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Be swept away by the Range Rover Evoque, the world's first luxury compact SUV convertible.
There are convertibles for posing in, and then there are those for rock climbing. Actually, just one.
The Range Rover Evoque Convertible has the enviable distinction of being the only off-road open-top model on the market.
The convertible version of this compact Range Rover shares the same basic platform as the three- and five-door fixed roof variants - down to the identical 4,370 mm length and 2,660 mm wheelbase.
Only the Evoque Convertible with its classic fabric roof is 26 mm lower in height. As the absence of a metal top requires structural reinforcements to the steel monocoque body, it is some 280 kg heavier at 1,936 kg.
Otherwise, it has the same Evoque running gear, which means you can have a comfy car-like ride on normal roads, or Range Rover abilities if you prefer driving off the beaten track.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet drives all four wheels permanently through a nine-speed automatic transmission from ZF. Those with sportier tendencies can manually change gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts, although with nine ratios, it is sometimes best to leave the 'box to do its work automatically.
A centre differential continuously varies the torque split between the front and rear axles for optimum traction. So depending on the driving mode chosen using the Terrain Response system, the Convertible can zip along in the general on-road setting, or pick its way in one of three off-road options - grass/gravel/snow; mud and ruts; and sand.
And being the world's first luxury compact SUV convertible allows the last three settings to be enjoyed with that special wind-in-your-hair sensation.
The electrically operated roof opens in 18 seconds when the Evoque is moving at up to 48 kmh. When folded flush into the recess behind the rear seats, the luggage space is not compromised, although a difference is that it is accessed with a boot lid, not a hatchback.
Also, unlike the hardtop version which can seat three occupants behind, the Convertible is strictly a four-seater. The doors are also frameless and there is a new and bigger 10.2-inch centre touchscreen without hard keys but with a faster processor and more vivid map graphics.
A blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, park and exit assist, and a surround camera system are also included.
The standard Evoque with its all-wheel-drive grip, accurate steering and a commanding driving position is an SUV with close to hot hatch abilities. When the top comes off, there is all of this plus the unique open-air ambience of a high-riding convertible.
With all four side windows up, there is little buffetting for those in front, and any draught should merely tease conventional coiffures.
More important, body rigidity is good for this relatively large convertible, with only slight flex noticeable when travelling fast over irregular surfaces.
Even more important is that the Range Rover Evoque Convertible looks and feels special. The sculpted bodywork and the big 19-inch Satin Black alloy wheels meld with a long fabric roof to create a stunning image, especially in metallic Phoenix Orange paintwork.
At close to S$300,000 though, or about S$40,000 more than an Evoque Coupe, the Evoque Convertible will not be for everyone. But if you must have luxury and wind in your hair when you go off-road, this has to be it.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Engine 1,999cc inline-4 turbocharged
Gearbox 9-speed automatic transmission
Max power 240 hp @5,800 rpm
Max torque 340 Nm @ 1,750 rpm
0-100 kmh 8.6 secs
Top speed 209 kmh
CO2 emissions 201 g/km
Average OMV S$63,000
Price S$293,999 (with COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive T.6378 2626