In the year 2017, there really shouldn't be stereotypical gender divides in professions, designations or major belongings. There are no jobs for the boys; there isn't such a thing as a "girl's car". Yet even before I have chance to jump into the driving seat of the new convertible variant of Range Rover's popular Evoque, it becomes clear that this is a vehicle that is, by accident or design, rocking its X chromosomes unabashed.
Naturally there’s the model-making-a-car-model thing: the first response from more than one friend when I mention the car revolves around Victoria Beckham’s special-edition Evoque, which strutted on to the roads five years ago.
Having never spied one of the two-door Evoque Convertibles on the road, though, my pre-impression was based on some striking press shots in burnt-orange paintwork. Except when I go to pick up my test car, it’s in a jaunty shade called Fuji white, and as it’s brought around the corner, the Jaguar Land Rover representative smiles and announces (with pride, not malice): "Here comes the queen".
I have images of an iconic scene from the Ben Stiller movie Zoolander, wherein he and his fellow male models go for a joyful drive to the tune of Wham!'s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – the moments before they ignite an entire petrol station after an impromptu fuel-splattered hose fight.
During my first few kilometres in the Evoque – the 2.0L HSE Dynamic, to be precise – I’m wondering if I’m being paranoid, but it seems that the only envious glances I’m receiving are from female motorists, notably including one or two Emiratis running their eyes over the car. That’s confirmed when I park it for the first time: two passing middle-aged women stop and stare. That certainly doesn’t happen when I’m driving my own Ford Mustang. And I’m 99.9 per cent sure I didn’t get any more attractive in the 15 minutes since I collected the Evoque – proof positive that this is a desirable little motor.
Land Rover is selling this as the world’s first luxury convertible compact SUV. A fully convertible SUV in many ways seems like proposing a diesel supercar or a compact estate – two elements that appear diametrically opposed. But if you’re pondering how it can even begin to visually work, the Evoque with top down, like most of the best ideas, actually makes you wonder why this wasn’t done before. A money-spinning sub-class could be ahoy. I would argue, indeed, that it looks better than its hardtop original form. You can undoubtedly see the reasons for all that aforementioned attention.
Land Rover claims that it takes 18 seconds for the fully automated fabric hood to retract – at speeds of up to 48 kph. I time it at an even more impressive 15 seconds.
There are a couple of teething issues once it is stowed away, however: if you prefer the cockpit airflow and cleaner lines that accompany putting down the front windows, the latter is spoilt a mite by the glass not quite fitting flush with the sills. And if you attempt to counteract the UAE weather with the air conditioning, the vents start to drip condensation on to the leather-slathered dash, which I suspect won’t be a minor investment to repair should it incur repeated water-based assaults.
When you’re protected from the elements, the road noise is a little more than you might expect from a luxury vehicle, but it’s nothing so serious that it will leave your cochleas reverberating, although you do have to wonder how well the fabric hood will stand up to UAE weather.
The in-line four-cylinder engine isn’t punchy in low gears, possibly thanks to the convertible being the thick end of 200kg heavier than the regular Evoque. That’s thankfully less noticeable once the nine-speed gearbox starts shifting up and you pick up some momentum, and it’s silky enough that you could easily find yourself creeping over speed limits without realising.
Inside, the driving position is a nice notch below the perched vantage point of full-sized Range Rovers.
In my test car, the red-and-black match of omnipresent leather combines classily. The red shift paddles, endowed with cut-out plus and minus signs, are an agreeable touch, as well. The 12-speaker stereo pumps out some decent oomph thanks to its subwoofer, all hooked to a 10.2-inch touchscreen and Land Rover’s new infotainment system, which debuts in this car.
When acronyms become everyday language, it’s sometimes easy to forget the original long-form intent, but as a compact SUV, the Evoque Convertible really does feel like a sporty utility vehicle. You’re not going to move house in it, admittedly – the 251-litre boot isn’t cavernous by any means, although the good news is that its capacity is unaffected by the retracting roof. If you want to add some petrol-powered zest to your weekend breaks, however, there are few finer options to do so, with top up or down. And if nothing else, it will be intriguing to see the gender split of the sales breakdown.