Very few cars say “summer” quite like a convertible. Whether it’s the warm rays bathing the cabin in golden light, the wind dramatically re-shaping your hairstyle or the glorious and unfettered symphony provided by the exhaust pipes, convertibles offer a freedom to reconnect with the open road that no other type of automobile can match. Combine that feeling with the slower pace of summer life and the endless possibilities offered by a clear view of the horizon ahead, and it’s easy to understand why convertibles are regularly mythologized in popular culture.
Let’s take a look at 10 convertibles that are worth a test drive from anyone yearning to travel under both the sun and the stars.
01. 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder offers an affordable drop-top experience that also happens to be wrapped in one of the most stylish packages available under $30,000. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder provides the choice of either laid-back cruising or reasonably engaging tarmac shenanigans, depending on how it is configured. All versions of the automobile benefit from a power top.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder starts out with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 162 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque matched with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The Eclipse Spyder GT trim brings with it bigger brakes, a stiffer suspension system and a 3.6-liter V-6 that offers up 265 horses, 262 lb-ft of torque and significantly improving acceleration. The only transmission available with the Eclipse Spyder GT is a five-speed automatic.
02. 2011 Nissan 370Z Roadster
The 2011 Nissan 370Z Roadster maintains the excitement of the standard 370Z coupe but lops off the roof and adds the visceral thrill of top-down sports car driving to the mix. The Nissan 370Z Roadster provides snug yet comfortable seating for two occupants, and the vehicle’s cabin can be upgraded to include items such heated and ventilated leather seats, a navigation system, an iPod interface and a hard drive for storing digital music files.
The 2011 Nissan 370Z Roadster benefits from a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that has been tuned to provide 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Perfectly matched to the 370Z Roadster’s willing chassis, the motor can be shifted through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, each of which is available with Nissan’s SynchroRev Match feature that blips the throttle before every downshift for effortless gear changes. The seven-speed unit also comes with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles to help maximize driver involvement.
03. 2011 Lexus IS 350 C
The 2011 Lexus IS 350 C is the top tier edition of what is now the Japanese luxury brand’s only convertible model. Based on the popular compact IS sedan platform, the Lexus IS 350 C combines a retractable hardtop with the luxury and refinement that is expected by longtime Lexus buyers. Standout features that can be found with the IS 350 C include a Mark Levinson surround sound system, HID headlights, heated and ventilated leather seats up front and a voice-controlled navigation system.
The 2011 Lexus IS 350 C makes use of a 306 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that also generates 277 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox with the convertible, and all versions of the IS 350 C are rear-wheel drive and come with a manual shift control feature.
04. 2012 Fiat 500 C
The 2012 FIAT 500 C is not exactly a traditional convertible model, but smiles and sunshine are still accessible through its unique sliding cloth top that is mounted between the vehicle’s roof rails. This very European approach to open motoring accentuates the unique character of the Fiat 500 C, and its unusual design can be complemented by selecting available equipment such as a 15-inch wheels, nicer cloth seats or leather upholstery and automatic climate control.
The 2012 Fiat 500 C is a thrifty performer at the fuel pump thanks to its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that returns 30-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg on the highway. Power for the lightweight convertible is a very respectable 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque, giving the car plenty of get-up-and-go when driving circumstances warrant, and transmission choices include a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.
05. 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata remains one of the purest roadsters on the modern market, thanks to its winning formula of two seats, low mass and a peppy four-cylinder engine. Although the Mazda MX-5 Miata has always appealed to the “less is more” crowd, in recent years the vehicle has gained such amenities as an optional power retractable hard top to help give the compact car a four-seasons dimension that it was previously lacking.
The 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is capable of generating 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque when paired with the available five or six-speed manual transmissions (158 horsepower if the optional six-speed automatic is selected). Although not overwhelming, this output works well with the Miata’s carefully engineered chassis and suspension system and helps to vehicle realize its ultra-nimble handling potential.
06. 2012 BMW 6 Series Convertible
The all-new 2012 BMW 6 Series Convertible is a strong choice in the high end drop top segment, especially for drivers who love to surround themselves with cutting edge technology. The redesigned BMW 6 Series Convertible is larger than before, which translates into more interior room, and the automobile includes advanced features such as an active suspension system, a head-up display and dynamic throttle and steering response.
The plush 2012 BMW 6 Series Convertible provides surprisingly responsive driving characteristics given its heft, and acceleration is also above par thanks to its 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged eight-cylinder engine. With 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque on tap, the 6 Series is a veritable land rocket, regardless of whether the vehicle’s six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission are ordered. A six-cylinder engine is slated to follow the V-8 into the U.S. market in the near future.
07. 2011 Saab 9-3 Convertible
The 2011 Saab 9-3 Convertible is positioned to give buyers a taste of European luxury without breaking the bank. The Saab 9-3 Convertible is a premium open-air cruiser that can be ordered with heated leather seats, HID headlights and dual automatic climate control. The Saab also comes with respectable handling for a front-wheel drive car, and its Scandinavian styling helps it to stand out from the rest of the crowd at its price point.
The 2011 Saab 9-3 Convertible can only be had with a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine nestled between the front two fenders. Displacing 2.0-liters, this unit pushes out 210 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of twist when running under full boost, and drivers can choose to either row their own gears through a six-speed manual transmission or allow a five-speed automatic unit to handle the shifting duties for them.
08. 2011 Volvo C70
The 2011 Volvo C70 is marketed as both a coupe and a convertible thanks to its retractable hard top, which has been designed to give the mid-size four-seater an attractive profile regardless of the weather. The Volvo C70 can be decked out as both a comfortable daily conveyance and a long distance mile-eater, thanks to the availability of a navigation system, adaptive HID headlights, heated leather seats and of course Volvo’s long list of industry-leading safety equipment.
The 2011 Volvo C70 sports a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine as its only engine choice. This mill can be relied on to produce 227 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and a five-speed automatic transmission sends that output to the vehicle’s front wheels. Drivers can select their own gear ratios through the auto tranny’s manual shifting control feature.
09. 2011 Infiniti G Convertible
The 2011 Infiniti G Convertible gives the brand a halo vehicle to position at the top of its entry-level luxury lineup. The Infiniti G Convertible maintains the tight chassis that the G Coupe and G Sedan are known for, and it also provides a retractable hard top and plenty of comfort features to keep even the most demanding convertible driver satisfied. Those seeking an additional dash of sportiness can select G Convertible’s Sport trim, which includes more aggressive exterior styling, bigger brakes and quicker steering.
The 2011 Infiniti G Convertible’s 3.7-liter V-6 engine produces 325 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to snap heads back from a launch. A seven-speed automatic transmission that offers steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and automatic rev-matching is included free of charge, while the Sport package brings with it a six-speed manual gearbox.
10. 2011 BMW 1 Series Convertible
The 2011 BMW 1 Series Convertible is a compelling option for those seeking to balance sporty handling with a comfortable ride. The BMW 1 Series Convertible provides cozy accommodations for two – four in a pinch – and its small size and eager suspension setup practically beg drivers to put it through its paces as soon as a stretch of empty road opens up ahead.
In the engine bay, the diminutive 2011 BMW 1 Series Convertible comes up big in terms of power and choice. Entry-level buyers will be more than happy with the 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque provided by the vehicle’s 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder motor, while performance fans can opt for a turbocharged six-cylinder of the same size that ups production to 300 horses and 300 lb-ft of torque. Either engine is available with a six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed auto (128i) and seven-speed auto (135i) are also on offer.