As far as summer driving goes, nothing beats the thrill of cruising down the highway – sun blazing, with the sound of your favourite playlist coming through the speakers; especially if you’re doing it in a convertible.
Since the dawn of the Cadillac Eldorado in 1953 – purpose-built convertibles have often been the ultimate summer vehicle; offering cool relief on the road to escape the heat, while versatile in putting up a roof when that inevitable rain shower came crashing down. The main appeal for convertibles hasn’t changed much, but today’s models now offer many of the same amenities as their fixed-top brethren, from entertainment, to stylings, and yes – even hardtops.
Some of my best memories, both as a kid and professional automotive journalist, have involved these awesome creatures of the road; which is why I wanted to write about some of my personal favourite top-down rides to take a dream drive in today.
THE ENTRY LEVEL: MAZDA MIATA MX-5
It’s only fitting to begin a convertible countdown with the best-selling and arguably most popular roadster in the world: the Mazda “Miata” MX-5. Launched originally in 1989, the two-seater legend has sold almost 1,000,000 vehicles to date across three generations. I remember driving my first Miata in the middle of an unexpected ice storm in Toronto, where the front-wheel chassis performed quite well, especially when paired with a decent set of snow tires to keep a firm grip on the road. The new redesigned 2016 MX-5 is the latest in the line-up, which is rolling into dealerships right now. With 155 horsepower, a six-speed stick shift he base GX Miata packs a lot for under $32K – with the top-tier GT offering up a nifty package including paddle shifters, 17” gunmetal wheels, leather, and a 9-speaker Bose audio system embedded into the headrests. It’s the quintessential sports car, and I love that it never gets boring. www.allnewmx5.ca
THE CLASSIC: FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE
A classic for the ages – the Ford Mustang is often a car of dreams for little boys (and girls!) growing up – myself included. While I’ve had a lot of fun driving the All American ‘Stang,’ my favourite memory was watching these beauties on the race track growing up (my dad raced a few), something I look forward to each summer as a family tradition. The 2015 model year marks the fifth-generation of the vehicle in time for its mid-century birthday – cumulating with a highly-publicized event last year where engineers disassembled a yellow convertible and sent it up the Empire State Building to put it back together on the observation deck – mirroring a stunt achieved at its launch in 1965. I’m excited to see an gas-conscious 2.3-Litre EcoBoost Engine option join the ranks this year, but I still might opt for the (very) capable 5.0-Litre GT with its 435 horses. Yee-ha! www.ford.ca
THE FULLY LOADED: JAGUAR F-TYPE CONVERTIBLE
The new kid on the block: the Jaguar F-Type came onto the scene in 2013 as the long-awaited successor to the famous Jaguar E-Type of the 1960s. Considering its spiritual predecessor was once called the “most beautiful car in the world” by none other than Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, it’s not surprising the roofless follow-up was garnered by countless award and rave reviews after its debut. Behind the wheel, the F-Type is quite easy to handle for trips along the water or cruising through cottage country. I personally loved the feeling of driving this through the mountains, feeling the fresh air while hearing the soft purr from the engine. I first tried the F-Type on its Global launch in Spain back in 2013 (check out my GOOD HANDS® author photo!), and have fallen hard for it ever since. For the entertainment and tech buff, the standard features on the entry-level V6 are phenomenal with on-board GPS navigation (with traffic messaging) for those weekend trips, intelligent start/stop ignition, SiriusXM radio, and a top-notch 770 watt Meridian audio system. www.jaguar.ca
THE SPORTY ONE: BMW 2-SERIES CONVERTIBLE
Last but definitely not least in my convertibles of summer roundup is the new BMW 2 Series Convertible. While the 3-Series gets a lot of attention, this sporty little hatchback brings together the incredible quality of the BMW range in a premium compact size that’s perfect for couples or young families and is arguably the most fuel efficient convertible on my list at 8.5L per 100 km, the 2-Series drop-top comes in four different engine configurations ranging from the tame 136 horsepower 218i all the way up to the formidable 326 horse M235i (a personal favourite of mine). In any case, buyers can look forward to renowned BMW ConnectedDrive system to ensure you’re navigating around the never-ending lakes up north, as well as useful speed limit and no passing information displayed directly on the dash. For social butterflies, the Online Entertainment system brings Facebook and Twitter functionality into the vehicle (ahem, for the passengers!) and integrated support for all major music players!
Do you have a favourite convertible road trip story to share with us? Catch us at @AllstateCanada on Twitter!