It was the 'marmite' concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, enticing and perplexing 4x4 fans worldwide.
And now, four years later, Range Rover's Evoque convertible has come to fruition, and AOL Cars has been driving it through the snowy peaks of the French Alps to see if it can still handle the rough stuff.
Its hard top sibling has already sold more than half a million units since it was launched in 2011 and over 1,500 orders have so far been placed for the convertible variant, before the vehicle had even been seen in the flesh.
What is it?
The Evoque convertible is the world's first convertible compact SUV. Based on the same platform as the Evoque, and featuring much of the same spec, the convertible looks, as could be expected, almost too luxurious to take out of town.
However, Land Rovers are built to perform, and so in the lengthy design process all potentially restricting factors were taken into account.
The car's chassis has received strengthening in order to maintain the car's torsional rigidity despite its lack of roof. So impressive is the strengthening that all three doors of the convertible can be opened and closed with ease when the car is resting on just two diagonally opposing wheels.
A 2.0-litre turbocharged Ingenium diesel engine powers the 4x4, putting out 180PS and 430Nm of torque out through the Efficient Driveline four-wheel-drive system. Using intelligent electronics, this system varies the flow of torque between the front and rear wheels in different driving conditions.
Fuel economy is a modest 49.6mpg while the diesel emits 149g of C02 per kilometre, making it theoretically one of the most fuel efficient Land Rovers available.
The 9-speed automatic gearbox, which is the only transmission available in the model, is lifted straight out of the standard Evoque. The added weight of the chassis – 1,967kg compared to the coupe's 1690kg – is noticeable when accelerating out of corners, with the gearbox almost struggling to decide which gear to select. Switching into its semi-automatic function and making use of the steering wheel mounted paddles proves slightly more responsive, however even then the car can feel like it is struggling, especially up a steep hills.
A strange smell of an overworked clutch lingers after intense stints of driving, proving especially noticeable with the roof down.
What's the spec like?
A 10.2inch touchscreen is reminiscent of a tablet, allowing the driver to navigate using easy pinch and swipe motions even whilst driving. However, despite being set back in the centre of the dash, it can prove difficult to read when the roof is down due to sunlight casting shadows and reflections across it.
Without the security of a roof or roll cage, safety is accounted for by hidden aluminium roll over bars, which automatically deploy within 90milliseconds in the event of an accident.
The convertible is not just a summer fancy. Boasting a 251litre boot – small for a 4x4 but large amongst its rag-top companions – 500mm water wade ability, all terrain progress control and a ski hatch, it is a comfortable and relatively practical drive whatever the weather.
The roof can operated at speeds of up to 30mph, taking just 18 seconds to lower, and 21 to rise. Unlike some other convertibles, rear visibility is not compromised with the roof folded down, nor is boot capacity.
Like for like, the Evoque convertible has no rivals. In its position as the first compact SUV it is likely to draw a customer base from fans of luxury D-segment convertibles, looking for something a bit more. Drivers of the original Evoque are also expected to be tempted by the latest offering from the quintessentially British brand.
What's it like to drive?
The 9-speed gearbox feels too sluggish for the convertible. Despite being the same as featured in the coupe, the added weight of the strengthened chassis lends to a distinctly heavy drive.
However, in its position as the new it-car for fashionistas, it is unlikely that the convertible will be tackling much more than the occasional country road.
Acceleration to 60mph takes 9.7seconds while the vehicle tops out at 121mph and steering is reassuringly firm at both high and low speeds.
For a large car, wind noise could be a problem in the convertible form. However, clever aerodynamics and an optional wind deflector mean that noise and buffeting in the front of the cabin is limited, and audible conversations can be held even at motorway speeds.
AOL Cars verdict
As 4x4s go, the Evoque convertible wouldn't be the obvious choice. Practicality is seriously limited in the four-seater soft top, and despite the clever ski hatch – which comes as standard on the higher-spec LUX model – realistically the model would only provide a comfortable long distance journey for two, making use of the rear seats as extra luggage space.
But for drivers wanting the benefits of both a 4x4 and a convertible they can't go wrong with the convertible. Perhaps the model could do with some refinement, but for the first of its kind it will certainly set a precedent.
Model: 2016 Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2.0-litre 4WD HSE Dynamic
Max speed: 121mph
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds