The Evoque Convertible probably shouldn't exist but I'm okay with it
The idea of a convertible SUV has never really warranted existence in the space between my ears. Who in their right mind was driving around in a Range Rover and thought "you know what, I wish I could get the bloody roof down". And yet on a sunny weekend on the French Riviera, the place is apparently jam packed full of them.
Making a soft-top SUV comes under the same category as eating a Double Decker for breakfast, or walking into the home end of Celtic Park wearing a Rangers top and waving a Union Jack. It's just something that you shouldn't do.
Why am I even mentioning the convertible SUV scourge? Well, the other day, JLR invited me out to Buckinghamshire for a drive of the current range and after a spirited and massively enjoyable jaunt in a Jaguar XE (what a stunner of a chassis that thing has), I found myself beneath the canvas roof of a Range Rover that opens up like a tin of sardines.
It was the 240PS Evoque Convertible (the petrol one) in 'Indus Silver', so considering it was only the baby, all thoughts of concentrating on performance were out the window. That meant all of my grey matter was streamlined into experiencing the pure character of the vehicle, sidelining any thoughts of corner entries or weight transfer.
Just looking at it, the elongated doors already make the side profile look a bit odd. But the rear section of the convertible roof when in place is verging on Noughties BMW 6-Series levels of awkwardness. If anything, you're actually doing the nearby public a favour by putting the roof down. And with my big puffer jacket on and my Newcastle United wooly hat in place, that's exactly what I did.
It was two degrees, the roads were covered in icy slush and the cloud cover was constantly spitting flecks of rain into the cabin throughout the drive. But with Kiss FM blasting and the blowers twisted to their maximum settings, I headed for a Buckinghamshire forest to see whether the Evoque Convertible deserved all the hate it gets.
And out of all the Range Rovers I drove that day, I can wholeheartedly say that it was the most fun vehicle of the lot. In terms of the experience and the character that it brought to a damp and dreary day, the Frankenstein soft-top couldn't have made a better case for itself.
I'll admit that - as an entity - the thing is bloody ridiculous. The looks that I was getting from the local farmers, horse riders and even other JLR-driving journalists were beyond hilarious, every one of them knowing that I'm driving in one of the most controversially designed cars ever but probably admitting that I looked like I was having a whale of a time.
It comes down to the old adage that everything is better once the roof is taken off. Expose yourself to the rest of the world and have the confidence to hold your head high and the activity of driving suddenly becomes so much more than steering about a tin box. There's something to be said for doing something so ridiculous and blazé in a world of mundane commuters that truly justifies holding down the little button to the left that turns your SUV into your own motoring balcony.
The fact is that the Evoque Convertible does everything that an SUV has to do, but if the fancy takes you, you can expose yourself to unlimited headroom and the great outdoors. Remember when the three lads hacked the roof off a Renault Espace? Well this car felt equally as ridiculous but also just as entertaining. Being different and noticed can sometimes be a good thing.
To drive around in an Evoque Convertible, you need to have a certain bravery gene nestled somewhere in your makeup. The same kind of bravery that it takes to scream aloud in an opposition team's pub when your side scores. Or stepping up at the work karaoke night knowing that you can probably get through all of Kanye West's 'Gold Digger' without even looking at the screen despite being the quiet guy in the office.
Next time you see an intrepid Evoque Convertible driver rolling down the road with the roof down, give him/her the nod they deserve. They know that a lot of people simply don't understand them. They know that their kids probably get bullied at school. But it's all for that one moment when - for whatever reason - you want to feel the wind licking your forehead and the back of your neck while towering over mere mortals in their non-transforming, docile hatchbacks.
Nevermind the SVR, the Evoque Convertible is the most fun you can have in a Range Rover. And anyone that thinks otherwise can fight me in the comments. Goodnight.