LOS ANGELES – Turning a perfectly good CUV into a drop-top takes a deft styling hand, but Range Rover design director Gerry McGovern feels he has that touch with the ’17 Evoque convertible.
“We don’t do ‘Zorro’ design,” says McGovern in an interview on the sidelines of the Los Angeles auto show where the Evoque convertible makes its world debut. “Every line is doing a job.”
Dubbed the “world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible,” the new model shares its chassis, hood, front fenders and doors with the Evoque coupe. But McGovern points out subtle details that help the convertible version avoid bulky rear-end styling despite chopping off the rearward sloping roof which is a key design feature that gives the Evoque hardtop its visual balance.
In particular, while the convertible carries the same front-to-rear character beltline as its coupe sibling, the entire rear quarter panel is restyled with a chamfered upper edge to enhance the vehicle’s rear haunches while reducing the appearance of height.
In addition, a piano-black trim element on the windshield header and that is used to define the upper edge of the doors carries into the rear quarter panel and into a blacked-out functional rear spoiler to create a harmonious look from front to rear.
To maintain structural stiffness without the roof, engineers added floor-pan crossbeams and extra bracing in the doors and rear quarter panels. The windshield surround and front clip required no additional bracing. Land Rover officials declined to reveal how much the added structure added to the convertible’s curb weight.
The Z-folding fabric roof stows in 18 seconds and raises in 21 seconds, at speeds up to 30 mph (48 km/h). With the roof in place, headroom remains surprisingly sufficient thanks to the CUV’s upright stature. Land Rover says stowing the roof doesn’t negatively affect cargo room, with 8.86 cu.-ft.) 251 L of space still available with the roof down.
Inside, the convertible is the first vehicle in the Jaguar Land Rover family to be outfitted with the company’s next-generation infotainment system featuring a wide, 10.2-in. (259 mm) touchscreen.
Running gear is shared with the fixed roof Evoque coupe and 5-door models. For the U.S. market, the single powertrain offering is a 2.0L direct-injection I-4 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels.
McGovern says that while a convertible Evoque wasn’t on the drawing board from the start, he knew the model range had some “stretch” built into it. That said, he doubts there is a market for a 4-door Evoque convertible.
The convertible will be built alongside the Evoque coupe and 5-door at Land Rover’s Halewood, U.K., plant and goes on sale in spring 2016.