Let the Wind Blow
Drop the top and raise the fun
From the hideaway Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament to the chrome-tipped exhaust, every inch of the Rolls-Royce Dawn whispers opulence.
The wind is in your hair, the warm sun shines on your face, and the sounds of the engine tease your ears as you soak in the beauty of the landscape passing by. If you’ve ever driven a convertible on the tree-lined back roads of New England, this scenario probably makes you smile. For those folks who like to drive—and even those who prefer to take in life from the passenger seat—there are few better ways to unwind and de-stress than a spirited drive in a droptop. The newest offerings are as varied as the folks who drive them, with prices to fit every budget.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata has no peers when it comes to fun for the buck. Even for twice the buck. The new fourth generation is the best one yet. The formula is simple: light weight, nimble chassis, excellent steering and an evenly matched 4-cylinder engine working together seamlessly. There are faster sports cars, but none more satisfying. Starting at only $24,915
If you like the idea of the Miata, but prefer something Italian, Fiat comes to the rescue with the new 124 Spider. Built on the same platform as the MX-5, the 124 features a unique exterior design and a turbocharged engine. Think of it as a Miata, with an accent.
Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible: While the Dune name might conjure up images of SoCal dune buggies, this Beetle is more style than function. But that’s not a bad thing. The Dune looks great, especially in the Sandstorm Yellow of my test model. And the extra suspension travel of this slightly raised version gives a better ride than the standard open-air Beetle. It comes nicely equipped at under $30k.
Speaking of style, Buick’s Cascada is a looker. It might not be the most exciting car to drive, but with room for four and an affordable price, the Cascada could be all the droptop you need. Starting at $33,065.
Chevrolet offers two models and numerous choices for convertible buyers. The 4-seat Camaro starts at only $32,900 for the 2.0L Turbo and goes all the way up to the fire-breathing 650hp ZL1 Convertible at $68,135. The Corvette comes in three variations, but my favorite is the mid-range 460hp Grand Sport Convertible starting at $70,445.
Porsche 718 Boxster. Some purists may bemoan the switch to 4-cylinder turbocharged engines in the Boxster and Boxster S. Get over it. The exhaust note has changed and you might need a few more RPMs on launch, but this car still delivers one of the best driving experiences on the planet. Starts at only $56,000.
Jaguar’s F-Type is still one of sexiest ways to go topless. The British automaker offers seven different versions of the convertible F-Type with top line models getting standard AWD to handle the big horsepower. RWD V6 models start at only $65,400 and can be had with a manual trans. Keep the top down—the exhaust note is addictive.
Maserati’s GranTurismo Convertible is not for wallflowers. The exterior beckons with sensuous curves while the interior caresses you and three passengers in gorgeous buckets swathed in hand-stitched leather. Fire up the engine and unleash the howl of the Ferrari V8, and your neighbors will instantly know you aren’t driving a Prius. Prices start at $145,740.
Mercedes-Benz introduced a redesigned SL for 2017. And it’s a good one. The new front end is much sleeker while the base engine delivers more power imparting the SL450 with a sportier feel. The retractable power hardtop on all SLs features a standard glass Panorama roof that can be opened or closed at speeds up to 25 mph. But keep it open, since M-B’s AirScarf system will keep you toasty even on the chilliest days.
If you crave more luxury or just need seating for four, Mercedes-Benz new S-Class Cabriolet is the ticket. This big drop-top is brimming with the latest in safety technology and the choice of three powerful engines. Interior detailing is flawless with sumptuous leather adorning every touch point. The S-Class is elegant, comfortable and supremely quiet with prices ranging from $131,400 to $247,900.
For the ultimate expression of luxury open-air cruising, the Roll-Royce Dawn has no peers. Open the rear-hinged doors and take a seat on hand-stitched, glove-soft leather thrones as your hands caress the flawless, perfectly matched wood. With a base price of over $341,000, the Dawn is for a fortunate few. But for that price, you’re guaranteed the best valet parking spot wherever you go.