The off-road convertible
For many Range Rover loyalists, a fashion-focused four wheel drive with a soft-top could be a step too far.
That was the initial concern of this week’s Bay Driver, Charlotte Gardner, who in a previous life owned a Landrover Discovery and is somewhat of a self-confessed purist when it comes to offroad vehicles. However, when she first laid eyes on the new Range Rover Evoque at Mount Maunganui’s luxury car dealer Duncan and Ebbett – it was love at first sight! A rising star from Eves Real Estate in Mount Maunganui, Charlotte and her business partner Dirk Merwe have spent just two years in the industry. But they’re already kicking some serious goals – selling the most expensive non-beach front property in Mount Maunganui. They also currently hold the record for the highest sale at an Eves Auction. With this in mind, I approached Charlotte in the hope she could provide us with a suitable high end property for our Range Rover Evoque photo shoot location. And she did not disappoint, suggesting a beautiful Papamoa-based paradise build home she’s recently listed. With aspirations of a summer road trip, Charlotte, myself and our photographer Bruce Barnard headed off to Papamoa. Sorry to disappoint Charlotte, but you have got just two hours.
Baby of the family
This baby Range Rover has been a huge success for the brand. With a new body style the Evoque Convertible has been properly engineered to mix soft-topping with off-roading that has really struck a chord with urban dwellers increasingly turning towards SUVs that make unique style statements. While not huge, the Evoque Convertible boasts one of the roomiest rear seats among rivals such as the BMW 2 Series Convertible and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet. The seat base is plush and nicely tilted upwards to aid under-thigh support and the backrest is not too vertical – a common design fault in many convertibles. With a 250 litre boot, there is more than enough room for a four-person overnighter; and with the rear seats folded forward, a whopping 1445 litres of load space reveals endless luggage options. The headroom for a convertible was most impressive too; suddenly the idea of a raised drop-top, which leaves extra space for legs to drop to the floor and sits taller to deliver extra headroom, makes sense beyond being just a slave-to-fashion concept.
Off the road - on the road
Allowing for perfect visibility and the smell of the beach into the cabin made complete sense on our jaunt to Papamoa. And while Charlotte was keen to test the Evoques off-road capabilities I assured her that any reports of us climbing sand dunes at Papamoa would almost certainly ensure this would be her first and last Duncan and Ebbett test drive invitation. Nevertheless, the Range Rover’s multi-mode all-wheel-drive system and sensible, chubby 55 aspect tyres would easily make light work of the worst nature can throw at it, leaving driver and passengers to experience the best of nature given the opportunity. Equipped with All Terrain Progress Control, the Evoque has some snazzy technology designed to make off-road driving easier and safer. ATPC maintains a low vehicle speed allowing the driver to focus on steering. On the road, where most Evoque Convertibles will spend the majority of time, the two-litre four-cylinder engine provides smooth and extremely quiet acoustics and with nine intelligently selected gears inside the automatic transmission and paddle shifters on the steering wheel it is heaps of fun to drive. The steering with medium weighting and decent sharpness provides a sports car feel and ride quality on standard fixed suspension that is balanced between comfort and control whether on dirt or tarmac.
With a string of national and international awards to its name, it is easy to see why Range Rover sold 88,000 Evoque in its first year of production.
• 2012 North American Truck of the Year.
• 2012 World Design Car of the Year, part of the World Car of the Year awards.
• 2012 Women’s Overall World Car of The Year and Women’s Top World Luxury Car of the Year.
• 2012 Best of the Best/Truck by ‘AutoWeek’ magazine.
• 2012 SUV of the Year by Motor Trend in 2011.
• 2011 Auto Express Car of the Year.
• 2011 Car of the Year by ‘Top Gear’, ‘SUV of the Year 2011’ and ‘Jeremy’s Car of the Year’.
• 2010 Best production car by ‘Car Design News’ in 2010.
As impressive as the Evoque Convertible is, it was Charlotte’s face that told the story. Reminding me of my little sister on Christmas Day, racing her new bike when we were kids, a proud grin from ear to ear that remained even as the day came to a close. This British offering of performance, dynamics, luxury equipment and refined and high-quality value, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible is very, very impressive.
Highlighted features as standard
• Halogen Headlights
• Powerfold Heated Door Mirrors
• 18” 7 spoke ‘Style 706’ alloy wheels
• Rain sensing wipers
• 8-way electric front seats with memory
• Grained leather seats
• 10” touchscreen
• Meridian Sound System 380W with 10 speakers plus subwoofer
• All Terrain Progress Control
• RRP from $110,000 Dealer: Duncan and Ebbett, 15 Hewletts Rd, Mount Maunganui. Phone: 07 928 1280.