By Carter Jung
Summer. As the mercury on thermometers starts to rise, roofs on convertibles inevitably start to fall. Don’t have a roadster in your garage? You’re in luck; dealer showroom floors have solid options aplenty. To help narrow down your search, here are five models to get you in the top-down direction. Note: sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, and suntans sold separately.
2016 Mazda Miata
- Starting: $24,915
- Engine: 2.0L I-4
- Power: 155 hp / 148 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
When Mazda introduced the Miata back in 1989, it harkened back to the glory years of the European open-top roadsters of the ‘70s: small, lightweight, and balanced. Ensuing generations of the MX-5 kept to this ethos; however the latest iteration is as pure an execution as any. Measuring in four-inches shorter than the outgoing model it replaced and weighing in at 220 pounds less, the new fourth-generation MX-5 bucks the industry trend of bigger and heavier. Impressively, Mazda was able to shed the girth while keeping the weight symmetrically balanced at 50:50 front-to-rear, ideal for handling.
The Miata’s new 2.0L engine produces slightly less power than its predecessor; however it makes up for it with more torque. The tradeoff makes further economic sense when you note the fuel efficiency numbers: the 2016 MX-5 is estimated at 27 city/34 highway mpg, an increase in six in both categories. Most importantly, the Miata was able to keep doing what it does best, being one of the most fun vehicles to drive, regardless of fuel efficiency, engine power or price.
2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible
- Starting: $26,900
- Engine: Turbo 2.0L I-4
- Power: 189 hp / 207 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 6.7 seconds
While the Mini isn’t quite as mini as they once were, the design language of the original British icon is still apparent in the 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible – albeit with a fully automated, electric soft top. One, mind you, that is operational at speeds of up to 18 mph and taking only 18 seconds to change configuration. In addition to open and close, Mini Cooper convertibles offer a third option that leaves the top in a half-open open state for the indecisive. Think sunroof.
There are three variants of the Mini Cooper convertible, Cooper, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works. The S variant comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder capable of 189 hp, making daily commutes or weekend jaunts much more entertaining than the base trim’s 134-hp three-cylinder. For maximum oomph, there’s a 228-hp John Cooper Works version to tempt your accelerator pedal foot.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible 1SS
- Starting: $44,295
- Engine: 6.2L V-8
- Power: 455 hp / 455 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
With V-8s slowly going the way of the dodo, the double banks of four-cylinders is the recommended pick of the three available engine options for the Camaro. Whether burbling at idle or howling near redline, few sounds are as visceral as that of a V-8 engine, especially with the top down. Swaths of immediate torque making for driving pleasure (in dry conditions) are another huge plus of going with the tried and true Detroit muscle route.
A neat trick Chevy offers with the Camaro Convertible is the ability to use the key fob to drop the soft top. Click the button and your Camaro remotely transforms into a roadster in 11 seconds. And when it’s done, a hard tonneau cover hides the folding mechanism, keeping the back half looking slick. Closing the roof takes an extra three seconds and either open or close operations can be done at speeds of up to 30 mph. Stuffed with a V-8, that’ll come quicker than you know it. For those less torque inclined, there’s a new turbo four-cylinder trim that still provides smiles, while saving on sticker costs and fuel economy.
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible
- Starting: $51,470
- Engine: Turbo 2.0L I-4
- Power: 240 hp / 250 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 8.6 seconds
A convertible SUV? Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. However, unlike some other automakers’ bizarre-looking attempts, Range Rover managed to lob off the metal top and replace it with an automated fabric one that looks svelte both up and down. A tip of the hat goes to the Evoque Convertible’s clever engineer and design teams aligning on objectives.
Granted, taking a car that wasn’t structurally designed to be lidless necessitated hundreds of pounds of chassis strengthening, pushing power-to-weight ratio into the red. That said however, the Evoque Convertible isn’t something you buy to race through the canyons. It’s a mobility style statement for urbanites that allows them to fold the top down at speeds of up to 29 mph, and in only 18 seconds, on balmy summer evenings.
2016 BMW M4 Convertible
- Starting: $74,200
- Engine: Turbo 3.0L I-6
- Power: 425 hp / 406 lb-ft torque
- 0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
For the more sophisticated enthusiast (read: an established professional with disposable income) not willing to compromise a coupe form for the security, durability, and privacy for the oh-so important Bluetooth phone calls, but also insists on a top-down roadster experience for spirited weekend excursions, the M4 convertible with its retractable hard top is a perfect fit.
While the M4 Convertible won’t run the same 7:52 lap time around the Nürburgring its coupe sibling does, it’s no slouch on the streets. The torquey turbocharged 6-cylinder provides a broad powerband, giving you acceleration at the touch of the throttle. From stoplight to 60 mph takes a scant 4.4 seconds in the drop-top Bimmer. That’s almost five times faster than it takes to retract the three-piece metal roof, which takes 20 seconds at speeds of up to 11 mph.