There is no finer way to enjoy the great outdoors than from behind the wheel of a convertible. Here are 10 of the latest and most exciting open-top beauties. Just add sunshine.
Star Quality | Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet
It’s been 45 long years since Mercedes-Benz had a flagship convertible in its lineup. That car was the iconic 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet, and I still get trembly knees every time I see one on the road.
Thankfully, Mercedes has ended that big-bodied convertible drought with the unveiling of its imposing S-Class Cabriolet, which arrives in the United States this spring as a 2017 model.
Naturally, it’s based on the big S-Class Coupe, sharing 60 percent of the body structure with the hardtop. In place of the metal lid, the Cabriolet features a three-layer canvas roof that can be raised or lowered in a mere 20 seconds and at speeds as fast as 37 mph. Take your pick from four roof colors: black, dark blue, beige, and dark red.
Full credit to Mercedes engineers for making this new S Cabrio a four-seasons convertible. They’ve developed the company’s innovative AirScarf neck-level heating system and added heated armrests.
Two Cabriolet models will be offered stateside: an S550, powered by Merc’s 4.7-liter bi-turbo 449-horsepower V-8, and an S63 AMG 4Matic, with its thundering 577-horsepower 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8.
No word on pricing yet, but we’re thinking around $140,000 for the S550 and $190,000 for the S63. Which is what you’d pay for a restored 1971 280SE 3.5 Cab these days.
Blast from the Past | Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Not all convertibles have to have cloth tops and challenging rear visibility. Porsche’s solution with its glorious 911 Targa is a roof panel that majestically folds backward to let in the sunshine.
It’s not exactly a new idea—there have been targa-topped 911s since 1965. The name comes from the famous Targa Florio road race around Sicily.
The targa design allows for a removable center roof section that leaves the huge wraparound glass rear window in place for better visibility and shelter from the wind. It’s a great halfway house between coupe and cab.
Watching the roof mechanism in action for the first time can be pretty scary. That giant glass rear window soars skywards on spindly looking metal supports before coming to rest.
Initially, this new 911 Targa came as a wide-body Targa 4 model with all-wheel drive and either a 350-horsepower 3.4-liter flat-6 or a 4S with 400 horsepower.
But new for 2016 is the even sportier 911 Targa 4 GTS, packing a more powerful 430-horse flat-6 engine, a standard Sport Chrono package, active suspension management, cool center-lock 20-inch alloys, and a sports exhaust. It’s yours for $132,800.
Of course, drivers can get all variety of new 911s with a regular folding cloth roof. But the Targa might just be the best solution for feeling the sun on your face.
The Ultimate Bella Macchina | Ferrari 488 Spider
Yet when you have a car that can scythe from standstill to 60 mph in fewer than three seconds, 14 probably seems like a lifetime.
But there’s complexity at work here. At the press of a button, the metal roof panel unlatches and splits in two, a rear panel hinges backward, and then the top powers back to rest just above the engine. Nureyev wasn’t this nimble.
Ferrari claims this new 488 Spider is the most aerodynamically efficient open car the company has ever built. Witness the gorgeous new buttresses behind each seat that not only look stunning but also are designed to funnel cooling air into the engine intakes.
Interestingly, Ferrari has toned down the scream of that twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 for this new Spider by modifying the exhaust so driver and passenger don’t completely lose their hearing with the top down. Don’t worry, it’s still loud.
And to help lessen the inevitable gale-force wind whipping back into the cabin at 200 mph, there’s a tiny electric screen that rises between those buttresses.
Word is stateside deliveries of this 488 Spider will kick off this summer with a sticker somewhere around the $275,000 mark.
Which all begs the question: Why would anyone buy a 488GTB Coupe when you can have the best of both worlds with the Spider?
A Villainous Cat | Jaguar F-Type R AWD Convertible
In its recent advertising, Jaguar pointed out the best villains in movies always seem to be played by Brits.
Case in point: Sir Anthony Hopkins playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. “I must confess,” he says, “I’m giving very serious thought … to eating your wife.”
It may not yet be a Hollywood star, but there is indeed something truly villainous about Jaguar’s newest sports car, the $109,450 2016 F-Type R AWD convertible.
Just see it in the metal, riding on those humongous 20-inch alloys, and it has all the muscular tension and hunkered-down pugilist stance of The Transporter star Jason Statham, another truly villainous Brit.
While the F Convertible has been around for a couple of years now, Jaguar recently upped its appeal by squeezing its highest horsepower engine under that curvaceous hood.
For 2016, it gets an uprated 550-horsepower 5-liter supercharged V-8 coupled to a fast-shifting ZF 8-speed automatic.
Channeling all those horses to the rear wheels might have turned this new F-Type R into the ultimate sideways-sliding “drift” car, which is why it’s wisely equipped with standard all-wheel drive.
So drop the top—it takes a mere 12 seconds—punch the start button, listen to the whooomph from the exhaust, and get on the road. It’s a magical experience.
The F-Type convertible is one part old-school American V-8 muscle car, one part thrillingly fast supercar, one part high-luxury two-seater—and three-parts British villain. Enjoy.
British Beefcake | Bentley Continental GTC Speed
What we have here is simply the fastest four-seat convertible on the planet. It can spear toward the horizon at a rock-steady 206 mph, courtesy of its 626-horsepower 6-liter 12-cylinder nuclear reactor under that mile-long hood.
With the top down at 206 mph, Bentley’s latest Continental GTC Speed has the capability to blast off every last follicle on a driver’s head. Arguably more thrilling is the car’s ability to catapult from zero to 60 mph in just 4 seconds.
For 2016, the folks at Bentley have given this leather-lined rocket ship a mild body nip-tuck by resculpting the front and rear spoilers, reshaping the front fenders, adding shiny chrome Flying B fender vents, and coloring the mesh grilles in a dark-tint chrome finish.
To drive this new GTC Speed is to adore it. That huge cloth top is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, fitting pinch-tight while raised and keeping out every bit of wind, rain, and cold.
But on a sunny day or warm night, drop the top and instantly feel at one with the elements, serenaded by an exhaust that sounds like Thor’s thunder.
You’ll pay around $265,000 for the joy of GTC Speed ownership. Think of it as $1,286 for each of those 206 miles per hour.
For more top convertibles, including selections from Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, head to page two.