Let the Wind Blow
Drop the top and raise the fun
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 2.0LTurbo 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 offersseven 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. From the hideaway Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament to the chrome-tipped exhaust, every inch of the Rolls-Royce Dawn whispers opulence. 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.
The 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet is one of the least expensive droptops you can buy. Redesigned for 2017, it starts at only $18,900. The Fortwo’s small dimensions make it a good choice for city dwellers and unlike most convertibles, you can raise or lower the top at any speed all the way up to its 94mph maximum.
It seems as if the 4x4 Jeep Wrangler has been around longer than the dirt it so easily crawls across. Yet it is still the ultimate go-anywhere, do-anything convertible. Sure, dropping the top (or removing the optional hardtop) is a longer process than with other vehicles, but it’s worth it. Remove the doors and lower the windshield for the best open-air driving experience this side of a motorcycle. There are 10 unique Wrangler models starting at only $23,995.
The Mini Convertible has a clever three-in-one roof that has a half-open setting to create a large sunroof. Like all Minis, the Convertible is fun to drive, easy to maneuver and fuel-efficient. There’s a choice of three models from the 134hp Cooper to the 228hp John Cooper Works edition. Mini prides itself on customization to create the perfect car for every owner and claims there are 10 million possible combinations. Prices start at just $29,600.
Ford’s Mustang has long been the convertible of choice for sun belt rental car fleets. But don’t let that deter you. The latest four-seat Mustang is the best pony car yet, and comes with three engine choices. While I love the acceleration of the 435hp 5.0 liter V8, the 310hp EcoBoost® 4-cylinder turbo delivers plenty of driving fun, especially when mated to the standard 6-speed manual transmission. With an EPA estimated 30mpg on the highway, this could be the perfect summer road trip car. Mustang Convertible prices at only $30,685.
BMW offers a wide range of convertibles ranging from the 2 Series, starting at just $38,950, to the M6 at $120,000 base. The best-selling 430i comes with a power-folding hardtop and available AWD making it perfect for year-round use. Best of all, it drives like a BMW should. 430i prices start at $50,300.
For all-weather drivability in a convertible, Audi has you covered. Their quattro® AWD system is flawless and available on all five Audi convertibles from the A3, starting at only $40,300 to the spectacular, mid-engine, V10-powered R8 sportscar at $175,100. I admit a bias to Audis as I’ve been driving one for nearly 10 years, but I still think they make the best interiors in the business.
As you would expect with a Ferrari, the California T features a voluptuous exterior finished in flawless paint. The interior is painstakingly hand-crafted using nothing but the finest materials. The power-folding hardtop fully opens or closes in only 14 seconds. But all of this is secondary when you step on the gas and rocket to 60mph in less than 3.6 seconds, while the sound of the turbocharged V8 seduces your eardrums. At a starting price of only $204,500, it seems like a bargain, doesn’t it?
Lamborghini is to Ferrari what Led Zeppelin is to the Rolling Stones. They both rock, but one is a bit less family-friendly. The Huracán LP 610-4 Spyder is definitely geared towards adults. First there is the exterior, which retains most of the coupe’s creases and razor-sharp edges. This thing looks menacing just standing still. But posing isn’t what it was built for…with a 602-hp 5.2-liter V10 sitting right behind your head mated to a sophisticated AWD system, it goes from 0-60 in only 3.4 seconds. Sadly, Lambo dealers are scarce in these parts. Base price: $267,545
Aston Martin ditched the V8 so the gorgeous Vantage convertible now only comes with a 565hp V12 engine. As you would expect, the V12 Vantage S Roadster has a lovely, hand-stitched leather interior befitting a British sportscar, but you’ll buy this car for the exterior alone. Well, not totally. The 12-cylinder engine can propel the Vantage from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds all the way up to a dizzying top speed of 201mph. One of Aston’s smartest features is how the doors swing up to clear curbs as they open. Starting at $204,000
Bentley’s Continental GT Convertible is elegant, comfortable for four, and surprisingly fast. Especially considering it weighs over 5,500 pounds. The GTC was first introduced in 2005 and became an instant hit. The current generation debuted in 2011, but the timeless design and luxurious interior still look perfect and classy. Featuring AWD, endless customization options, and a range of engines, there is a Continental GT Convertible for every taste. The V8 starts at $218,400.