We might not have the ideal climate for them, but in Britain we love our convertibles. And when those sunny days do finally arrive, there’s never a bad time to drop the top and enjoy some wind in your hair.
Our idea of soft-top perfection isn’t all about raw performance and speed, either. The following 10 cars are our picks of the best convertibles and cabriolets for open-air cruising.
Say what you will about Porsche’s decision to replace swap the Boxster’s evocative naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine out for a new turbocharged flat-four, you can’t deny just how brilliant the 718 is at fulfilling the open-top sporting two-seater brief.
Yes, it may not sound quite as spine-tinglingly good as it used to, but as a driver’s machine it’s tough to beat. Communicative steering, a supremely balanced chassis and plenty of grunt all combine to make this the stand out car in its class. Its mid-engined layout means there’s a usable amount of storage space at the nose, too, which is handy.
From a modest 1.8-litre 178bhp petrol, all the way up to the bahnstorming 395bhp RS model, Audi’s TT Roadster can be as powerful or as sensible as your budget will allow. It’s not as engaging or as sharp as the Porsche - its steering can feel remote at times, and some variants are front-wheel drive - but it’s still a capable steer and it looks the part, too.
You can even have it with a diesel engine if you want to combine open-top motoring with more reasonable fuel bills. A word of caution, though: by opting for the roadster over the coupe you’ll do away with the small - but still useful - rear seats, which is worth bearing in mind.
Next to the Porsche and the Audi, the E-Class Cabriolet is definitely more of a cruising machine than something to pilot down your favourite stretch of British B-road. And when it comes to cruising, the E-Class excels. Air suspension (standard on AMG-Line cars) provides a supple and comfortable ride, and the quality of materials in the cabin is truly excellent.
A selection of four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines provide amicable pace, but the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol found in the E400 is easily the most endearing, combining power with plenty silky-smooth refinement.
While we’re yet to drive the latest Mini Convertible in the UK, the previous model impressed us through its ability to provide a genuine open-top driving thrills without compromising ride and handling, or its on-road manners.
For the most part, it holds its own against its hard-top rangemate as far as dynamism is concerned, which is no mean feat in the convertible supermini class. That it exudes charm and feels decently sprightly in Cooper S guise are further feathers in the Mini’s cap. It is a touch pricey, mind, especially once you start delving into the options list.
While convertible version of BMW’s 4-Series does lose out on some of the coupe’s sleek visual appeal, it remains a commendable driving machine. As is common in this class, a range of petrol and diesel four-cylinder power plants represent the bulk of this model’s engine line-up, but it’s the 3.0-litre 322bhp six-cylinder you find in the 440i that’s the peachiest offering.
Not only does it provide the drop-top 4-Series with commendable pace and accessible torque, it sounds great too. That it also comes with proper rear seats is an added bonus, while many buyers will also be attracted to the increased sense of security that comes with a folding metal roof.
This handsome, refined convertible isn’t the sort of car that’s going to keep a Porsche 718 Boxster buyer up at night, fretting that he might have picked the wrong drop-top. Where that car champions engagement and dynamism, the A5 Cabriolet is a much more laid back option that places long-legged waftability over any outright driver focus. But that’s okay, as people buy different convertibles for different reasons.
It’s not quite as focused as a comparable BMW 4 Series in the handling department, but being an Audi it comes with plenty of tech and a top notch interior.
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 further adds to its appeal.
Power is provided by everything from a humble four-cylinder diesel in the likes of the C220d, all the way up to the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 you’ll find in the AMG-badged C 63 S. We’ve tested both, and while they are certainly entirely different beasts, both were looked on favourably. The diesel for it combination of comfort and class, the V8 for its raw power and character. A new model is right around the corner, too.
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’s worked wonders for the car’s kerbside appeal.
Here’s a compact drop-top that looks great, packs commendable performance and composed - if not particularly engaging - handling. A facelift in 2016 helped keep the A3 competitive, introducing new a headlight and taillight design, Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit and a new 2.0-litre TFSI engine to the range of existing petrol and diesel power plant.
Despite its compact, two-seat layout, the SLC isn’t quite the driver’s car its proportions might lead you to believe it is. Does that make it any less desirable as a two-seat cruiser, though? Not particularly.
Although it’s now becoming slightly long in the tooth, 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 to boot. Its handling is also far more convincing than its SLK-badged predecessor’s was.
The Beetle Cabriolet is arguably the most Marmite, love-it-or-hate-it convertible in this list. The rag-top Volkswagen’s funky looks will no doubt attract as many buyers as they discourage, but then again, subjective appeal is an intricate part of convertible ownership isn’t it?
The Beetle isn’t particularly stellar when it comes to the ride and handling departments, but chances are anyone who actually buys one likely won’t be too concerned with such things. This is a car that’s more focussed on being a charming fashion statement than a B-road barnstormer, and depending on the importance you put on such things, you’ll either want one or you won’t.