THE Range Rover Evoque took the motoring world by storm when it debuted back in 2011 with sales figures that soared through the roof â¦ and now that roof is being removed as Land Rover launches the very latest incarnation of the vehicle in four-seat, convertible guise.
It may not have the sleek styling of some more instantly-recognisable soft-tops, but we Brits have an insatiable demand for the wind-in-the-hair motoring experience, so the Evoque Convertible delivers the best of both worlds.
It offers all the versatility we have come to expect from the sporty SUV yet at the first sign of sunshine the roof can be lowered in just 18 seconds and away you go. And when those rain clouds begin to hover menacingly above, the top is raised in 21 seconds. Both these manoeuvres can be achieved at speeds up to 30mph.
The roof is made from fabric as opposed to a retractable hard-top which has a two-fold advantage. It is lighter and also uses up less space in the boot which now has a capacity of 251 litres compared to 420 litres on the standard model.
And the roof's five-layer design means the car remains very well-insulated against outside noises when the lid is shut.
Land Rover has described its Evoque cabrio as the ‘world's first luxury compact SUV convertible' and it certainly lives up to the big build-up with prices starting from Â£47,500 - that's about Â£5k more than the hard-top.
Buyers will be able to choose from a high-powered 2.0-litre 240PS petrol engine or the company's popular 180PS Ingenium diesel powertrain, both of which are mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels. There are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for those wanting to change gear manually.
Due to a number of additional features such as stronger doors, chassis strengthening, a roll-over protection device and a few other safety boosting add-ons, the convertible weighs 276kg more than its three-door coupe sibling.
Those extra pounds do have an impact on performance and efficiency with the TD4 diesel model taking 10.3 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph which is slightly slower than the coupe. It has a maximum speed of 121mph. Average fuel economy is a claimed 49.6mpg with carbon emissions of 149g/km (57.6mpg and 129g/km on the hard-top).
The 2.0-litre petrol model, which is priced from £48,200, is a little more thirsty with combined fuel efficiency of 32.9mpg and emissions of 201g/km compared to 36.2mpg and 181g/km on the standard model. However, it is more spirited in its handling and can sprint to 62mph in 8.6 seconds, topping out at 130mph.
In all honesty, those stats are likely to go in one ear and straight out the other of open-top motoring fans. All they will see is a car that looks fabulously-styled and offers hours of motoring fun behind the wheel.
The Evoque Convertible is available in just two top-of-the-range trim levels - HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux - which helps the car maintain a sense of exclusivity for its owners.
And it really does look the business too with a deeper, more aggressive front bumper including enlarged air intakes and ultra-slim LED fog lamps.
There are body-coloured side skirts and a dynamic rear bumper housing the twin tailpipes. The grille features a large mesh area and there are eight alloy wheel designs to choose from. In addition, all models boast Narvik Black components and gloss-black bonnet vents to complete the sporty, rugged styling.
Move inside and the car radiates premium build quality at every turn. Land Rover has ensured the Evoque Convertible is kitted out with the finest leathers and soft-touch materials to offer a truly sophisticated cabin environment to all occupants.
There is also a wealth of on-board technology to be explored including a new 10.2-inch touchscreen which is beautifully simple to operate via a rotary controller. It allows you to access JLR's next generation infotainment system which really raises the standard of connectivity for the brand. The super-fast and ultra-responsive InControl Touch Pro offers seamless smartphone integration, excellent navigation options, 3G connectivity and a pitch perfect sound system.
So the Evoque Convertible looks amazing, is kitted out to the nines and can deliver open-top fun at the press of a button. But how does it handle when put to the test?
The answer is exceptionally well. We tried the diesel model on a range of roads and it certainly didn't disappoint. The car looks really chunky whilst maintaining its sporty appeal and it handles accordingly too.
On the open roads it grips the Tarmac in an assured manner meaning tight bends can be attacked for fun with confidence.
The steering is nice and precise and the acceleration through the automatic gearbox is responsive and smooth. For a little added fun, there is a sport mode and switching to the paddles results in an edgier performance when desired.
The ride can be a little hard at times, but not too firm and my only other slight gripe was some glare issues on the touchscreen when the roof was lowered. But that aside, the Evoque Convertible delivers excellent driving dynamics and simply screams fun at you every time the sun appears.
And being a Land Rover the safety specifications are exceptionally high and remember one other thing - this is convertible car that is very accomplished when faced with the tough off-road terrains with excellent wading and varied obstacle-crossing capabilities.
While most owners wouldn't dream of taking their pride and joy very far from the Tarmac it is still reassuring to know just how accomplished the car is if really put to the test.