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    And the question was..? / #Range-Rover-Evoque / #Range-Rover / #2016 / #Land-Rover /

    The #Range-Rover-Evoque-Convertible makes no sense – or so some would say. Read on and decide for yourself. Words Glen Waddington / Photography David Shepherd /

    This could be my wife’s dream car. Don’t jump to the wrong conclusions. Despite Victoria Beckham’s heavy involvement in early Evoque marketing campaigns, Land Rover has never explicitly said This Is A Girls’ Car. Neither shall I. Not even of the new convertible. But in a weak moment, although she’s not really into cars, Mrs W has confessed she’d love a Range Rover and a BMW convertible. Well, this kind of does both those jobs. Doesn’t it?

    Convertibles are nothing new to Land Rover. Tell me you haven’t hankered after a Series I rag-top. And what about the Freelander Softback of the late 1990s? Funny how the Evoque Convertible is getting people’s backs up. Maybe it’s the looks. Bar some fussy detailing, I quite like it; some won’t. There’s a wedginess to the waistline that’s accentuated by body-coloured lower flanks (they’re dark grey on the threedoor) and a little spoiler on the bootlid. Hoodup, there’s more of a slope to the rear window, coupé-style. From within, hood-down it does a great job of keeping you out of the breeze: ruffled but not windswept, even at motorway speeds. Hood-up, it’s pretty much as refined as the hardtop, if rather more confined width-wise in the rear seats. Quite a fun steer, too.

    Maybe it’s the price: 50 grand for this 178bhp four-cylinder diesel one, though it’s well-spec’d (heated seats/wheel/front screen, big stereo, lots of leather, electric roof). You’d probably spend similar on a new soft-top 3-series or A5. Neither of which will stand out quite so much.

    Maybe that’s what upsets people. Or is it the weight? This thing weighs two tonnes. Unforgivable for a smallish four-seater, and you can feel it in the way it accelerates (or, rather, doesn’t). But, then, while it rolls a bit in corners, there is never any hint of shake or rattle. The floorpan, sills and header rail are substantially braced, and it’s a compromise that Land Rover thinks reasonable, given that this car is mostly as wieldy as any other Evoque. And on any surface.

    So, yes, we’re exposed to some gymkhana-style acrobatics to prove the Evoque’s rigidity and (virtually speaking) axle articulation. The route also goes up and down some extremely rough tracks, leaving the Hill Descent and All Surface Progress controls to look after things while the driver merely steers (and looks a bit gobsmacked).

    Seeing as we’re in Courchevel, we get to lark about on the piste too. I’m first there, on fresh, hard-packed snow. No problem. But I hang around so that I also get to go last. Through powdery drifts and over freezing ruts you have to work a bit harder, yet there’s no stopping the Evoque – unless you want to. Clever electronics modulate and apportion torque expertly so you don’t get stuck, and it’s massively impressive. This car tries to do lots of things, and does most of them exceedingly well. If you want an ‘all-season convertible’ ( JLR’s own words) then this is it. The driver’s choice for similar money might be the Porsche Boxster, but could this really be my wife’s dream car?

    Well, turns out she might also fancy a Prada handbag and a Mulholland backpack. One of each, for different jobs. Not something that does a bit of both. Oh well, each to their own.
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    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite updated the group cover
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    Farewell to an old friend / As the Defender nears the grave, all three run-out specials are exactly that – though one in particular is an Octane favourite / Words David Lillywhite / #Land-Rover-Defender-Adventure / #Land-Rover / #Land-Rover-Defender / #Land-Rover-Defender-Autobiography / #Land-Rover-Defender-Heritage / #2015

    It won’t have escaped your notice that the end of the Land Rover Defender as we know it is nigh. Safety regulations and labour-intensive builds mean that production was expected to end late this year, though demand has been so high that the last remnants will sneak into early #2016 .

    This is truly the end of an institution, for the Defender today isn’t so very different from the very first Land Rovers that emerged from the very same factory 67 years ago. They’re not just the same shape, give or take a few bulges, they’re built on near-identical chassis (the rails are still the same distance apart) to pretty much the same mechanical layout, with the same basic design of bulkhead. To mark the end of production there are, of course, a few end-of-production special editions.

    Well, there would be. There’s the posh one, named Autobiography, with its full leather upholstery, two-tone paint and highly appreciated power upgrade from 120 to 148bhp. The manly one, more properly called the Adventure, keeps the leather and (in 90 spec only) the extra power but adds underbody protection, extra-chunky Goodyear MT/R tyres, snorkel, and a roofrack to strap manly accessories to. And then there’s the one to tug at the heartstrings, the Heritage, in evocative Grasmere Green with little ‘HUE 166’ badges and tags strategically placed to remind you of Huey, the first-ever pre-production Land Rover. Eighty Autobiographys, 600 Adventures and 400 Heritage editions are planned.

    All have the torquey diesel 2.2-litre Ford Duratorq engine and six-speed gearbox, mated to the familiar high/low-ratio transfer box and, of course, fourwheel drive. The bonnet bulge that was added to accommodate the Ford engine in 2007 is still there, as is the – shock! – non-venting bulkhead (conventional air vents came late and controversially to the Defender, and many enthusiasts rue the loss of the simple flap-in-the-bulkhead vents that had been a feature for decades).

    We drove a Heritage 110 and an Adventure 90 – the numbers are the wheelbase in inches – several hundred miles each. In so many ways, they’re both rather hopeless: the driving position is cramped for anyone long of leg, the ergonomics poor (the ignition key and headlight switch fight for space under the dashboard, for example), the turning circle is terrible, the ride choppy (especially in the 90), cabin noise drowns the radio, interior space is pitiful, and the B-pillar restricts sidewards visibility.

    So, of course, we love the damned things. The feeling of belting along (well, it feels fast) at 80mph, sitting up high, remembering not to fight the wandering steering but to let it find its own way, as the gruff diesel gets on with the job up front is just magic. And if you want to harness your inner Bear Grylls, this is the machine, because off-road it’s uncannily good, gripping where there’s no grip, traversing the seemingly untraversable.

    Range Rovers, Discoverys et al are much easier and just as capable off-road, with incredible electronic aids to keep you moving. But there’s something life-affirming about learning to master the rough, tough controls of the Defender.

    Which special edition for you? Well, aside from them all being sold out (sorry… at least you can look out for them on the used car market), that’s very much down to personal taste, though the extra power of the Autobiography and Adventure 90 is very welcome. But for us it’s simple, and not just because we like classics: the Heritage is not only the cheapest (starting at £27,800) but also the most subtly treated, and the one that draws the most admiring glances. We’ll miss the Defender.

    Top and left - Last of the line, being turned out as (from left to right) the Autobiography (only 80 built), Heritage (400 – interior left) and Adventure (600). If only you could still buy one…
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    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite updated the group picture
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    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite created a new group Land Rover
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