Guys who drive droptops exist on the razor’s edge of social acceptability. A little to one side, and you may find yourself in a “chick car.” Overcompensate in the other direction and now you’re now in flashy pro-athlete territory. Hey, perception is reality—I didn’t make the rules. But that’s no reason to deny yourself the pleasure. Droptops were intended for leisurely motoring that connected you with your environment. Something which the British—fathers of the roadster—have uniquely understood despite their solar deficiency. As a service to sun-worshipping drivers everywhere, here’s our handy guide to enjoying open-top motoring—minus the baggage. And for more cars that will practically make your mouth water, check out our list of the best sedans.
Why: It’s the perfect second—or third—weekend car. Based on the widely-acclaimed Mazda MX-5 Miata platform with Italian tailoring and classic roadster proportions. Mechanically re-tuned for a completely unique driving experience.
Base price: $25,990
Powertrain and performance: 1.4L, 160 horsepower, inline 4-cylinder turbo; 6-speed manual or automatic, RWD; zero-to-60 in 6.3 seconds.
Cool factor: Three stars. Richly-appointed interior, fun to tool around in. And for all of you lovers of droptops, don’t miss these insanely fast cars owned by celebrities.
Why: This All-American icon of droptops now comes in more kitschy flavors than M&Ms. Beyond the gimmicky trim levels, the established Sahara remains a great value proposition. Effortlessly cool and highly versatile, you won’t need to park it when winter rolls in.
Base price: $30,445
Powertrain and performance: 3.6L 285 horsepower V6, part-time four-wheel drive; 6-speed manual, optional 5-speed automatic; zero-to-60: It’s a Jeep, it doesn’t matter.
Cool factor: Five stars. Off-the-charts fun. Unsurprisingly, Jeep also makes one of the best SUVs you can buy.
Why: Borderline cute, but the JCW package provides cover. Guaranteed to please your inner-hooligan.
Base price: $30,450
Powertrain and performance: 2.0L, 228 horsepower, turbo four-cylinder; 6-speed manual or automatic, front-drive; zero-to-60 in 6.3 seconds.
Cool factor: Two stars. Taught, nimble, giant-slayer, open for business.
Mini also makes one of the most high-performance wagons on the market.
Why: Arguably Porsche’s best performance value. And if you absolutely need a 911, for god’s sake get the hardtop. The ultra-refined mid-engine Boxster is an absolute jewel.
Base price: $57,050
Powertrain and performance: 2.5L, 350 horsepower, turbo flat-four; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual mode; RWD; zero-to-60 in 3.6 seconds.
Cool factor: Five stars. It’s the perfect weekend roadtrip car with trunk space fore and aft, and a soft top that can be raised or lowered while driving up to 43 mph.
Porsche lovers, you should also check out our ranking of the greatest Porsches of all time.
Why: Stout of heart and stubbornly British, Morgans evoke a love-it or leave-it response. Should you be in the latter camp you’ll need to retreive one yourself from Old Soggy. It pairs traditional—though quixotic—roadster orthodoxy with a modern BMW power/gearbox unit mounted to a super-light aluminum chassis.
Base price (est.): $95,000
Powertrain and performance: 4.8L, 367 horsepower, V8; 6-speed automatic, RWD; zero-to-60 in 4.5 seconds.
Cool factor: Five-plus stars. (!) It has paparazzi-level street presence, so discretion advised.
Why: Like a high-maintenance girlfriend, there is much to forgive with this comely, little Italian. But its pleasures more than compensate.
Base price: $65,900
Powertrain and performance: 1.7L, 237 horsepower, turbocharged inline four-cylinder; 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD; zero-to-60 in 4.1 seconds.
Cool factor: Four stars. Ride hard and enjoy the rewards. Good news, we’ve also ranked the coolest Alfa Romeos of all time.
Why: A stunning boulevard cruiser that must be viewed in the flesh to fully comprehend its elegance. Naturally, this entry-level S-Class does everything magnificently well, while its two more powerful AMG siblings, the S63 and S65, offer even greater magnitudes of delirium.
Base price: $132,325
Powertrain and performance: 4.7L, 449 horsepower, turbocharged V8; 7-speed automatic with manual mode, RWD; zero-to-60 in 4.6 seconds.
Cool factor: Four stars. Siren call of the Pacific Coast Highway. And Mercedes lovers: be sure to check out our ranking of the coolest Benzes of all time.
Why: For high-caliber sun-worship, once again, ironically, Brittania rules. Swathed in sumptuous hides and an English butler’s attention to detail, you’ll not go wanting. New for 2017, the big Bentley drops its nose-heavy W-12 for a lighter Audi V8 powerplant, with a big performance upside.
Base price: $201,225
Powertrain and performance: 4.0L, 500 horsepower, turbocharged V8; 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD; zero-to-60 in 4.3 seconds.
Cool factor: Four stars. This ride is all bespoke luxury, timeless design.
Why: An earth-bound fighter jet, equally at ease in docile settings. Caution: driving may induce euphoria. To counteract such side-effects, immediately retire to nearest park bench from which you can simply admire svelte body.
Base price: $128,000
Powertrain and performance: 5.0L, 575 horsepower, supercharged V8; 8-speed automatic, AWD; zero-to-60 in 3.5 seconds.
Cool factor: Five stars. And yes, this Jaguar is one of the droptops that may veer into d-bag territory. Deal with it.
Why: Living in an automotive golden age—one that has bestowed upon us some of the finest cars ever conceived—is indeed a blessing. Still, it’s fascinating to look back to the early 1970s, the waning years of Detroit hegemony before the lights went out. In those halcyon days, General Motors Design ruled, with magnificent totems of excess like the ’76 Cadillac Eldorado (pictured) still roaming Sun-belt states today. It was a fertile, flamboyant time when everything the culture had borne was without precedent. Increasingly catching the attention of collectors, there are still bargains to be found.
Cool factor: Immeasurable.
(Photo courtesy Eddie Pham, Flickr.)
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