Florida’s Best Convertibles

Fifteen weeks. That takes us to mid-October when, according to the Walker weather vane, the temperature drops, the humidity eases and the first hints of winter in Florida start to appear.

   And you know what that means? Convertible Season.

    In high anticipation of this magical time of the year in the Sunshine State, a bunch of us keyboard-tappers who make up the laid-back Southern Automotive Media Association – SAMA for short – decided to create the SAMA Convertible of the Year Awards.

   So, a week or so ago, the SAMA guys and gals gathered in the parking lot of the Ritz-Carlton Resort on Key Biscayne to ride, drive and salivate over 19 of the best convertibles out there in an event we christened ‘Topless in Miami’.

   With a title like that, you can only imagine the number of internet ‘hits’ we got when we posted the results – and the number of web-surfers who went away disappointed. Sorry.

   We diligently scored all 19 cars on their overall design, ease of top operation, driving enjoyment – and whether they’d be cool enough to impress the hotties on South Beach. That last part I made up.

   So, drumroll please. Here are the winners of the inaugural SAMA Convertibles of the Year Awards.



Fiat 500C - Howard Walker

I love this car. Full of Italian brio and looking like an extra from Cars 2, this four-wheel bambino is more fun than a day at Disney. At the press of a button, the canvas top powers back to let in the sun. It ain’t fast, but who needs speed when you’re cruising the beach?



Nissan Murano Cross Cabrioolet

If ever a car was designed for Florida, this is it. You can even get it painted Peppermint Green. It’s actually the world’s first production all-wheel-drive SUV convertible, answering a question I’m sure no one ever asked. But it’s a blast to drive, offers seating for four and has a top that drops in 27 seconds. It’s fun to be funky.



Chevrolet Corvette

Nothing beats a ’Vette when you crave a good ol’ American muscle car. But these days it’s much more sophisticated than that, offering breathtaking performance from one of the greatest V8s around, and the kind of handling that wouldn’t seem out of place on the track. And top down, listening to that throaty exhaust, driving doesn’t get much better.



BMW 650i convertible - Howard Walker

This was my pick for overall honors. New from the ground up with power from BMW’s fabulous twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 mated to an 8-speed auto, the 650i is stupendously fast yet refined beyond belief. And it looks drop-dead gorgeous with its shark-nose front and raked-back screen. Inside there are seats for four in a cabin that’s a masterpiece of craftsmanship and understated elegance. Drop the top and life doesn’t get much better.



Audi R8 Spyder - best in show

Breathtaking, ballistic, fierce, frightening, fast – yes, very fast – thrilling, stunning and just downright orgasmic. So many superlatives, so little space. This is one magical supercar. A 525-hp Lamborghini-derived V10 screamer gives the Audi rocketship acceleration while Quattro four-wheel drive keeps the car Velcro’d to the asphalt. And with the top powered down, everyone can see who is lucky enough to driving this beast. A worthy, worthy winner.


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