If you like having a sunroof, you’ll love driving a convertible. It’s true that the segment has experienced a sharp decline in recent years, but whether you’re looking to experience the wind in your hair for cheap or get a tan at neck-snapping speeds, there’s a car to fit every need and budget.
There are other factors to take into account when shopping for a new convertible. Notably, some models offer a conventional cloth soft top, while others are equipped with a more complex folding hard top. The advantages of a soft top are that it’s lighter and it generally takes up less cargo space. However, a folding hard top reduces noise levels in the cabin when it’s up and makes a convertible less prone to theft.
Ready to go topless? We’ve handpicked the best convertibles on the new car market today.
Audi A3 Cabriolet
Why should you buy this: It does everything a car can do well, including letting the sun in.
Who’s it for: People who want a great car that is also a convertible.
How much will it cost: $38,350+
Why we picked the Audi A3 Cabriolet:
A convertible doesn’t need to be a sports car or a high-end luxury model to be good. The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a lovely ride with a premium feel that covers all of the bases. It’s the perfect car for people who want a convertible, but also need said convertible to function as a practical daily driver.
The A3 has handsome exterior styling and an interior that’s well-designed and functional; Audi didn’t skimp on interior quality the way other luxury brands do with their entry-level models. The A3 is available with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit — which replaces the gauge cluster with a reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital display — and the MMI infotainment system, complete with handwriting recognition.
All convertible models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with 186 horsepower in base front-wheel drive models, and 220 hp in models with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive. The driving experience is fun and lively, although the convertible isn’t available with the more muscular powertrains of the S3 and RS 3 sedans, or the A3 e-tron hatchback’s plug-in hybrid system.
The best luxury convertible
Why should you buy this: It’s a drop-top lounge on wheels.
Who’s it for: Very, very rich people.
How much will it cost: $335,000+
Why we picked the Rolls-Royce Dawn:
The Rolls-Royce name is synonymous with luxury, and the storied British automaker’s latest convertible does not disappoint. From a powerful V12 engine, to a flawlessly smooth ride, to a gorgeous interior, the Dawn has it all.
The Dawn is based on the same platform as the Rolls-Royce Ghost sedan and Wraith coupe, and it shares its powertrain with those models. The 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 produces 563 hp and 575 pound-feet of torque, which gets the Dawn from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. That’s not bad for a car that weighs over 5,000 pounds, and the V12 does its job so smoothly and quietly you’d think it was an electric motor.
The interior is on a different level from anything produced by any other automaker, with the possible exception of Bentley. Everything looks and feels crafted rather than manufactured — there are cute touches like umbrellas stashed in the doors, and the front seats are like lounge chairs. Even the back seats have a decent amount of room, and that’s a rarity in a two-door convertible. The Dawn may be one of the most expensive new cars on sale, but you certainly get a lot for your money.
Our 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn full review
The best convertible SUV
Why should you buy this: It’s the only convertible SUV that isn’t ridiculous.
Who’s it for: Adventurers and off-roaders.
How much will it cost: $23,995+
Why we picked the Jeep Wrangler:
Most convertible SUVs are weird. The Range Rover Evoque convertible, Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, and Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet are all questionable propositions at best, but the Jeep Wrangler is a convertible SUV that actually makes sense. It remains one of the few SUVs with serious off-road capability, and being able to put the roof down just adds to the experience.
The Wrangler isn’t the traditional kind of convertible. It’s not a compact roadster or an elegant luxury barge, and it doesn’t stop with a folding roof. You can also fold the windshield and remove the doors for a true open-air experience. The Wrangler Unlimited model is also the only four-door convertible currently sold in the U.S.
This Jeep can also go where few vehicles can. Its four-wheel drive system, beefy suspension, and short overhangs make the Wrangler an off-road athlete, exactly what you’d expect from the car with the closest ties to the original World War II-era Jeeps.
Our 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon full review
The best convertible sports car
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Why should you buy this: It’s distilled essence of driving pleasure.
Who’s it for: People who view driving as a joy, not a chore.
How much will it cost: $24,915+
Why we picked the Mazda MX-5 Miata:
It may not be fast or flashy, but the Miata offers one of the purest driving experiences of any new car. It’s small, light, and responds to the driver’s inputs with immediacy. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine’s 155 hp won’t impress your friends, but the engine is eager to rev and can be coupled with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission (an automatic is available as well).
The rest of the Miata is pretty good too. The current-generation ND model has more expressive styling than previous versions, and the interior is admirably simple and ergonomic for a modern car. Previous generations of Miata have proven to be fairly reliable as well, which bodes well for the new one.
Mazda offers two choices of convertible top. You can opt for the basic soft top, or a folding hardtop in the Miata RF model. The RF offers a sleek fastback shape with the roof up (hence the name, an acronym for “Retractable Fastback”), although it’s really more like a 1970s or ‘80s targa top than a true convertible.
Our 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata full review
The best high-performance convertible
Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Why should you buy this: It’s a fast car that won’t kill you.
Who’s it for: Speed demons.
How much will it cost: $70,490+
Why we picked the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport:
Since 1953, the Corvette has taken on Europe’s best with a combination of American muscle and value. Most high-performance Corvette models have been hardtops, but Chevy has done some incredible things with the current C7-generation Corvette platform.
Today’s Corvette Grand Sport is a thoroughbred track car that’s also tame enough to use on the road. It features numerous suspension and aerodynamic upgrades over the base Corvette Stingray, plus beefier brakes and tires. The modifications give the Grand Sport face-distorting grip and they instill the confidence drivers need to go fast.
Many track-focused specials are too intense to drive anywhere else, but that’s not the case with the Grand Sport. While definitely on the firm side, the ride isn’t unbearable. The C7 Corvette also has a much nicer interior than previous generations and features some tech toys, including a heads-up display.
The Grand Sport shares its 6.2-liter LT1 V8 with the base Corvette Stingray, along with seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions. The V8 produces 460 hp, which is plenty, but Chevy also offers the Corvette Z06 Convertible with a 650-hp supercharged V8 for the truly power mad.
Our 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport first drive impressions
How we test
The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.
Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.