The crisp fall weather might not necessarily make you think of top-down motoring, but what better way to enjoy a drive through the countryside than in a convertible that allows you to gaze up at the splendor of the yellow, orange and red leaves that signal the changing of the seasons. When properly equipped, a convertible can be just as comfortable outside of the summer's heat, and few vehicles offer the same kind of unfettered sightlines to some of nature's most beautiful foliage.
Let's take a look at eight convertibles that are great for leaf watching. As an added bonus, each of these automobiles is also available with either a retractable hard top or in a fixed roof model, which means that if you aren't all that interested in open air motoring you can still enjoy the rest of what they have to offer.
08. 2011 Volkswagen Eos
The 2011 Volkswagen Eos is an upscale alternative to shelling out the extra cash required to get behind the wheel of a pure luxury convertible. The Volkswagen Eos offers both a sunroof and a retractable hardtop in order to allow for two leaf-gazing options - an unusual combination for a convertible. It also comes with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that offers up 200 horsepower, a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and a long list of standard features.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: Heated leather seats, dual automatic climate control, navigation system (to keep from getting lost in the scenic hills).
07. 2011 Ford Mustang Convertible
The 2011 Ford Mustang convertible isn’t just a toy for muscle car fans - it offers legitimate four-passenger comfort that makes it a great option for heading out to check out the splendor of the changing seasons. The Ford Mustang convertible is also a very affordable choice if you stick to the entry-level V-6 drivetrain, a setup which squeezes 305 horsepower out of 3.7-liters of displacement while offering competitive fuel mileage of 31-mpg on the highway. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission can be had with the Ford Mustang convertible.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: SYNC voice command system (so you can keep your eyes on the leaves-err-the road), Shaker 1000 stereo for extra top-down volume.
06. 2011 Saab 9-3 Convertible
The 2011 Saab 9-3 convertible is a perfect entry-level example of European handling and style that provides a healthy dose of standard gear, including a power top, keyless entry and leather seats. The Saab 9-3 also features solid handling for its price, which is important on the twisty rural roads where Fall leaves tend to cluster together. Power for the 9-3 convertible is derived from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo that churns out 210 horsepower, managed by either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: Dual automatic climate control, heated seats, HID cornering headlights to help you avoid deer on the way home at the end of the day.
05. 2011 Volvo C70 Convertible
The 2011 Volvo C70 is another slick coupe / convertible option that comes with a standard retractable hardtop. The Volvo C70 offers a very comfortable ride which will be welcomed by all occupants as its suspension system sorts out the rough pavement that is sometimes a feature of traveling through leaf country. The C70 is sold with a turbocharged, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that generates 227 horsepower, and its standard five-speed automatic transmission will have you cruising underneath the rural canopy without having to worry about selecting the proper gear ratio.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: A portable navigation system in case you decide to step out of the car and head down a forest trail for a closer look, wind blocker to keep things calm in the cabin at speed.
04. 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible
The 2011 Chrysler 200 convertible's retractable hardtop is one of its nicest features, and a rarity on the domestic drop top scene. Redesigned for the current model year, the Chrysler 200 provides loads of passenger room front and rear, which makes it possible to take longer leaf-watching trips without having to deal with complaints about cramped legs. Although a four-cylinder engine is available with the 200 convertible, the optional 283 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 adds considerably more oomph while offering almost identical fuel mileage, making it a worthwhile investment. Four and six-speed automatic transmissions are available with the Chrysler 200.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: Hard drive for storing digital copies of your Fall music mixes, Bluetooth for connecting your smart phone and facilitating hands-free chatter should you elect to call your friends back home and tell them about the beautiful scenery they are missing.
03. 2011 MINI Cooper Convertible
The 2011 MINI Cooper convertible doesn't offer the best accommodations for more than a pair of foliage enthusiasts, but for some people a small group is a fun group during a weekend blast through the hills. The MINI Cooper convertible integrates a sunroof as part of its cloth top - even more unusual than the Eos' hardtop sunroof feature - which means you can snuggle under the canvas if the wind gets too blustery and still enjoy a reasonable view of the trees above. The MINI's standard engine is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder unit that offers 121 horsepower and a very frugal 35-mpg on the highway, and it can be shifted via either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: Cruise control to help deal with being tired at the end of a long day of absorbing nature's wonder, automatic climate control, heated seats.
02. 2011 Lexus IS 250 C
The 2011 Lexus IS 250 C is the most affordable drop top in the premium brand's lineup, and even though it doesn't cost as much as the pricier IS 350 C it still offers the same handsome retractable hardtop design. The Lexus IS 250 C comes with power leather seats, a CD player with USB interface and heated mirrors as standard equipment, and it is motivated by a 204 horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6. Transmission choices for the Lexus include manual and automatic units, each of which features six forward gears.
Essential Leaf-Watching Gear: Ventilated seats (in case you over-bundled in a quest to stay warm), surround sound for maximum immersion in that birdsong CD you brought along with you.
01. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible provides a rumbling soundtrack to accompany your leaf-watching travels. When ordered in SS trim, the Chevrolet Camaro convertible will delight your ears with its deep V-8 exhaust note as your eyes take in the shifting colors above. With 426 horsepower on tap from the 6.2-liter, eight-cylinder motor sitting between the rag top's front fenders, you'll also have the opportunity to add a little black smoke to the scenery should your right foot be so inspired while rounding a temptingly driftable corner. Both the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmission that can be paired with the Camaro SS facilitate these kinds of shenanigans quite nicely.
Essential Lead-Watching Gear: Head-up display so you don't miss any of the leafy action, heated seats, rear parking assist so you don't accidentally back into a stump while parking for a picnic break.