We might be able to get high-speed thrills from coupes, or enjoy an elevated driving position in a range of SUVs, but there are few driving experiences quite like having the wind blowing through your hair as you bomb it around some winding coastal roads in a convertible. The cost of insurance might be higher, since there’s a significantly higher chance of being decapitated should you find yourself in an accident, but the risk is worth it.
The vast majority of convertibles are going to be sports cars, or at least, going to be cars that can pick up some real speed, although they don’t just have to have two seats. There is a large number of four-seater convertibles, such as drop-top versions of popular sedan models, meaning the whole family, or you and a group of friends, can enjoy the summer sun without a roof.
You also have a choice between hard top and soft top convertible roofs, and with the quality of soft tops improving over the years, and now being more leak-proof that ever in the rain, can make a totally viable year-round cruiser.
We’ve compiled this list of what we consider to be the 10 best convertibles available in the country right now, from the luxury rollers all the way down to the wallet-friendly sports cars that offer serious driving thrills.
Mazda MX-5 (ND)
Fuel Economy: 6.2 – 6.9L/100km
Price: From $40,015 Drive Away
The Mazda MX-5 isn’t just one of the most iconic convertibles of all time (although it most certainly is) but it’s also one of the most iconic cars of all time, full stop. First launched way back in 1989, the MX-5 has always embodied the same ethos over the decades: to be a fun, lightweight sports-car, and one that is also affordable.
While it’s starting price may have increased over the years, Mazda does give you more for your money to justify the price hike, such as wireless Apple CarPlay, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, sat-nav and a six-speaker sound system. Available as either a manually-operate soft-top or a powered hard-top (dubbed ‘RF’) the MX-5 is most definitely a minimal sports car.
That’s evident when you take a seat inside, with barely a storage compartment in sight (there’s not even a glove box). Instead, you’ll find yourself sitting low-down behind a lovely leather-coated steering wheel and with easy access to the infotainment system. You’re not going to want to be distracted by in-cabin antics though, as you’re buying an MX-5 for the way it drives, chiefly, the way it handles. No matter which trim level you go for (there are 3), the MX-5 will hold on throughout corners, no matter how flat your right foot is to the floor.
Power comes from either a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder in the unnamed base model soft-top and hard-tops, producing 97kW, or a 2.0-litre unit in both the GT and GT RS. All are available with a manual gearbox, or an automatic can be chosen for the base model and GT. The GT RS is manual-only, and what a manual gear box it is. If you don’t have kids, or you’re able to get yourself a second car to use away from the family, the MX-5 should feature on the list of contenders. It’s one of the best convertibles around, is stupidly good fun and will allow you to just enjoy driving.
Porsche Boxster (718)
Fuel Economy: 7.5 – 11L/100km
Price: From $131,372
Sharing its chassis with the 718 Cayman, the Porsche Boxster is teed up to be a smile-inducing sports car with great handling and excellent powertrain options. Available in three trims: the vanilla Boxster; Boxster S and Boxster GTS 4.0, there’s good depth to choose from, although with the range-topping GTS costing just shy of $200,000, you’ve got to really want a two-seater sports car to part with that kind of money – although it’s 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six engine and manual gearbox do make it incredibly tempting. However, even the base model is incredibly fun to drive and responds well to any and all twists and turns of the steering wheel, enough to inspire confidence when attacking bends.
Inside is a little uninspiring considering the price you’re paying, with a generous use of plastic where you’d expect leather (you can add leather accents for a small fee). You also don’t get a huge amount of interior storage, although this is a commonality across two-seater convertibles, but you do get Apple CarPlay as standard. Porsche even gives you the option of a wi-fi hotspot for on-the-go streaming.
Overall, however, it’s a comfortable place to find yourself, and with the soft-top lowered, and your right foot depressed, there aren’t going to many driving positions that are going to be as enjoyable.
BMW Z4 (G29)
Fuel Economy: 6.5 – 7.5L/100km
Price: From $96,301 Drive Away
While the Munich-based company might not admit it, it seems BMW is going after the Porsche Boxster with the latest generation Z4. In similar fashion, you have the option of two models with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, or a range-topper with a 3.0-litre flat-six, and boy is it a beauty. It gives the Z4 some serious power to play with, which can result in a large smile appearing across your face, although don’t for a second think that the other two models in the range are underpowered, in fact, far from it. The mid-range 30i gets a tweaked version of the twin-turbo 4-cylinder, giving it 45 extra kW of power, which could be the sweet spot for many prospective buyers.
Inside, the Z4 almost runs away with the crown for best convertible interior. Because it’s the same width as a 5-series, BMW has a lot of room to play with, and while most of that space is given to wide seats with plenty of arm room, you do get a few storage compartments, including a glove box, along with a wireless charger for your phone. You also get two 10.25-inch displays, one for infotainment and one for the digital instrument cluster. It’s thoughtfully laid out and easily one of the best cabins in the class, although some may feel a little cornered into their seat due to the large steering wheel that has been borrowed from the X5.
Overall it’s a comfortable place to find yourself for longer distances, and it doesn’t suffer from the same gripes that can be said of other sports cars. The ride ins’t super firm, although it’s by no means soft and supple, but it feels as though BMW has played to its strengths in the corporate space. The Z4 is a car for driving leisurely to business meetings as opposed to a hooligans best friend, although, drop your right foot and you’ll find you can still have some fun.
Fuel Economy: 4.9L/100KM
Price: From $26,872 Drive Away
Ok ok, we’re aware of the dramatic shift from German powerhouses to small Italian ‘hairdresser’s cars’, but the Fiat 500C is rather niche in what it offers. Coupled with the low price, that makes it one of the best convertibles for those on a budget.
In some other countries such as the UK, Fiat has made the jump to electric power for its iconic 500, along with the 500c cabriolet. Australia, however, retains a 1.2-litre 51kW petrol powered engine instead. Whether or not you agree with that will come down to personal preference, and we’re still waiting to hear if FCA Australia will import the car to our shores. So, petrol power for now it is, and just one trim level to choose from: Dolcevita. This gives you alloy wheels, automatic headlights and a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia display which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, among other features.
Of course, the Fiat 500c was never designed to win the power stakes, and it still doesn’t, but for a diminutive city car it’s perfectly capable. And, while the drop-top doesn’t quite ‘drop’ in the same way as other convertibles – the roof bars and side pillars remain – it adds some extra airflow to the cabin that can completely change the driving experience. Although, in terms of ride, not a lot changes because not a lot of roof is removed, so the 500c remains feeling stable. It’s an agile thing, responding well to steering inputs, which means it certainly deserves a place on this list, especially when you consider how affordable the thing is too.
Rolls Royce Dawn
Fuel Economy: 14.4L/100km
Price: From $710,000 Drive Away
Rolls-Royce vehicles are unlike pretty much anything else on the road, save from perhaps Bentley or the Mercedes Maybach, as they’re cars that, let’s face it, are designed to be driven by your personal chauffeur.
So often the pinnacle of luxury vehicle design, Rolls-Royce’s are fitted with incredible engines and are made to the absolute finest detail, and fortunately, they also drive rather well. The Dawn is the only convertible in the manufactures current line up, and is based on the company’s Ghost coupé, itself based on the Phantom.
Under the incredibly long hood you’ll find a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 producing 419kW, the very same as the engine found in the Ghost. Acceleration isn’t necessarily ‘fling you back into your seat’ quick – partly due to the sheer size and weight of the Dawn – but you really do feel the power you have control of. It’s something you can only understand by experiencing it, rather than being told about it, but it’s also worth noting just how quiet everything is inside the cabin. It’s rather remarkable.
A full four-seater convertible, Rolls-Royce has been able to employ some design tricks to ensure you’re left virtually undisturbed by wind when then roof is down. That’s because the company understands how rich you’re likely to be to even consider owning one of their cars, so if you do find yourself taking ownership, you’re going to expect the very best, and that’s exactly what you receive.
Fuel Economy: 9.6 – 12.7L/100km
Price: From $60,990 Drive Away
The Ford Mustang also made our list of best coupes to buy in Australia, so it may come as no surprise to find the convertible version being one of the better drop-tops out there to buy as well. There are two variants to choose from, the High Performance with a 2.3-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, or the one we reckon most people want to go for, the 5.0-litre V8. After all, if you’re going to have the roof down a fair bit, then you’re going to want to be met with the dulcet tones produced by those eight cylinders.
It’s a car you’re going to want to have fun in, and for the most part, it allows you to do that. With plenty of power underneath your right foot (in the V8 at least), you’ll be getting up to some serious speeds in not a lot of time, at least when you’re going in a straight line. Present it with some corners, and there is some body roll – expected in convertibles, of course – and while a manual gearbox wouldn’t go amiss – the 10-speed auto can be a bit troublesome – the driving experience overall is a pleasant one.
Inside you get a mixture of retro-style design touches, owing to the Mustang’s history, with plenty of mod-cons such as digital displays, Apple CarPlay and a selection of driver assistance and safety aids. If you like your convertibles loud and brash and don’t necessarily care about having the absolute best handling vehicle out there, you can’t really go wrong with the Mustang.
McLaren 570S Spider
Fuel Economy: 11.1L/100km
Price: From $435,750 Drive Away
Finding a great drop-top supercar isn’t exactly the hardest job in the world. With so many options to choose from, from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, not to mention the number of high-powered Mercedes-Benz convertibles available, the choice is almost endless. So, you may wonder why we’ve picked out a McLaren as being virtually our sole convertible supercar on this list.
Well, it’s partly because it’s bloody fantastic. Based on the coupé version, unsurprisingly, the convertible doesn’t suffer from any instability issues faced by other cars that have their hard-top lopped off in favour of some fabric, thanks to a MonoCell tub construction. This means you’re able to get to 100km/h in 3.2-seconds. Quick, then.
Don’t let the speed strike fear into you however, as McLaren has done a stellar job at making the 570S Spider incredibly easy to drive, with precise steering, a smooth as butter gearbox, and a variety of driving modes, including Comfort and Sport, that really do what they say they’re meant to.
As for the interior, there isn’t a great deal to say other than it’s rather minimal, with a vertically-mounted touchscreen display being the main point of focus. You get a lot of carbon and Alcantara littered about the cabin, and it can pay to select some of the interior package options.
Hey, if you’ve got the money to afford one of these things in the first place, we’re pretty sure you’re going to be able to do a little extra shopping while you’re at it.