Fun fact: Barbie’s awesome wardrobe wasn’t what made her cool. Her sweet dream house didn’t make her cool, her friend Ken didn’t make her cool, and her absurd, unattainable, and potentially psychologically debilitating body proportions certainly didn’t make her cool either. What made Barbie cool was her hot pink convertible. A quick Google search indicates that Barbie has owned a wide range of convertibles in her lifetime, all of which were hot pink. Yes, she went through the regrettable VW Beetle phase, and it looks like at one point she was driving around in a Suzuki Cappuccino, but she also had one with a distinctly Aston Martin grill – if pressed, we’d guess it’s a one-off Vanquish, customized by Mattel.
It’s an inarguable fact: convertibles are cool. Few things are better than dropping the top on a rear-wheel drive roadster and blasting off down the back roads under blue skies and bright sunshine. We’ve taken a look at the market and narrowed it down to ten great options. Sure, we didn’t include cars like the Porsche 918 Spyder…but while the Spyder’s certainly a great car, it’s also sold out. So, without further ado, here’s our list of the ten best convertibles you can buy today.
10. It’s the same old story. CarGurus is a fan of the Jeep Wrangler. Well c’mon – did you really think that we would make a list about, well, anything, and not try to squeeze the Wrangler in? The Wrangler has long been a favorite of ours for its impossible-to-duplicate blend of ruggedness, versatility, and fun. The Wrangler offers a unique experience, being the only convertible that performs better off the road than on. It’s not the most aerodynamic vehicle out there, and despite its 285 hp, you’ll see much better performance from this Jeep at low speeds. The Wrangler’s popularity is undeniable, and it’s still surprising that no other manufacturer has attempted to replicate Jeep’s successful formula in order to work up some real competition. Until that day, we’ll keep finding excuses to complement the Wrangler on its undeniable success. You’d think by now we’d be sick of writing about the Wrangler. Ehh, maybe after the next list.
9. Convertibles tend to grab a little extra attention simply because they’re a little different from most other cars. Their profile tends to suggest a sportiness that’s hard to ignore amid the endless and uninspiring parade of sedans and crossovers. And some people are looking for that extra attention, which is fine. But for those of us who are drawn to understatement without banality, there’s the Audi RS5. This car is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak, except that here the sheep looks pretty cool as well. Underneath the hood sits a 450 hp 4.2-liter V8 that is anything but banal. The interior quietly breathes quality and isn’t too cramped. While it’s $71,000 price tag looks steep at first glance, The RS5’s style and performance make it a good reason to feel confident and, frankly, smart when you slide in behind the wheel.
8. Since 1916, BMW has been committed to building “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” With cars like the M3, M4, and M5, it’s safe to say that it’s put forth a valiant effort (Porsche enthusiasts might make their own argument…There is no substitute, after all). It would be easy to include the new M4 convertible on our list, but we’re going with the roadster instead. 2016 may very well be the last year of the BMW Z4 as we know it. With rumors swirling about BMW’s partnership with Toyota, the chances of the Z4 being replaced in the next year or two are pretty good. But the 2016 Z4 looks better than ever, as this is the first year that the car is available in BMW’s famous Estoril Blue. So enjoy the twin-turbo straight-6 Z4 while you still can, and remember that this roadster is meant to be driven with the roof down.
7. Building off of nearly 50 years of American muscle car innovation and a history of intense competition from Ford and Dodge, the Chevrolet Camaro shapes up to be an excellent performance vehicle as it enters its 6th generation in the 2016 model year. At release, the Camaro will be offered in both coupe and convertible body styles, with the Z28 coupes coming later after launch. Though we have little details about the latter, we do know that the 2016 SS Convertible will boast a 455 hp 6.2-liter V8, which will pack a 0-60 time of about 6 seconds. There’s a reason the Camaro has been the better selling pony car as of late. It’ll be interesting to see if Chevy can continue to outsell the Mustang and Challenger with these new alterations. We should note that this is the only Chevrolet on this list, and, yes, we realize a lot of you reading this might be quietly asking “WHERE IS THE Z06!?!” Now, we understand that the Corvette might be the more powerful of the Chevy sports siblings, but we figured we should make a choice between the two, and the Camaro has a certain undeniable trait: value. We’ve mentioned it before, but there is simply no better value when it comes to performance per dollar than the Camaro.
6. If you like drop-tops and horsepower (and, be serious, who doesn’t?), then you’ll have to admit that we’re living in a beautiful time. The Camaro proves there’s more horsepower available per dollar today than ever before. But despite Chevy’s dominance in that realm, the Ford Mustang has the edge, in our opinion. The least powerful Mustang currently on sale uses a 3.7-liter V6 that puts out 300 hp. As absurd as it sounds, this engine (in production since 2010) is already horribly outdated. The 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder makes 305 hp—more than 132 horses per liter. And while the previously mentioned Camaro won our dollar-per-horsepower challenge, it was a V6. If you want a convertible with the best V8, buy the Ford Mustang GT. With 435 hp coming from a 5.0-liter V8, we can’t think of a better naturally aspirated engine available in a convertible.
5. Truthfully, when you stop and really take the time to consider them, it’s easy to see that convertibles are an incredibly dumb idea. Maybe it’s because we live in Boston, but the concept of buying a car simply because you can drive with the top off seems like a huge waste of money. A huge waste, that is, until you’ve driven one. Sure, it may be silly to take on a second mortgage just so you can wheel around in your new toy, but once you’ve heard the unadulterated exhaust note of a Fiat 500 Abarth Convertible, with the top down and blue skies ahead, it’s almost a foregone conclusion. The 500 Abarth only makes 160 hp, but the tiny car’s raw and emotional exhaust note is enough to put many supercars to shame. With an MSRP south of $27,000 this is one convertible that will give you a Ferrari soundtrack at a Hyundai price tag.
4. The Jaguar E-TYPE’s visual and technical magnificence have made it one of the world’s most recognized and revered car models. No surprise, then, that the new Jaguar F-TYPE, its spiritual successor, found itself the object of a huge amount of attention and enormous expectations when it arrived for the 2014 model year. Reviewers spent quite a bit of time & ink discussing the original F-TYPE, and most seem to agree that while it won’t re-write car history the way its forefather did, its fantastic looks, precise handling, and incredible engine noises make it a worthy successor to the E. Our reviewer was sadly saddled with the F-TYPE Coupe rather than the convertible, but he was mightily impressed with the F-TYPE’s look and sound. He also loved its automatic transmission enough to not miss a manual, though we’re sure he’d be happy to try that, too. Of course, one of the things that made the original E-TYPE so special was its affordability when it was available new. The F-TYPE certainly doesn’t bill itself on affordability, but it is less expensive than an Aston Martin or a 911. And owning a car even distantly related to the original E-TYPE convertible has a value that is more than just monetary.
3. We know—you were probably growing concerned because Porsche hadn’t yet shown up on the list. But don’t worry. We’d have no excuse to leave it off. Porsche makes a cabriolet model for the 911, of course, but we’re going to stick with the Porsche Boxster because of its combination of affordability, performance, efficiency and sheer style. Among some of the more interesting features for this convertible are its fuel-saving techniques: Auto Stop/Start, Thermal Management, Electrical System Recuperation, and even a coasting function—although you’d probably have to get out of Boston to take full advantage of that coasting function on a serious descent. Not that any of these features are compensating for anything, though: the Boxster S comes with a 3.4-liter flat-6 engine that puts out a solid 315 hp. And a bewildering number of available options (wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, leather, Alcantara) mean you can make this convertible your own in a way you’d have a hard time pulling off with anything else.
2. Mazda’s MX-5, or Miata, as most of us know it, has been in production for 26 years and sold nearly one million units, making it the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car ever. But if your idea of enjoying a convertible involves slowly rumbling down city streets with the top open to see and be seen by fans of huge-horsepower cars, the Miata probably isn’t your cup of tea. If what you want in a convertible, however, is a driving experience that rivets you to your seat and makes any empty winding road an irresistible invitation to test your skills and your car’s handling, we hope you’ve driven a Miata without us even telling you about it. Having sold out of a limited 25th Anniversary Edition for 2015 in 10 minutes, Mazda served up its fourth generation of the MX-5 for the 2016 model year. The new “back to basics” version is lighter and smaller than the last, and it uses a new 2.0-liter engine with fewer horsepower (155) but more torque (148 lb-ft) than the previous one. Its interior is now larger and more luxurious, and its soft top can now be lowered and raised with one hand. New or used, the MX-5 Miata convertible will put a beaming grin on the face of anyone who enjoys the visceral thrill of driving. And if you’re reading this, we hope you’re one of those folks.
1. Alfa Romeo has produced cars for more than 100 years, having also built aircraft and marine engines, locomotives, tractors, and buses. Many of its cars are gorgeous, but their reliability has never been remarkable in a good way, which was partly why Alfa Romeo stopped selling cars in the U.S. in 1995. Now a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Alfa Romeo has returned to the U.S. with the absolutely beautiful Alfa Romeo 4C, a low-slung sports car that recalls decades of Italian style while also looking thoroughly modern and up to date. And the 4C is up to date—it uses a carbon fiber tub, a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that offers 237 hp, and the dual-clutch transmission it shares with the Dodge Dart. The lack of a manual rankles some particularly old-school types, but the 4C’s small size, light weight, and lack of power steering ensure that anyone driving it will get plenty of feedback despite its having only two pedals. The 4C holds the current record lap time of 8 minutes and 4 seconds on the Nürburgring Nordschleife for a production car with an engine under 250 hp, and given the recent rule changes at the ‘ring, that record may stand for a long time. We’ll have to wait and see how reliable these new Alfas are, but we’re very happy to get to see them on the road every now and again.
What new convertible would you consider buying?
–Chase Hammond, John Harrington, Matt Smith, and Steve Halloran
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