Land Rover's convertible is a statement

It's hard to look at Land Rover's DC100 Sport concept vehicle on the Los Angeles Auto Show floor and get any immediate sense of a practical ownership experience. It is a luxury-class two-seat convertible SUV.

More precisely it is a concept exercise on what the next Defender might offer in three or four years. And, as is the tradition with most concepts, company officials aren't saying yes and they aren't saying no.

But the drop-top model -- think of a Jeep Wrangler crossed with a Honda Del Sol -- is really a little more than that. It's a declaration of the heritage-steeped Rover brand being bold and brash and independent in its thinking about its future as a business unit of Indian billionaire Ratan Tata.

Auto brands that slip from independence into the hands of "investors" who are not necessarily car guys tend to have a spotty track record.

The Land Rover DC100 and DC100 Sport concepts made their North American debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show this week. Photo credit: LAND ROVER

Rover could easily slowly spend down its fortunes playing it safe and boring. The convertible concept is anything but.

Where is it written that Rover has to be stately and functional? It only has two seats? So what. Sports cars and pickup trucks only have two seats. It's a convertible? The Nissan Murano crossover now comes as a convertible. And losing the top does give the Sport that genetic connection to the old Rover feature of being able to fold down a mud-splattered windshield while crashing through swamps.

Rover purists have been sniffing over in Europe since the concept first appeared that it is "overdesigned." Over designed? Are Swiss Army knives overdesigned?

This thing is a garage toy. And in the end, it squares nicely with the old Rover tag line: "The world's most versatile vehicle."

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