Britain is Europe’s second biggest market for convertibles, so the launch of a drop-top version of the Range Rover Evoque is noteworthy. Especially as it’s the only convertible SUV you can buy.
We’ve been trying the Evoque 2.0 TD4 180 HSE Dynamic against the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet C 220 d AMG Line auto, the entry-level diesel version of a regular four-seater based on the C-Class Coupé.
The Evoque’s engine has more oomph than the Merc’s, but against that it has to push an extra 200kg. That puts its acceleration into the ‘adequate’ rather than the ‘sprightly’ category. Neither unit is especially good at subduing clatter at idle, but the C-Class does a better job of isolating its passengers from vibration.
Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet C 220 d AMG Line auto
Engine: 2.1-litre diesel
Top speed: 145mph
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
Come to a corner in the tall Evoque and you’ll experience a slightly odd combination of super-quick steering and a reluctance to alter course. Its body leans over more than the German car’s. The C-Class’s slower steering gives it a more natural feel of weight build-up going into corners.
Braking from 70-0mph produced similar stopping distances, but in the Evoque heavy braking comes with heavy nosedive, reducing the feeling of stability.
The firmly suspended C-Class doesn’t handle cruising-speed bumps as well as the Evoque, but the Range Rover’s high seating contributes to a frustrating sensation of your head being thrown about on rough city streets. Adding Airmatic suspension to the C-Class (an £895 option) enhances its smoothness.
Convertibles usually feel less stiff than the cars they spring from, and this is particularly noticeable in the floppy C-Class which sends shudders up the steering column whenever a pothole is hit. Again, the optional Airmatic quells some of this tendency. Body shimmying in the Evoque is generally less evident.
The Evoque’s eight-speed automatic gearbox responds nicely once you’re moving but there’s a disconcerting delay in pickup from zero mph. Our test C-Class came with the popular option of a nine-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is standard). That extra gear makes it quieter at speed but on the downside it’s jerkier than the Evoque when changing up in Sport mode.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible 2.0 TD4 180 HSE Dynamic
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Torque: 317lb ft
Top speed: 121mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
70mph top-down conversations are possible in either car but the Evoque is a bit noisier. You have to pay £260 for its manually operated wind deflector which also segregates the front from the rear. The Mercedes’ roof is electrically operated and standard equipment. You can activate either at speeds of up to 30mph, but you’ll wait 6 seconds longer for the Evoque’s to deploy.
Space and practicality
Front-seat passengers will be much more comfortable than those in the back in either of these four-seaters. The Evoque offers a lot more front head room than the C-Class, and a little more leg room when the roof is in place. It’s also more comfy for back seat passengers thanks to its substantially greater rear head room, extra footroom under the front seats and high-mounted rear seats that don’t angle knees upwards. Adults won’t think much of the C-Class’s back row.
The Evoque lets itself down on boot space, however. Regardless of roof position it’s smaller than that of a five-door Mini and it’s too easy to bang your bonce on the bootlid as it doesn’t clear away sufficiently when it’s opened. The C-Class wins easily here with a near-Golf sized space once the roof’s up. That reduces quite a bit when the hood is down but it’s still bigger than the Evoque’s. Split-folding rear seats (not available in the Evoque) help too.
It’s a close-run thing on interior quality. The C-Class’s dash looks more modern, but the Evoque’s dash plastics seem more substantial and its seats are made of real rather than artificial leather. Set against that are its less consistent gaps between fixtures. Colour infotainment systems with sat-nav are standard in both cars. The Evoque’s touchscreen is easy to use and quite responsive, while the C-Class’s rotary dial system would be better with more intuitive menus.
Standard equipment lists are extensive on both of these pricey cars. Both offer climate control, heated electric front seats, reversing camera, DAB radio, sat-nav, adjustable ambient interior lighting and auto gearbox paddle shifters. The Evoque adds those leather seats, a top-notch Meridian audio system and four-wheel drive, while the C-Class adds LED headlights and an Airscarf to blow warm air onto your neck.
Review: Range Rover Evoque Convertible v Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet
When it comes to getting one of these two onto your drive, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Evoque Convertible’s price tag is almost £6000 bigger than the C-Class Cabriolet’s. High demand means you won’t get anything off that either. A Mercedes dealer should knock £500 off the C-Class.
An on-finance purchase narrows the gap. With a £10,000 deposit on a three-year deal tied into 12,000 miles a year and a big final payment, you’ll pay £460 a month for the Merc and £500 for the Range Rover. The Evoque is around £60 a month cheaper on a contract hire lease agreement. Company car drivers will gravitate towards the C-Class’s lower list price and CO2 emissions, which require a £5000 smaller salary sacrifice for a 40% rate taxpayer.
So, which convertible wins? The Mercedes. It’s a better drive, carries more luggage and costs less to buy and run. The Evoque offers plenty of room and low depreciation, and it’s a real attention grabber, but the top-heavy feel in corners, small boot, high company car tax bills and lethargic performance knock it back.