which houses Land Rover's latest InControl Pro communications pack that includes a 60Gb hard-drive system allowing for full connectivity on the go.
And with no roof to house the ‘shark fin' antennas for the sat nav, phone and Internet signals Land Rover has placed the high tech receivers unobtrusively between the rear seats and in the back bumper.
In bright sunshine there was occasional glare on the touchscreen but with an optional head-up display fitted the navigation instructions and speedo information were visible at all times.
The Evoque Convertible is available either as a 2.0-litre 180ps diesel priced from £47,500 or a 240ps 2.0-litre petrol costing from £48,200.
All are four-wheel-drive and fitted with nine-speed auto boxes which rate the diesels at 49.6mpg with emissions of 140g/km and the petrols at 32.9 to the gallon with a CO2 figure of 201g/km.
On our drives on and off-road over many hundreds of miles around the Alps we averaged 32mpg with the diesel and 22 in the petrol.
Although the petrol model felt slightly more refined when cruising and was fitted with Land Rover's Active Driveline technology that automatically switches between two and four wheel drive to boost efficiency, it lacked some of the mid-range pull available from the Ingenium diesel and was noticeably thirstier.
Two trim levels are being offered with higher specification HSE Dynamic LUX models costing Â£4,200 more and including a surround-sound audio set up, additional driver systems such as lane departure and blind spot alerts and a ski-hatch through the rear seat - an appropriate feature for the Courchevel environs.
So was the Evoque's advanced traction control electronics which now include All Terrain Progress Control - a blend of the car's go-anywhere computerised Terrain Response system with low speed cruise control.
With that engaged the Evoque Convertible managed the ski slopes both up and downhill without having to touch the pedals - just dial in a safe speed and steer.
And when the melt comes it can wade through water up to almost 20-inches deep, so no worries there either.
In every way and in every fashion the Evoque Convertible is a car in which you can look a million dollars no matter what the world is throwing at you - just ask those who witnessed it perform in Courchevel.