There's nothing like driving in the summer sun with the roof down, but which 10 convertible cruisers make our top picks?
1 August 2019

It’s often said that British weather makes ours an odd market to be so consistently strong for the sales of convertibles and cabriolets, but perhaps it’s the changeable nature of that climate – and our readiness to grab an hour or two in the sunshine when we can – that makes us so receptive to them.

Whatever the reason, we do seem to love to get the roof down and let the outside world in with our cars whenever we can. And although it has been a tough few years for convertible sales globally, the market for them is still pretty rich and interesting.

Our idea of soft-top perfection in this list isn’t all about sporting handling, outright performance and speed – although one or two of these cars do find a berth in other top 10s that are more specific to those qualities. The following 10 cars are our pick of the best convertibles and cabriolets for open-air cruising.

1. Porsche 718 Boxster

Say what you will about Porsche’s decision to replace the old evocative naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine with a turbocharged flat four throughout the majority of the Boxster line-up, but you can’t deny just how brilliant the 718 is at fulfilling the open-top sporting two-seater brief.

It may not sound quite as sweet as it used to, but as a driver’s car, it’s unequalled in this class. Communicative steering, a supremely balanced chassis and strong, flexible performance combine to make this the default choice for anyone looking to really enjoy every sunny drive. The car’s mid-engined layout means it’s a surprisingly practical two-seater, too: there’s really usable storage space available in both the front and rear of the car. 

For super-relaxing open-top cruising, there are better options, but none will make you quite as grateful for every balmy moment and open stretch of road as the 718 Boxster. It’s an outstanding sports car that’s also a great and really usable convertible.

Our Verdict

Porsche 718 Boxster

Engine downsized, turbo added and chassis tuned. Has Porsche made all the right moves, or is the 718 Boxter a worthy soft-top successor?

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There’s now a new Spyder version, too, which, for the first time since the nameplate emerged, has been engineered by Porsche’s GT division at Weissach. It’s practically identical to the new Cayman GT4 underneath and returns with a 414bhp flat six engine and a manual gearbox. Rest assured, the Boxster is now back on top of the pile, and by a considerable margin.

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2. BMW Z4

BMW's sixth-generation convertible Z car, the new Z4, combines usability, convenience, strong performance, good cruising manners and an engaging drive.

The Z4 range comprises the 194bhp sDrive20i and the 255bhp sDrive30i, which are both powered by 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motors, and the 335bhp turbocharged six-cylinder M40i. We’ve tried a version of the car at either end of the derivative spectrum and have been impressed by the dynamic roundedness, polish and refinement of both.

The M40i is particularly compelling. It might lack the finesse and supreme poise of the Porsche 718 Boxster, but its hairy-chested sense of character and impressive engine make it a more attractive option than some of the lower-order 718s - S, GTS and Spyder models aside.

That said, the Z4’s impression of a small, lightweight open-top sports car like the Lotus Elise is still a bit unconvincing. Its handling is precise and fairly compelling, but it trades a little bit of agility for ride comfort and big-car cruising feel.

But as a two-seat convertible to use all year round and still really enjoy driving in keener moments, there’s a lot to like about the Z4’s engines, rear-driven chassis and distinctive character.

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3. Audi TT Roadster

From a modest 194bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine all the way up to a barnstorming 395bhp 2.5-litre unit and offering both front- and four-wheel drive, the Audi TT Roadster can be as powerful or as sensible as your budget will allow. It’s not quite as engaging or agile-handling as the 718 Boxster, because its steering can feel remote at times and its handling balance is a little straight-laced, but it’s still a capable, spirited steer – and it looks the part, too.

The TT’s wider engine range isn’t what it used to be. You could once have it with a diesel engine or a more economical 1.8-litre petrol if you wanted to combine open-top motoring with more reasonable fuel bills, but neither is a feature of the model range any longer.

A word of caution, though: by opting for the roadster over the coupé, you’ll do away with the TT’s small but still useful occasional rear seats. You wouldn’t think you’d miss them, but you might be surprised.

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4. Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet

Next to the Porsche and the Audi, the four-seat Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet is definitely more of a practical cruising machine than something to thread down your favourite stretch of British B-road. But when it comes to cruising, it excels. Air suspension (standard on AMG Line cars) provides a supple and comfortable ride and the quality of materials inside is truly excellent.

A selection of four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines provides amicable pace, but the choice of larger units on offer has now expanded to include a six-pot in the E450, a torquey six-cylinder diesel in the E400d and a performance-oriented E53 4Matic+ mild hybrid with a dusting of AMG driver appeal. Few open-top options offer as much variety of choice.

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5. Mini Convertible

Although we’re yet to drive the facelifted Mini Convertible in the UK, the original model impressed us through its ability to provide genuine open-top driving thrills without compromising ride, handling or on-road manners.

For the most part, it holds its own against its hard-top range-mate as far as dynamism is concerned, which is no mean feat in the convertible supermini class. That it exudes charm and is decently sprightly in Cooper S guise are further feathers to Mini's cap. The Mini Convertible is a touch pricey, mind, especially once you start delving into the options list.

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6. BMW 4 Series Convertible

Although the convertible version of the BMW 4 Series loses out on some of the coupé’s sleek visual appeal, it remains an impressive driving machine. As is common in this class, a range of petrol and diesel four-cylinder powerplants represents the bulk of this model’s engine line-up, but there are in-line six-cylinder offerings, too. The 332bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre six-pot in the 440i is the peachiest offering for keener drivers, although if you’re still willing to contemplate such a thing, the diesel-powered 435d xDrive has no shortage of performance or driver appeal.

Both headline engines provide the drop-top 4 Series with real pace and accessible torque, and the 440i sounds great, too. That the car also comes with proper rear seats will make a difference to its daily usability, while many buyers will also be attracted to the increased sense of security that comes with a folding metal roof.

However, with a new 3 Series having been launched in 2019, this generation of 4 Series won’t be around for much longer. A new model has already been spotted testing at the Nürburgring and is expected to arrive later this year. We’ll let you know what we think of it as soon as we driven it.

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7. Audi A5 Cabriolet

This handsome and refined convertible isn’t the sort of car with handling that’s going to keep a Porsche 718 Boxster buyer up at night, but it counters with scores of its own that should make it worth considering for plenty of drop-top regulars.

Where the 718 Boxster champions handling engagement and dynamism, the Audi A5 Cabriolet is a much more laid-back option that places long-legged refinement and ease of use over any outright driver focus. But that’s okay, because people buy different convertibles for different reasons.

It’s not quite as rewarding to drive as the BMW 4 Series Convertible in the handling department but, being an Audi, it comes with plenty of first-class on-board technology, restrained design appeal, a top-notch interior and the option of four-wheel drive and a powerful turbocharged petrol V6.

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8. Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet

Following the demise of the CLK, this is the first Mercedes cabriolet to wear a C-Class badge on its tail. Quite a handsome-looking thing, isn’t it? That it’s also one of the most luxuriously appointed and materially rich convertibles in its immediate class only adds to its appeal.

Power is provided by everything from a humble four-cylinder diesel in the C220d all the way up to the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. We’ve tested both, and while they certainly are entirely different beasts, both were looked on favourably; the diesel for its rare combination of comfort, efficiency and class, the V8 for its raw power and unexpectedly hardcore, bristling performance temperament.

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9. Audi A3 Cabriolet

The A3 Cabriolet has come a long way since it was introduced back in 2008. Where that original model was based on the contemporary A3’s hatchback shape, today it’s the saloon variant that has had its roof chopped off and it’s a change that has worked wonders for the car's kerbside appeal.

Here’s a compact drop-top that looks great and packs commendable performance and composed - if not particularly engaging - handling. A facelift in 2016 helped keep it competitive at the time by introducing a new headlight and tail-light design and Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, but it has become a bit long in the tooth in 2019. The engine line-up has been slashed, too, so that there’s now only one option: a 187bhp 2.0-litre four-pot that drives all four wheels.

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10. Mercedes SLC

Despite its compact two-seat layout, the SLC isn’t quite the driver’s car its proportions might lead you to take it for. Its popular forebear, the SLK, had the same two-seat boulevardier character. Does that make it any less desirable as a two-seat cruiser, though? Not at all.

Although it’s getting on now, the SLC still looks great, and the AMG-fettled SLC 43 version offers respectable, if not particularly astounding, performance and an appealing, waspish V6 soundtrack. The AMG’s handling has also come a long way since early go-faster examples of the SLK set such an ordinary dynamic standard.

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Join the debate

Comments
22

23 June 2018

Shouldnt this be titled, the best German convertibles?

What was wrong with the F Type, the MX5, The Mustang, yet we get the Beetle and the A3!

29 March 2019

where is the beetle did you mean the mini?

i agree with what you say, why is the mustng not there, none of these cars have a nice V8 rumble like the mustang or the F-type.

#IDONTPROOFREAD

29 March 2019
5cylinderT wrote:

where is the beetle did you mean the mini?

i agree with what you say, why is the mustng not there, none of these cars have a nice V8 rumble like the mustang or the F-type.

Its an old article, just with a couple of changes for 2019. My previous comment was from last June, but it seems Autocar didnt want to add anything that wasnt German all the same

29 March 2019
artill wrote:

5cylinderT wrote:

where is the beetle did you mean the mini?

i agree with what you say, why is the mustng not there, none of these cars have a nice V8 rumble like the mustang or the F-type.

Its an old article, just with a couple of changes for 2019. My previous comment was from last June, but it seems Autocar didnt want to add anything that wasnt German all the same

oh, ok how random

maybe the person who did this was biased towards the german cars.

#IDONTPROOFREAD

29 March 2019

lacks research

5 April 2019

Super, I had audi tt roadster, but previous model. But the next one it's really perfect! thanks for the review 192.168.0.1

17 April 2019

What was wrong with the F Type, the MX5, The Mustang, yet we get the Beetle and the A3! routeripaddress

Thank you.

17 April 2019

What was wrong with the F Type, the MX5, The Mustang, yet we get the Beetle and the A3! routeripaddress

Thank you.

17 April 2019

What was wrong with the F Type, the MX5, The Mustang, yet we get the Beetle and the A3! routeripaddress

Thank you.

3 June 2019

I like the mercedes SLC which is the most beautiful of all thx

https://10-0-0-0-1-ip.com/

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