Buying Guides

The Best Convertibles to Keep Summer Going

Generally impractical, completely enjoyable

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Summer is only really fun if you get to experience the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. The best way to do that is in a convertible. Put the top down, turn up the radio, slide on your favorite pair of sunglasses, and you're in for a treat. While any convertible can be enjoyable on a good day, not all of these drop top models are the same. There are quite a few out on the market. While there are several good ones, not all of them stand out. To make things easy on you, we've rounded up a solid group of convertibles varying in price and performance so you can choose the one that fits your lifestyle and budget.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

 
  • PROS: Easy-folding manual soft top, responsive steering and playful body-roll make for driving bliss.
  • CONS: Only two seats, rather cramped cabin, removable cup holders aren’t ideally located, not much storage space to speak of.

If you want a classic roadster experience in a new car, it’s hard to do better than the new Mazda MX-5 Miata ($24,915 base MSRP). The well-loved two seater is in its best generation yet and utilizes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission to deliver oodles of fun for its occupants. It’ll shoot the little car from 0-60 in just over six seconds. The grinning grille, aggressive-looking headlights, and sleek curves make this the best looking Miata ever, and the attractive but simple interior puts the focus right where it should be, on driving. There’s a Mazda Connect infotainment center with a 7-inch screen, but the technology in this car comes secondary to the driving experience.

Sure, you could opt for the hardtop MX-5 Miata RF ($31,555 base MSRP), but if you’re looking for an excellent summer car, the soft top is arguably the better choice. The retractable fastback gives more of a Targa top feeling when it’s down, instead of the complete open air experience of an actual soft top. However, if you plan on driving the car often once the weather turns cold, the RF may be more in your wheelhouse.

Fiat 124 Spider

 
  • PROS: Turbocharged engine is enjoyable at all speeds, usable trunk space, Abarth trim level is faster and more fun.
  • CONS: Interior feels like a rebadged Mazda, still not a lot of space, two seats, some folks aren’t thrilled with the styling.

Fiat’s new 124 Spider ($24,995 base MSRP) utilizes the Mazda Miata’s chassis and many other interior parts and components, but that doesn’t keep the Fiat from feeling like its own car. The model utilizes Fiat’s own 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It also comes with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, the latter of which is actually the last generation Miata’s gearbox. The suspension comes from Fiat and so does all the sheet metal, but much of the interior is almost identical to the Mazda.

If you want something a little racier than the standard 124 Spider, get the Abarth version ($28,195 base MSRP). This outfits the car with a sport-tuned exhaust that adds 4 extra horses, a limited-slip differential, exterior styling upgrades and a few extra factory-installed options. If you really want to hear the little Japanese-built Italian car sing, you need to get the Abarth version of the car. Its exhaust note is intoxicating and enjoyable, which will pair nicely with the summer sun.

Audi TT Roadster

 
  • PROS: Beautiful exterior, smooth engine, Virtual Cockpit cleans up the interior making it exceptionally attractive, standard all-wheel drive, power-folding roof.
  • CONS: No center infotainment screen, not all the coupe trim levels are available in roadster form, just two seats.

The Audi TT Roadster ($47,450 base MSRP) puts a soft top on one of Audi’s best sporty cars. Not just any top, but one that folds in under 10 seconds and at up to 31 mph. The addition of the convertible top eliminates the rear seats, but if you’re after a fun, top-down motoring experience, this is a forgivable downside, especially because the TT coupe’s rear seats are really small anyway. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It filters that power through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to all four wheels for a 0-60 time of just 5.2 seconds.

The TT Roadster is a well-rounded package. It’s aggressive-looking, attractive, comfortable on the inside, and has the performance goods to give you all you can handle on a dry, sunny, and twisty road. The interior features Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and no center infotainment screen. Instead of having a center screen Audi puts everything right in front of the driver on the digital instrument cluster. This cleans up the look of the dash and makes for one of the most attractive interiors of any other roadster out there.

BMW 2-Series Convertible

 
  • PROS: Power-folding roof, Wi-Fi hotspot technology, four seats, elegant looks inside and out, high-class interior materials and fit and finish.
  • CONS: Tight rear seats, trunk opening is on the smaller side.

A convertible for the BMW 2-Series ($38,950 base MSRP) is still a fairly new model. It first appeared in 2014. That being said, the car is one of the best out there, offering four seats, excellent driving dynamics, and stylish good looks. The model comes equipped with either a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque or a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine that produces 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which can push power to either rear or all four wheels. What’s special about the 2-Series convertible, though isn’t just the engines, it’s the power-folding soft top. The top goes up or down in under 20 seconds and can be folded at up to 30 mph. While not as quick as the Audi TT Roadster’s roof, it’s important to keep in mind that this top has to cover four occupants.

The base model of the 2-Series convertible will satisfy most folks, but if you’re after some serious speed with your sunshine, the M240i convertible is the way to go. It gets the 3.0-liter engine, which can propel the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. BMW made a point of stiffening up the chassis of the convertible 2-series as well, which should eliminate any concerns of cowl shake, twisting, or flexing in the turns or over rough pavement.

Audi A3 Cabriolet

 
  • PROS: Sleek and well-proportioned exterior, well laid out interior controls, power-folding roof, usable rear seats, reasonably sized trunk for its class, available all-wheel drive.
  • CONS: Occasional shimmy or shaking of the body over rough roads, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is optional instead of standard.

Love the Audi TT Roadster but just can’t make due with two seats? The Audi A3 Cabriolet ($37,600 base MSRP) is here to save the day. The A3 Cabriolet comes with four usable seats, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 186 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, and a rag top that can deploy in about 18 seconds and at up to 31 mph. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that puts power out to the front or all four wheels, and the car’s 0-60 time comes in at 6.9 seconds. The interior is upscale featuring plenty of soft-touch materials, an optional 13 speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system as well as a robust Audi MMI infotainment system.

There are three trim levels of the A3 to choose from. Instead of upping the engine size and power per trim level like other automakers, Audi chose instead to up the features and luxurious materials. The Prestige model is the highest level which comes with niceties like adaptive cruise control, a 705 watt 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, and full LED headlights and tailights as standard equipment.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet

 
  • PROS: Standard heated seats and Airscarf neck-level heating, power-folding roof, usable rear seats, and an interior made for royalty fit with tons of technology.
  • CONS: Poor rear visibility, the car isn’t as attractive as some competitors once its top is up.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet ($50,900 base MSRP) is all new, and it seems like the German company got it right. In almost every way the C-Class Cabriolet stands toe-to-toe with the rest of the competition. Offered with a soft top that can deploy in just 20 seconds at 31 mph, its convertible capabilities are par for the course. The C300 model comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The car can be had with rear or all-wheel drive as well. Pair all the mechanical bits with a stunning exterior and a luxurious interior with a robust infotainment system that is, unfortunately, a little too complex, and you have one extremely nice convertible for summer fun. Also, as a plus over many of the other cars on this list, the rear seats are actually usable, though legroom isn’t that of a sedan.

Is the regular C300 not enough for you? Consider one of the AMG C-Class models instead, starting with the AMG C43 ($60,400 base MSRP). The car comes with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that makes 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. This makes the car good for a 0-60 time of just 4.7 seconds. You can also jump up further to the C63 ($72,850 base MSRP) or C63 S ($80,850 base MSRP). Those versions of the car come with a 4.0-liter V8 that puts out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque and can travel from 0-60 in about 4 seconds. These AMG models have just as luxurious of an interior and come with plenty of features like heated seats, automatic climate controls, and Mercedes’ Airscarf neck-level heating.

Porsche 718 Boxster

 
  • PROS: Powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine options, excellent proportions, handsome good looks, superb handling and acceleration, and a power-folding roof.
  • CONS: Seats two, no flat-six engine option, can get wildly expensive with available equipment, poor rear visibility.

Few cars are as well-known and respected as the Porsche Boxster. The car is a near perfect example of what a sports car should be in many people's minds. While Porsche did away with its legendary mid-engine flat-six in favor of a couple of mid-engine turbocharged four cylinder options, there’s still no denying the Boxster’s prowess on a curvy road. Porsche offers the car in either 718 ($57,400 base MSRP) or 718 S ($69,800 base MSRP) trim levels. The difference is engine size and power. The regular 718 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 300 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The 718 S comes with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that puts out 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. That propels the car from 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds. Both engines can be had with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed PDK.

The Boxster may have a new engine and a revised suspension but that doesn’t hurt performance. The car is faster than its predecessor, and while some people will complain about the lack of the six cylinders, others will revel in the power and efficiency of the new engines. Aside from the car's performance components, the Boxster comes with an upscale interior and Porsche's Communication Management infotainment system. The optional equipment list is long and includes everything from interior and exterior trim upgrades to features like automatic climate control and heated seats.

What makes a good convertible?

  • A top that operates quickly and keeps noise and weather out.
  • Good structural rigidity to keep creaks at bay and to bolster handling.
  • A good sound system that's audible in top down driving.
  • Great styling inside and out that befits this segment.

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