Great convertibles for the summer season
The trouble with buying a convertible is the premium you pay for that retracting top and open-air driving. But there is not much that feels better on the right kind of day than a topless ride.
Now that the weather has warmed up all around the country, it's getting harder and harder to suppress that desire for open-air driving. The thought of the sun warming the back of your neck, the wind rushing through your hair and over your ears, the smell of the grass and trees is enough to get anyone thinking about taking a saw to their hardtops or, more practically, hitting the dealership for a great value convertible.
Autoblog's editors have compiled a list of what we believe are the five best drop-top buys that provide the best value and the most driving fun. Click through to see what we like for summer 2016.
When Size Matters: 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible
The Cooper S Convertible starts at $30,450, which is $250 more than last year's model. The options add up quickly; Our fully-loaded testers were almost $10k more than the base price, with room to go further north from there. Be frugal with the options and you'll get most of the Cooper S Convertible's charms, but spend the $500 for the standalone adaptive suspension.
That being said, the inline-three in the regular Cooper is perky and has an offbeat, enticing growl. We've sampled the engine in the Hardtop; it's also available in the Convertible (and knocks $3,650 off the Cooper S price), and those amazing Dynamic Dampers are also a $500 option. The I3 represents a 55 hp downgrade, but with a manual is good for a 8.3 second run to 60 mph – a second and a half off the Cooper S's 0-60 time, but who's clocking a Mini Convertible with a stopwatch? It might be a smarter choice for budget-conscious sun-worshipers still interested in hitting twisty roads with the top down. - Alex Kierstein
The Oddball: 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque ConvertibleThe Evoque is, of course, Land Rover's surprise hit of the 21st century. It all started in the Motor City in 2008, the year of Land Rover's 60th anniversary. Like the first Renault Scenic, or the Mazda MX-5 when they were new, the Evoque had no competitors; if you wanted an Evoque, you had to go to Land Rover.
The canvas roof furls behind the rear seats in 18 seconds and will deploy at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The choreographed whirring of the folding hood will draw a crowd even in the middle of a field. But dropping the top removes the massive blind spot the erect roof makes over the rear three quarters. Start her up and it's pretty clear that adding effectively four passengers to the curb weight hasn't done much for the performance or the handing.
No one really needs a cabriolet SUV, just as no one needs most of the stuff with which we pack our lives. But the Evoque Cabriolet also does the job of being an automobile sufficiently well to make you think (just a bit), that you'd actually rather like one of these. So don't think "why" – think, "why not?" – Andrew English
Executive Express: 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
In our First Drive of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL, we opened the discussion of its overhauled face with the gentle phrase "a dramatic rework," then laid straight into bare-knuckle boxing with "we can't avoid the elephant in the garage: styling." For 2017 the fix is in, mainly a revised front end that repairs almost all the damage. With the prettifying comes additional performance, and continuing education in why the SL-Class model range represents four treads on the stairway to roadster heaven. The pivotal achievement is that the SL450 is an incredibly satisfying starting point.
Known as the SL400 presently, the SL450 carries over the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, but brings with it 32 more horsepower and 15 more pound-feet of torque, totaling 362 horses and 369 lb-ft. AMG-tuned SL63 and SL65 models carry over, and we'll have a full report on those darlings in the not-too-distant future.
The 2017 variant is all SL all the time during cosmopolitan jaunts. You can raise and lower the roof at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, but the operation must be initiated from a standstill. Perhaps most importantly for the SL buyer, the blue chip convertible still attracts lots of looks from lots of eyes wherever you take it. This time, however, especially among those in the know, it's for all the right reasons. - Jonathan Ramsey
European Style on a Budget: 2016 Buick Cascada First Drive
While base Cascadas will go for $33,990, most cars you see will be the Premium model that's $3,000 more expensive, but comes with features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings and rain-sensing wipers. Buick would like to point out that even at that loaded price it's barely touching where the Audi A3 1.8T Cabriolet starts, and even then the Audi is missing out on nearly $4,000 in features, 30 horsepower, and several cubic inches of space. But then the Audi also gives you a much nicer interior with more up-to-date electronics and fewer control eccentricities. The Cascada is cheaper than an A3, yes, but simply put, it isn't as nice.
Still, none of these ergonomic anachronisms on the Buick will matter at all once you slow down to start lowering the top. Seventeen seconds later, with just the right amount of wind in your hair, the Buick Cascada does what any convertible should do: allow you to forget for a moment about your problems, or the car's problems.
Badge prestige and tech quibbles aside, the Cascada performs its mission well and deserves better than to just be relegated to rental car duty on four-day Walt Disney World Resort trips. And if the opinion of the Floridians I encountered is anything to go by, Buick may have a winner on its hands. – Zac Estrada