Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible
The Range Rover Evoque has always been desirable but Land Rover hopes that the availability of this sleek Convertible body style will take demand to a new level. It certainly looks sleek and the engineering has been completed in such a way that buyers still get a practical four-seat cabin with reasonable boot space. Plus, that legendary off-road ability is unaffected.
So, what's it like? Very nice indeed actually. The engines are carried over from pokier versions of the standard fixed-top models, which means that buyers get a choice of either a 180PS TD4 diesel unit or a 240PS 2.0-litre turbo Si4 petrol powerplant. Diesel buyers get the choice of permanent 4WD or an 'Active Driveline' 4WD set-up that defaults to 2WD in tarmac use. This 'Active' set-up's standard on the petrol Si4 which makes 62mph from rest in 7.8s en route to 130mph. The TD4 diesel should feel stronger through the gears though, thanks to a potent 430Nm of torque. Evoque Convertible buyers have to have the brand's smooth-shifting 9-speed ZF automatic transmission.
On 'Active Driveline' 4WD models, a 'Torque Vectoring by Braking' feature further enhances agility and safety by redirecting torque to counteract understeer. Off-road ability is enhanced with the fitment of All-Terrain Progress Control. This function maintains a pre-determined speed - selected using the cruise control function - in forward or reverse gears between 1.1mph and 19mph, allowing the driver to concentrate on negotiating tricky terrain.
The Convertible body style is based on that of the three-door Coupe version of the Evoque but adds a Z-fold electric fabric roof that can lower in 18 seconds (at speeds of up to 30mph) and rise again in just 21 seconds. In addition, an optional rear wind deflector can be quickly installed between the rear three quarter trim panels, enhancing refinement when the roof is stowed.
Once the roof is lowered, discreet hinged panels located at the rear of the interior fold flush to conceal the mechanism, ensuring that the Evoque's contemporary lines retain a clean and uncluttered appearance. A Roll-Over Protection Device features deployable roll-over bars hidden in the rear quarter panel.
As for the interior, well you get a four-seat cabin defined by luxury materials and soft-touch surfaces. The strikingly minimalist dashboard architecture juxtaposes the bold horizontal sweep of the instrument panel with the dynamic vertical rake of the centre console. All Evoque Convertible models feature fixed twin rear seats, with a central bolster, and revised quarter trim speakers. Out back, the boot offers 251-litres with the roof open or closed and there's an optional ski-hatch for longer items.
This is the kind of car Land Rover needs to be making. The kind of model that will lower the brand's age demographic - and get people talking in the showrooms. Yes, it's pricey - and the extra weight of the drop-top body style compromises efficiency (and practicality) a little. Still, we don't think that too many potential buyers will worry very much about these issues.
These people will be attracted by the idea of enjoying what is currently the market's only SUV convertible. The idea of taking to the desert with the roof down has an undeniable appeal. As does this car. If you can afford it, we think you'd like one.Click here to find out more about our Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible range
Audi A5 Cabriolet
Audi didn't need to radically reinvent its A5 Cabriolet but it has done anyway. This second-generation version is stiffer and lighter, plus it's faster, more frugal and better connected. Inside, you'll find a classier cabin with the option of Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument binnacle, while on the road, a freshly developed suspension set-up means a much more sophisticated standard of ride.
As a general rule, if you own an executive-class convertible, you probably don't drive it too fast. By cruising along, there's a far better chance you'll be spotted by desirable members of the opposite sex and thus fulfil the primary purpose of this type of car. Of course, should the rain be prevailing or the streets be deserted, Audi has been kind enough to build in some potential for fun. Power comes from one of six engine options. The 2.0 TFSI petrol unit opens proceedings with 190PS, then there's the 252PS 2.0 TFSI variant, which can come with the quattro 4WD you get on the top 354PS S5 variant. Diesel-wise, there's a 190PS 2.0 TDI with or without quattro 4WD, plus a 2WD 218PS 3.0TDI S tronic model, or a desirable 286PS 3.0 TDI quattro.
This lighter, stiffer A5 Cabriolet benefits from the same layout that has been warmly received in the second generation A5 Coupe and Sportback models. That means there's a much-improved suspension set-up, a rear five-link configuration replacing the trapezoidal-link suspension used on the previous model. Adaptive dampers are available as an option. They are incorporated into the standard Audi drive select dynamic handling system and allow the driver to choose between a performance driving bias or a more comfort-oriented profile. The newly developed electromechanical power steering offers better feedback from the road and greater steering precision. As an option, dynamic steering which varies its gear ratio depending on the speed and steering angle is available.
As before, this convertible is based on the A5 Coupe. To reflect the improvements made to the second-generation version of that car, the rear window of this one is now flatter and emphasises the rakish stance, as do the short overhangs and the long wraparound bonnet with its power dome. With a length of 4,673 millimetres this MK2 model A5 Cabriolet is 47mm longer than its predecessor. It's more important though to note that the body of this second-generation model is 20% more torsionally rigid, yet is around 40kgs lighter than before.
The nose is dominated by a three-dimensional Singleframe grille which is much flatter and wider than before. The wave-shaped shoulder line - a hallmark styling feature of the entire A5 family - makes the A5 Cabriolet look satisfyingly elegant. The acoustic fabric soft top fits as perfectly as you would expect and can now be operated with a useful one-touch opening function (why has no one done that before?). Here, a flick of the switch is all it takes to open the soft top fully automatically in 15 seconds or close it in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. When the top is down, boot space reduces by 60-litres. When it's up, you get the same 380-litre capacity that the previous generation model could offer.
Executive class Audi convertible models have been highly successful for the brand down the years and now the mantle has passed to this second generation A5 Cabriolet to deliver the goods. In many ways, the recipe is much the same, Audi's cool brand image, stylish design language and slick interiors coupled with an expertly engineered fabric hood and a range of thrusting engines that are now more efficient than ever. It's not difficult to see this car's appeal.
Most A5 Cabriolet customers will have decided they want one long before they take a seat behind the wheel. The Cabriolet line has become something of an Audi icon and there will be no shortage of people willing to sign on the dotted line for the car simply because this is the latest instalment. Happily, it looks as though there's plenty of substance beneath the marketing veneer and those seduced by the image should luck into the premium convertible that the others have to beat.Click here to find out more about our Audi A5 Cabriolet range
BMW 4 Series Convertible
BMW's improved 4 Series Convertible perseveres with a neat metal-folding roof that offers a different option to executive segment cabriolet buyers not already swayed by the competing charms of rival open-topped versions of the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class. You won't get the large boot and cutting-edge driving dynamics of the 4 Series Coupe, but compensations come in the form of refinement, security and drop-top desirability. In short, you'd like one.
Is the average BMW 4 Series Convertible customer going to approach this car wanting to sling it around a bit? Provided the variant in question isn't the hot rod M4 version, I suspect not. Still, if you do like your driving, you'll be interested to hear that dynamic changes made across the range mean stiffer suspension and an upgraded steering set-up. These measures have resulted in a tangible improvement in both lateral and longitudinal handling properties, regardless of the load on board. The upshot is reduced roll, more neutral responses when driving at the limit, even greater straight-line stability and the wonderfully precise steering for which BMW is renowned. This applies to the standard suspension, as well as the M Sport suspension and Adaptive suspension.
On to engines. Diesel-wise, this means a choice of three units, starting with the 190bhp unit found in the 420d. Above that come the six-cylinder diesel models, the 258bhp 430d and the 435d diesel range-topper with a hefty 313bhp at its disposal. Petrol people get a 2.0-litre unit developing 184bhp in the 420i and 252bhp in the 430i. Above that sit two six-cylinder derivatives, the 326bhp 440i and the 431bhp M4 performance model. The xDrive 4WD system is an option on 420i, 420d and 430d variants and standard on the 435d.
But I haven't yet talked about the roof. If the sun comes out or the heavens open, it's nice that you don't now have to stop at the side of the road to either retract or erect it, though you do have to slow to a speed of below 8mph for the 20 seconds the three metal panels take to assume their necessary positions. When the top is up, the refinement you get is indistinguishable from that you'd expect to find in the 4 Series Coupe model, thanks to a number of design improvements made to this Convertible version. These include a sound-absorbing headliner that reduces wind noise by up to 2dB.
BMW alone persists with the metal-folding roof concept in this segment, so if you prefer this 4 Series Convertible to either of its two direct rivals, Cabriolet versions of the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class, that's likely to be the major reason why. The changes made to this revised model are really quite subtle. If you know the car well, you'll spot the new twin LED headlights that now come as standard. Another frontal change is found in the central air intake which has an aperture that increases in size towards the outer edges, adding a more imposing presence and greater sense of width to the entire nose section.
Otherwise, the recipe is as it was before. Having to create a pretty shape that effortlessly swallowed all the roof-work's sliding metal panels must be quite a design challenge but here, that's been expertly carried off, helped by the fact that like all the most modern folding hardtops, the BMW system - which takes 20 seconds to operate and can function at speeds of up to 8mph - uses three rather than two-pieces. The advantage of this is that you don't need a distended rear end on the car to accommodate the larger sections of a two-piece roof. The downside of stacking three rather than two pieces on top of each other in the boot is that when they're all folded and sandwiched together here, there's not a great deal of luggage space left. With the roof up, you'll get 370-litres of cargo capacity. But fold it down and that figure falls to just 220-litres.
And the rear seats? Well, getting to them isn't the easiest task in the world and once you're seated, there's just about enough room for two adults on shorter trips. At the wheel, there's a low-set driving position and a grippy three-spoke sports steering wheel. Optional on this car is the Air Collar, a concept first pioneered by Mercedes, with vents below the head restraints that can massage your neck with comforting warm air on cold mornings. Otherwise, everything is as it would be in a 4 Series Coupe.
Would this car be a more engaging driving machine without its weighty roof mechanicals? The extra sharpness of its 4 Series Coupe stablemate certainly suggests that. I sense though, that most buyers of this open-topped version will be quite happy with a more relaxed, comfortable demeanour. That is, after all, as much as competitors from Audi and Mercedes offer - and those brands can't deliver the engine choice BMW provides here.
In fact, a lot of boxes are ticked by this car if you can afford its asking price. You get impressive safety systems, high residual values, above average rear seat legroom and a sheer depth of engineering that rarely fails to impress. As a result, in many ways, it could be seen as the most complete contender in this segment and, best of all, it looks as striking and expensive as a convertible of this kind should when the sun's out and all is right with the world.Click here to find out more about our BMW 4 Series Convertible range