It's not that hard to compile a list of the best hardtop convertibles on the market, for the simple fact that there really aren't that many of them out there. Hardtop convertibles are a special breed that demands sacrifice (trunk space, added mechanical complexity, lengthier open and close times) in order to deliver excellent all-weather performance (thanks to a well-insulated steel roof) and a coupe-like profile. The added costs of designing and building good hardtop convertibles has for the most part relegated them to the realm of the luxury and near-luxury segment - with a few notable exceptions. Let's take a quick look at the 10 best hardtop convertibles currently available in the United States.
2016 Volkswagen Eos
The 2016 Volkswagen Eos that leads off this list of hardtop convertibles occupies that rarified air between affordable daily driver and almost premium vehicle that VW automobiles have edged closer and closer to with each passing year. Based on a platform similar to that of the Passat sedan, the Volkswagen Eos offers reasonable interior room and a buttoned-down ride. It also comes with a sunroof integrated into its retractable hardtop, which is an unusual feature in its class. The Volkswagen Eos is motivated exclusively by a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and is shifted by a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
Photo Credit: Lexus
2015 Lexus IS C
Though the 2015 Lexus IS C has been discontinued, it’s still available on dealer lots for now. The 2015 Lexus IS C is the drop-top version of the Lexus IS sedan. and even though this convertible is starting to show its age, it still has a lot to offer, and is available in four trim levels. The IS 250 C generates 204 horsepower from a 2.5-liter V6, while the IS 350 C steps up to a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6. Both the 250 C and 350 C also offer an F SPORT trim level with track-ready upgrades. All four versions of the 2015 Lexus IS C come with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
Though the latest generation of the Miata made its debut last year with only a manual-folding soft top, Mazda’s got the situation under control. The forthcoming 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF (code for “retractable fastback”) offers a hard power roof that can be operated while the car is moving at speeds of up to 6 mph. The lines of the regular Miata are well-suited to the modified design, and Mazda says the hardtop doesn’t even sacrifice trunk space. It comes powered by the same drivetrain, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 155 horsepower. Look for the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF in late 2016 or early 2017.
2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is another small, 2-seat automobile that is consistently ranked as one of the top hardtop convertibles. Unlike the Miata, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is more focused on luxury and power than pure open air motoring, and as such, it can be loaded up with a substantial number of comfort goodies and high tech options. The 2016 SLK-Class features the availability of a special glass panel in its roof that can be dimmed in order to block out the sun, and a feature called AirScarf that gently blows warm air on your neck in chilly weather. It can also be ordered with the Dynamic Handling package in order to improve its performance in the corners. The SLK-Class starts out with a 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (that can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic), while a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and a 415-horsepower V8 SLK55 AMG model are also available.
2016 BMW 4 Series
The 2016 BMW 4 Series is one of the best hardtop convertibles for those who want to balance luxury and performance under the same retractable roof. The BMW 4 Series convertible does a credible job of maintaining the sleek profile of the 4 Series coupe, and while trunk space is limited, the vehicle offers a folding rear seat that helps when carrying larger items. Like all versions of the BMW 4 Series, the convertible's steering and suspension response are excellent, and power is also respectable even in base 428i trim where the automobile benefits from the installation of a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine for 240 horsepower. The BMW 435i convertible comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder that delivers a healthy 300 horses. Either model can be had with the choice of a 5-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission.
2015 Infiniti Q60
While Infiniti works on updating the Q60 convertible for next year, the 2015 version is still available. The stylish Infiniti Q60 convertible enjoys gorgeous looks with the top up or down, and while it weighs significantly more than its coupe sibling, the vehicle's 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 does a commendable job of dealing with the automobile's extra heft. The Q60 convertible's 3-piece roof was specifically design to be slim enough to store in the trunk without forcing engineers to widen the automobile's haunches, and the drop-top's advanced 7-speed automatic transmission includes paddle shifters so drivers can take over the shifting duties should the mood strike. There’s also a 6-speed manual option.
2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class can be considered the bigger brother to the SLK-Class. One of the top hardtop convertibles when it comes to features and exclusivity, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class continues a long tradition of top-down motoring for the nameplate. The SL-Class is notable for the inclusion of innovations like the AirScarf, which keeps passengers warm on chilly fall and spring days, as well as a glass panel (similar to that found in the SLK-Class) that keeps the cabin bright even with the roof closed. The recently-added entry-level SL 400 trim level opens up the opportunity to grab an SL-Class vehicle at the lowest price in recent memory, offering a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 329 horsepower. Of course, the V8 SL 550 is still available, as are the AMG SL63 and the AMG SL65.
2016 Ferrari California T
The 2016 Ferrari California T injects some exotic flavor into our list of hardtop convertibles. The Ferrari California is not a hardcore sports car like many of the brand's offerings but rather a grand touring car that is intended to be enjoyed year-round. The California is the first 8-cylinder model from Maranello to feature a front-mounted engine, coupe-like quiet with the roof up, and a dual-clutch automated manual transmission. It’s been powered by a 3.9-liter V8 engine that’s been turbocharged (hence the “T” slapped on the model name), which results in improved fuel economy and carbon emissions, and a healthy 552 horsepower.
Photo Credit: BMW
2016 BMW Z4
The BMW Z4 is coasting on a 7-year-old design, although the 2016 Z4 now comes standard with sport seats. The Z4 hardtop convertible provides great engineering and an excellent driving experience. The cabin is outfitted in high-end wood trim and leather upholstery, there are plenty of luxury accessories and features, and there’s one of three engines under the hood. The base Z4 gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 240 horsepower. There’s also a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that puts out 300 horsepower, and a tuned version of that same engine that produces 335 ponies. Both 6-cylinder engines get a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; the 4-cylinder gets either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic.
2016 Jeep Wrangler
There's no debating the fact that the Jeep Wrangler’s open air capabilities are part of what has made it such a popular SUV for so many years. Both the 2016 2-door Jeep Wrangler and the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited can be ordered with a removable hardtop in addition to the vehicle's standard soft top, which is a boon to those who plan to use the vehicle's 4-wheel drive system during the winter months. The off-road champion is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 and this unit can be counted on to produce 285 horsepower. The 2016 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but buyers can opt for a 5-speed automatic transmission.