Look, I get it. And judging by the paltry sales numbers, so do you. Convertibles aren’t practical purchases.
They cost more money than the standard car. They are more expensive to maintain. There’s hassle involved in folding down manual drop-tops. There’s often a lack of cargo space. There’s the disheveled arrival at work, looking like you just stepped out of a Vincent Price movie.
But, focusing on such sensible information is a soulless way to go through life. Here’s what the one-percenters – yes, about one percent of car purchases today are convertibles – know that you don’t: Purchasing a convertible is akin to purchasing a vehicular lottery ticket.
Under the right conditions, driving the right car, rolling on the right road and blessed with the right weather, driving can indeed be a visceral, rewarding experience. All these factors rarely reach a confluence, but to borrow both the long odds and a line from the lottery, you need to be in it to win it. Buy a convertible, and you at least keep that hope alive: That someday you’ll find that drive of a lifetime.
Here are five convertibles we think you’ll enjoy, and five memorable drives to take them on. The rest is up to Mother Nature and you.
Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Sticker Price: $58,000 - $62,000
Invoice Price: $52,780 - $56,420
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway
If there’s a perfect convertible for a road trip in America, it’s the Chevy Corvette. There’s no other car that combines full-throttle performance, iconic design and a sense of history in a package of ostentatious automotive celebration.
Chevy redesigned the seventh-generation Corvette this year, and the latest model carries 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque under its hood.
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While we cannot recommend the following scenario because of our abiding respect for our nation’s law enforcement officers, we can say, hypothetically, if we were going to see the Corvette in all its glory, we need a long, open road to unfurl those 455 horses.
Take the Corvette west out of San Antonio along Route 10 and head towards Big Bend National Park. You’ll have several hours in the car to test its abilities, wide-open road, all the Mexican food and BBQ options you can dream up, one great city and one inspiring national park all wrapped into one journey. An ambitious trip, an ambitious car.
Sticker Price: $50,400 - $62,100
Invoice Price: N/A
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway
If you’re looking for some European refinement on your quest for a convertible, then look no further than the Porsche Boxster, a car that conjures reminders of the classic Porsche Spyder 550.
Prospective buyers have two excellent choices: The base car with a 2.7-liter flat-6 engine that achieves 265 horsepower and the Boxster S, which features a 3.4-liter flat-6 that produces 315 horsepower.
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Route 1, Maine
Here’s a spectacular road trip close to plenty of East Coast cities. Hop onto Route 1 in Brunswick, Maine and head to Points East. This terrific highway hugs the Atlantic Coast, offering drivers a view of rocky cliffs, whales, puffins and even some dolphins.
Along the way, visitors can visit Acadia National Park, the second-oldest lighthouse in America, the Portland Head Light and eat more lobster than they ever hoped to encounter.
Sticker Price: $22,395 - $31,195
Invoice Price: $21,838 - $29,398
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 21 mpg Highway
The Wrangler is the rare car in which we’d prefer to drive the basic version instead of the more expensive, creature comfort-laden trim levels. In the Jeep, we desire the six-speed manual instead of the automatic. We want the cheaper interior. It’s going to get dirty.
With 285 horsepower produced by its V-6 engine and Jeep’s legendary appetite for off-road travel, this is a great vehicle that isn’t conventionally thought of as a convertible. But it’s easy to remove the hard-top version, and even easier to take off the soft top.
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To Hell You Ride
Officially, the mountain town of Telluride, Colorado gets its name from the telluride minerals that were found in the many nearby mining camps. Unofficially, locals say the name is derived from the phrase, “To Hell You Ride.”
Let’s just say getting there can be an arduous task. Or for those with a Wrangler and some fortitude, half the fun.
Telluride sits in a box canyon. Any drive into town, either via Route 284 from the west or nearby Route 550, involves driving over mountain passes that can make for a harrowing ride in any season. Drivers will also pass through verdant meadows, around craggly peaks and through old mining towns like Rico, Silverton and Ophir. This is one place you want to check road conditions prior to leaving – and beware of avalanches during the winter.
Mini Cooper Convertible
Sticker Price: $25,150 - $35,300
Invoice Price: $23,140 - $32,475
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway
What you get with the Mini Cooper is one of the most recognizable cars on the road today. In addition to its distinctive styling, this convertible also has some serious chops.
This happens to be a really sporty car that provides pretty good fuel economy, two things that are typically diametrically opposed. The Mini also has good cornering ability and stronger-than-average braking, two things that you’ll need on the road we’re about to send you on.
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Angeles Crest Highway
Car culture may have emerged from Detroit, but it was perfected in Southern California, which brought us the Beach Boys and the drive-thru lane. Therefore, it’s a moral imperative that we include at least one road from the area.
And what a fantastic road. If you’d like to experience summer and snow, high hills and forests all in the same afternoon, this could be the perfect place. There are plenty of spots along the way for hiking and camping, and on the return trip toward Los Angeles, there are beautiful vistas of the city and Pacific beyond.
Sticker Price: $23,720 - $29,4500
Invoice Price: $22,424 - $27,836
Fuel economy: 22 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway
An untrained eye might wonder why so many middle-aged men are driving a car that looks destined for a Sweet Sixteen party. We’ll let you in on the secret: The MX-5 is one of the best cars in creation.
There’s a good reason it’s been on Motor Trend’s “Best Cars” list for the better part of two decades. In the spirit of a classic roadster, the light and agile Miata delivers what driving should be. The steering feels so attuned to the driver that it’s as if the car is an appendage of your body.
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Pacific Coast Highway
I dumb-lucked my way into driving a Miata down a healthy portion of the Pacific Coast Highway last summer between Monterey and Big Sur. It’s an understatement to say this drive belongs on your bucket list.
Jaw-dropping scenery. Thousand-foot cliffs. Pristine white sand. Pure Pacific vistas. The occasional blanket of fog. Curvy roads hugging the coast. Nowhere to go. No deadlines to meet. A MX-5 with the top down.
The elusive perfect drive.