TCC's Top 7 Convertibles for the Long, Hot Summer Ahead

June 7, 2010

Ugh. It's 90 degrees already today. Where did spring go? Probably the same place as our 401(k) plans, if you're anything like us.

The return of swelter season means our attention turns to one thing here at TheCarConnection: lining up convertibles for test drives. Lucky us, right? We think you should be thinking convertible, too. Not only do convertible provide an excellent source of nutrition--scientists say 20 minutes of sunshine each day triggers your body into producing essential vitamin D--they're also chicken soup for the soul, minus the bits of celery and carrots that no one really wants in there in the first place.

You need some guidance, of course. TheCarConnection rates all the vehicles we review, and according to our convertible ratings for the 2010 model year, there are at least seven droptops that rise to the top of anyone's test-drive and shopping lists. Not surprisingly, many of them are very sporty cars that can out-accelerate most everything else on the market. After all, you need something fast -- all that rushing air keeps you from sticking to the seat with sweat.

When it comes down to putting the top down, these are TheCarConnection's top 7 convertibles for the long, hot summer ahead:

2010 Jaguar XK

Rating: 9.4 out of 10

Brilliant from the drawing table down to the tarmac, the 2010 Jaguar XK and XKR have ripened into full sports car adulthood. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more suave grand tourer than the 2010 Jaguar XK and XKR. The $83,000 XK and $96,000 XKR already had some of the finest looks and road manners--and now they have outrageous output to match. This year, Jaguar's upsized the XK to a nice, round 510 horsepower as it hammers out a permanent niche alongside the Benz SL, BMW 6-Series, Chevy Corvette, and even the Porsche 911.

Key feature: The XK's LCD touchscreen drives a stunning Bowers & Wilkins audio system--perfect for auditioning to be one of Katy Perry's California Gurls. (Or so we're told.)

2010 Porsche Boxster Spyder

2010 Porsche Boxster Spyder

2010 Porsche Boxster

Rating: 9.4 out of 10

The 2010 Porsche Boxster is a fun, attractive, and capable roadster-everything you want it to be. There's classic styling--we prefer it even to the 911--and amazing performance. This year's Boxster Spyder model tops the power ladder with 320 horsepower issuing from its 3.4-liter flat six, and since it's nearly 200 pounds lighter, the Spyder zips to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. The Boxster's grown more expensive over the years (remember the original base price below $40K?) but it's only grown more nimble and charming.

Key feature: The new Spyder edition's cool sideview graphics give us a retro tingle, straight out of the days of the 914. It's a good thing there's not much else in common.

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

2010 Porsche 911

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

The 2010 Porsche 911 is an icon--as much for its shape, as for its startling performance. Since time immemorial (or was it the Sixties? Who can remember?) the Porsche 911 has been the outline for sports cars. Never better than it is now, the 2010 Porsche 911 once again raises its own bar by dropping in a new Turbo model with faultless handling and explosive boxer power. There may not be a 911 affordable to everyone, but certainly there's a 911 for everyone who can afford it: lucky owners can choose from coupe, Cabriolet, and Targa body styles; turbo and nonturbo flat-six engines; dual-clutch and manual transmissions; and rear- or all-wheel drive. Priced from $79,000 for a coupe to $145,000 for a Turbo Cabriolet, the 911 will never leave you second-guessing about investing instead in real estate or gold.

Key feature: Porsche's PDK dual-clutch transmission is one of the best of its kind, and with the Sport Chrono package, makes for the fastest 911 Cabriolets in history.

2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2010 Chevrolet Corvette

Rating: 8.8 out of 10

Stupendously fast yet amazingly practical, the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette is the supercar you can live with. There's no ZR1 convertible, but even the "base" Corvette will send shivers down any NASCAR fan's spine--and give any 911 owner a reason to cross-shop with Chevrolet. Enthusiastic buyers get a new Grand Sport convertible option, with wide-body styling and race-bred suspension; all 'Vettes get a potent 430-horsepower LS3 V-8 that displaces 6.2 liters and is good for a 0-60-mph run in just 4.1 seconds with the manual or 4.3 seconds with the automatic.

Key feature: Launch Control puts the power of the driving gods in every 'Vette driver's hands; just switch into it, lay on the gas, and those 4.1-second times are yours.

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 BMW M3 2-door Convertible

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 BMW M3 2-door Convertible

2010 BMW M3

Rating: 8.8 out of 10

Stunning performance is still the calling card for the 2010 BMW M3; the weight it's gained may just be a sign of its success. Though it's gotten heavier in this generation, and has switched to V-8 power as a result, the M3 remains one of the best-handling grand tourers available. In convertible form, its folding-hardtop mechanism flips out of sight in about 20 seconds, and gives coupelike sound insulation when it's raised. Priced from about $67,000, it's one of the rare sports convertibles that will carry four adults, though that back-seat space will be the butt of jokes once your guests extract theirs.

Key feature: BMW's dual-clutch transmission is pretty brilliant; HD Radio is on all BMWs and gives exceptional clarity to local AM talk radio even when the hosts themselves cannot.

2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet

2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet

2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet

Rating: 8.8 out of 10

The 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet might be the most handsome German luxury two-doors available-and are surely among the best performers. Its sculpted flanks have a Camaro-like appeal, and its 333 horsepower--from a supercharged V-6--underscores that muscle car comparison. Handling's a bit less precise than the BMW M3, but the Audi's back-seat and trunk space are up to the task. In folding soft-top form, the S5 Cabriolet is at its best in the $58,250 edition with Audi's S-tronic transmission.

Key feature: For all the suave good looks minus some performance and minus a lot of dollars on the pricetag, TheCarConnection discreetly points you toward the less expensive Audi A5 Cabriolet. At 8.6 out of 10, it's not a bargain-basement edition, though it lacks the crispness and strong acceleration you'll find in the S5.

2010 MINI Cooper Convertible

2010 MINI Cooper Convertible

2010 MINI Cooper Convertible

Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Talk about players: the 2010 MINI Cooper Convertible charms the top off itself with its unmatched driving feel and expertly interpreted styling heritage. It's a delightful car to drive, and at $24,950 for the Cooper Convertible, it's a reasonably fair deal--particularly when you price it against the hardtop Mazda MX-5 Miata and even the Ford Mustang convertibles. A John Cooper Works edition with a manual six-speed transmission is the ultimate urban thrill-seeker, with the thrusty feel of a pint-sized USS Enterprise (which we're still trying to line up for a test drive.)

Key feature: The MINI Convertible's trunk is a two-piece deal, with a flip-up lid and a very brief tailgate, so you can lock up your precious cargo in very tight parking spaces. Less practical is MINI's "openometer," which reminds you how long the top's been down over the life of the car--and how many days you actually have to put at work, by inference.

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