Sunday, 14 August 2022

This Evoque certainly converted me

IMAGINE some 145 million years ago, Britain’s alluring Jurassic Coast populated by wondrous marine life and

IMAGINE some 145 million years ago, Britain’s alluring Jurassic Coast populated by wondrous marine life and dinosaurs such as Allosaurus and Stegosaurus.

Leap forward millennia to the present day. A car travels along that same beautiful coastline, designated a World Heritage Site in 2001.

The car’s satnav plots a course visible to the driver on its 10-inch wide dashboard computer screen — the very heart of the machine.

The digital mapping is so clear and precise it picks out every road and byway in this ancient land, every tree and bush.

As each new turn is reached, the satnav counts the driver down — 300 yards, 250 yards, 200 yards and so on.

Such is the density of the traffic as he nears his destination in one of numerous highly populated towns dotted along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, that he decides to park up.

No matter, the car’s navigation programme moves to his mobile phone so he can continue on foot.

Within a short while the driver has reached his destination, safely delivered by the car’s 21st century technology.

This was an example of the advanced on board technology in this week’s drive — the all-new Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

And it can only get better. With the Evoque Convertible we get a glimpse of how cars will be in the not-so-distant future, how the technology revolution will pan out.

Those people who find it hard to believe that driverless cars are just around the corner should check out this new Evoque Convertible. It does not require a giant leap of the imagination to envisage cars driven entirely by computers. The only human contribution necessary would be to be on board and press a button.

The UK launch of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible not only highlighted what might be achievable in a brave new world — it also gave me, by contrast, a trip down memory lane.

I had been invited to join the launch of the world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible on the Jurassic Coast. Our drive would take in the environs of Christchurch, before setting out around the coastline.

Along the way we took in Bournemouth, where as a child I delighted in the sandy beach at Alum Chine. Then Sandbanks. Across the ferry to Studland and Swanage. Corfe Castle next, then through Weymouth and on to the Jurassic Coast proper — a sculptured swathe of headland that provides a breathtaking view to Lyme Regis.

The weather was perfect for convertible driving and the hood on the Evoque stayed down. But we saw a storm coming and were able to put the hood up within 21 seconds, still driving at up to 30mph. To put the hood down takes just 18 seconds.

Within moments we were cosily secure against the brief hard rain that ensued — the hood is multi-layered with a flush-fitting, heated glass rear window and provides excellent soundproofing to road noise and weather alike when up.

Inside the cab the 10.2-inch “tablet-like” screen on the dash is the driver’s connection to just about everything to do with this car.

The technology gives users “swipe, pan, and pinch ’n’ zoom” controls to navigate between sub-menus, just like on a smartphone or tablet.

These functions include WiFi hotspot, parking cameras, Eco Data, Wade Sensing and rear-seat climate-control settings. One slight concern was that if the sun was behind you and hit the 10.2-inch “tablet-like” screen while the hood was down it could make it difficult to make out details on the screen.

That said, as I wrote in my introduction, this satnav system is hugely impressive.

The advanced satellite navigation (InControl Touch Pro Navigation) includes: dead reckoning, guaranteeing operation in areas of marginal satellite coverage; on-board regional maps; 3D terrain, junctions and building graphics; customer prompts for parking and coffee stops; connected navigation, data including historical traffic, dynamic routing and real-time traffic updates; navigation instructions in both the instrument cluster and HUD (head-up display).

On our Jurassic route we were able to test the car off-road. The Evoque Convertible is necessarily heavier than its SUV (sports utility vehicle) counterpart and to a degree you feel this while driving on the road.

But this is after all a Land Rover and at heart a tough little beast. Don’t be fooled by its smart good looks that will no doubt go down well with the ski set at Gstaad (there is a means of stashing your skis in the boot through the middle of the rear seat).

The Evoque Convertible is available with Land Rover’s range of lightweight all-aluminium four-cylinder engines. Off-road the all-new Ingenium turbodiesel version I was driving shrugged off a churn through the New Forest like a walk in the park.

So who will buy this car? Well, its smart and savvy design will appeal to those with the kind of cash needed to indulge oneself. But this car is not only stylish but hardy, durable and I dare say practical. Land Rover quite rightly branded it as a “car for all seasons”. For someone like me who believes that convertible driving is the best, the Evoque Convertible has to be high on the wish list.

Evoque factfile

Range Rover Evoque Convertible

• World’s first luxury compact SUV Convertible

• Lightweight fabric roof stows in only 18 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph

• Space for four adults with a boot capacity of 251 litres with optional ski hatch

• Next-generation infotainment InControl Touch Pro system with 10.2-inch touchscreen

• Ingenium 2.0 litre Diesel (180hp) and Si4 2.0 petrol (240hp) engines available

• Starts at £47,500 on the road for HSE Dynamic

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