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Will the Evoque Convertible spearhead a new market segment?

By raccars Published

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Like the Labradoodle or Elvis Presley's deep fried Mars Bars, merging two excellent ideas to make a new one can have mixed results. British car buyers have gone mad for SUVs and traditionally we also love our convertibles - inexplicably given the meteorological challenges faced by the UK. So the Range Rover Evoque Convertible would seem to be a consumer dream come true.

Is there an impetus for a new market sector?

The soft top SUV is likely to be a bit of a "Marmite" car, inspiring love and hate in equal measure. As a concept it either sounds so obvious you wonder why it's taken this long to get there, or the embodiment of your worst automotive nightmare.

As it happens, a sceptical motoring press has mostly given the result its approval and the concept was well received upon its introduction at last year's LA Motor Show. If you were not a fan of the original Evoque in the first place, chopping its roof off will do little to endear it to you now, but otherwise the Evoque Convertible proposes an interesting new idea.

Other manufacturers are no doubt watching the soft top SUV's commercial progress with huge interest. If it's a success you can be certain that very soon there will be lots of other SUVs meandering around with their occupants basking in open top sunshine (British climate permitting of course). Volkswagen has already introduced a convertible SUV concept with the T-Cross Breeze, seen earlier this month at the Geneva Motor Show.

The first convertible SUV?

There have been other attempts at making soft top SUVs. The venerable Land Rover Defender was available with a soft top for a long time, and Nissan offers an open top Murano in the US market, but Land Rover's marketing team are pushing the novelty of the luxury convertible SUV idea. Something has to distract from the elevated price tag!

Given that SUVs are, by their very nature, rather solid, some concessions to performance and practicality will no doubt need to be made to allow what is potentially a whole new market sector to take off. However the SUV market has become based around form over function so many buyers are unlikely to be troubled by such sacrifices. This is potentially a very lucrative idea.

The Evoque Convertible

The Evoque Convertible uses a folding fabric roof, as a retractable hard top was deemed mechanically unworkable with the SUV's layout. However this is probably for the best as it takes up less space when folded, while the lower centre of gravity adds stability. The roof can be operated within about 20 seconds and at speeds up to 30mph. Nonetheless boot space is necessarily compromised and the rear middle seat has been disposed of to house the operating mechanism.

A wind deflector can be placed behind the front seats which pretty much makes the rear seats obsolete, which is definitely not practical. While in place, a five layer polyacrylic roof insulates so effectively, both from the cold and noise, that you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are driving a convertible apart from some reduced visibility.

The effects on the car's performance are more noticeable. The extra mechanical bracing required to maintain rigidity has added 277kg of kerb weight - and it is noticeable. However the Evoque Convertible remains surprisingly agile off road.

These relatively minor issues don't seem to have deterred buyers so far, judging by the healthy pre-orders list for the Evoque Convertible.

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