Editors' Picks: The Perfect Summer Car
Summer is, without a doubt, the best season for driving. The roads are clear, the sun is shining and almost every outdoor activity is at your disposal.
To take full advantage of everything the season has to offer, you really need to have the right car. That's why we asked the AOL Autos and Autoblog editors to name their perfect summer vehicle. The only criteria for their choice was that the car had to be available in North America right now.
It's a pretty eclectic list. While the majority of our crew opted for sporty convertibles, there are some utility vehicles for those hikers, surfers and campers who need to haul around a lot of stuff in order to get the most out of the summer season. Head on through to see what we picked.
Erin Marquis - Mazda MX-5 Miata
Sticker Price: $23,720 - $29,450
Invoice Price: $22,424 - $27,836
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway
This affordable little convertible is the best selling sports car in the world. And for good reason. For your average consumer who is priced out of a big chunk of the two-seat sports car segment, the zippy Miata is a dream come true.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata employs a small, yet potent, 167-horsepower engine, nearly perfect balance, a super low curb weight and some of the crispest handling you'll find on the market. Put together, the result is an incredibly fun-to-drive car that can still function as a daily runner. It’s equally at home speeding around the curves of empty back roads in rural Michigan or on a trip to a Malibu beach. With the top down, of course.
Research the Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda MX-5 Miata Overview
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Chris McGraw - Jeep Cherokee TrailhawkSticker Price: $29,495
Invoice Price: $28,506
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 25 mpg Highway
Summer means one thing to me: camping. And while driving down a coastal road with the top down in a two-seater sounds great, I can’t even fit a backpack in a Miata. So I will forgo the convertible top for something more practical for the outdoorsman.
With its off-road capabilities, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Edition can get me (almost) anywhere I want to go, and when the weather turns and sleeping in a tent is no longer an option, I can always just fold down the seats and spend the night in the car. Plus, the ride isn’t as harsh as its older, more off-road capable brother, the Wrangler, meaning the 20-hour drive to a remote area of Canada won’t be nearly as exhausting.
Research the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Overview
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Adam Morath - Ford Mustang ConvertibleNothing announces the arrival of summer quite like a Mustang convertible. This iconic, all-American pony car has been a staple of warm weather cruising since it was introduced half a century ago. Accessible enough to land in the driveways of youthful enthusiasts, yet with plenty of nostalgic appeal, Mustang truly transcends generations.
Ford has completely redesigned the 2015 'Stang, with a reworked suspension that promises a smoother ride and a bevy of new powertrain options. In addition to the traditional V8 and V6 offerings, Ford has included a more efficient, turbocharged four-cylinder that is sure to ruffle the feathers of some traditionalists. Specific to the convertible model, Ford has ditched a hydraulic roof system for quieter, faster electromechanical drive setup.
Open road (and open-air) awaits.
Steve Ewing - Porsche Boxster
Sticker Price: $50,400 - $62,100
Invoice Price: NA
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway
Now that we're finally – finally! – breaking free from The Stupidest Winter Ever here in Detroit, I'm thinking warm thoughts. Specifically, I'm thinking of how great it'll feel to throw the roof back on a droptop sports car and cruise down my favorite roads. And while the other cars on this list are indeed great cars worthy of my affection and attention, my top pick for summertime fun is the Porsche Boxster.
After all, what's not to love about the Box? Its mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and near-perfect weight distribution makes for an impeccably well-balanced machine. And no matter the spec – base or S – the Boxster's great steering, well-sorted chassis, and plentiful power make this car at home on highways, race tracks, and sun-dreched, tree-lined backroads. It looks the business, too – from all aspects, there's not really a single bad thing to say about Porsche's roadster.
The interior is top-notch, and there's plenty of room for you and a plus-one, and with luggage space under both the hood and trunk, it's actually quite functional – capacious enough to pack all the goodies you need for a weekend getaway at the beach.
So let's get to it, summer. You bring the sunshine, and I'll bring the Boxster.
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Porsche Boxster Overview
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Chris Paukert - Morgan Three-Wheeler
Summertime is all about stripped-down, elemental fun, from bikinis and bonfires to motorcycles and top-down convertibles. And what sweeter, more concentrated cocktail of bike and droptop virtues exists than the Morgan Three Wheeler?
On paper, this Morgan doesn't sound like there's much fun to be had, as it offers just 80 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque from its 2.0-liter, front-mounted S&S bike motor. But this British eccentric amplifies all driving sensations by sitting incredibly close to the ground - pavement with which it only has minimal contact thanks to its spindly trio of wheels. You won't care that its top speed is only 125 miles per hour, because you'll be having entirely too much fun shifting the Mazda Miata-sourced gearbox and living out your Snoopy as Red Baron fantasies.
Summer is best savored deliberately and fully, and this reborn classic from Blighty is a good way to do so properly.
Michael Zak - Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Sticker Price: $62,000
Invoice Price: $56,420
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway
I had the opportunity last summer to drive the then-new Corvette Stingray along some of the snaking, sizzling inland roads of central California. While driving this car was nothing short of a marvelous experience, I couldn't help but feel as though something was missing. Or, rather, something needed to be missing: The roof.
Appreciating the Corvette, in my humble opinion, is something that can only fully be done with the wind ripping through your hair, the sun browning your neck, your ears overflowing with the brutish roar of the engine. Being insulated from the outside world while behind the wheel of this machine just seems wrong, as it mutes so many of the sensory stimuli that make driving a performance car of this caliber such a joy.
The Corvette is, for all intents and purposes, a supercar without the big price tag, employing a 455-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 engine, nearly perfect balance, super tight handling and responsive braking. It's perfect for summer because it begs the driver to cram it full of as much gear as they can (cargo space isn't great) and take it exploring new roads for a fair-weather adventure.
Some advice: Opt for the Z51 trim, which adds a sportier suspension, wider wheels and tires, differential and transmission coolers, high performance brakes and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Those tweaks really take the car to the next level.
Research the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
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Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Local Dealer Price Quote