Spring has brought with it some spectacular weather, with the UK breaking records and putting better-known hotspots to shame. Once the lawn is cut and the barbecue blazing it’s no surprise that many of us are thinking that a convertible car would be just the thing for those sunny afternoons. Drop-tops aren’t anything like as compromised as they used to be either: the days of flimsy roofs and footwells full of water are long gone. Here are five of the best cabriolets for 2011.
The previous version was a favourite of the well-tailored elite and now there’s a brand-new model that’s even smarter. The exterior is sleek and modern, particularly with the large alloy wheel option and the distinctive glare of the quad headlamps. As before it sticks with the tried and tested fabric roof as opposed to a folding hardtop, and that means few compromises in terms of the design as well as as useful boot also.
To drive the 6-Series has all the bases covered. The standard fit Drive Dynamic control lets you choose from three driving modes and tailors the response of the steering, transmission and stability control to suit. Add on the desirable Adaptive Drive system and it alters the suspension settings too so it can cover large distances in comfort and demolish a twisty mountain road with ease.
Prices from £65,695
At the opposite end of the scale to the BMW, Renault’s Wind Roadster is designed to give top down thrills at a much more affordable price. Based on the nippy Twingo supermini, the Wind’s key feature is its folding roof. Unusually at this price the Wind has a folding metal roof, but rather than a complicated folding mechanism it simply flips over electronically. That means it can go from roof up to down or vice versa in just 12 seconds and there’s still space for luggage.
Under the bonnet there’s a choice of an efficient 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol or a more frisky 1.6-litre naturally aspirated unit similar to that found in the Renaulsport Twingo, but both are capable of over 40mpg as well as offering the kind of spirited performance that is a big part of the convertible experience.
Prices from £15,205
If the MX-5 feels like one of those cars that’s been around forever, then you would be right. The current model is the third generation since the first cars appeared in the UK since 1990, and its longevity is down to the simple formula that has been rigidly applied: light weight, simple, bulletproof and fun to drive.
The basic template may be simple but the MX-5 is far from stripped out. As well as two engine options you can choose a manual or paddleshift automatic, different trims and also the regular Roadster or the Roadster Coupe, with the latter gaining a folding metal roof for greater security and comfort. Regardless of the specification the MX-5’s key delight is the manner in which it offers fantastic feedback to the driver, and the sweet rear-drive set-up means maximum thrills whatever the weather.
Prices from £17,990
Four-seater convertibles are comparatively thin on the ground, and those that do exist tend to wear very high price tags. Thank Volkswagen then for the revised Eos which has recently gone on sale with an updated exterior and better specification inside, as well as four useful seats.
With the Volkswagen badge up front it’s no surprise that the Eos offers a quality experience. The fine cabin design and impressive materials give the sense of well-being that a convertible should have, while the folding metal roof has a glass pane in it, giving extra light even when the roof is up.
The Eos also has an engine choice that you’d expect to see on a conventional hatch, with three different petrol outputs and a powerful diesel, some of which also come with Bluemotion technologies for maximum efficiency and fuel saving – 58.9mpg for the most efficient diesel version.
Prices from £22,900
Aston Martin Virage Volante
Should you be in the fortunate position to splash some serious cash then the biggest problem becomes the breadth of choice. But any six-figure convertible has to offer drop-dead looks, mighty performance and kudos that can’t be measured in pound signs, and Aston Martin has just the ticket in the shape of its Virage Volante.
Based on the DB9, the Virage adds a more athletic look thanks to some subtle detailing, while numerous changes underneath the skin give it even more dynamism to match the looks. Underneath the delicious exterior lies a vocal 6.0-litre V12 that not only gives near-190mph performance but an exhaust note that only a convertible drive can truly appreciate.
Perfectly straddling the line between a GT car and a full-on supercar, the Virage Volante has the exclusivity and image that only an Aston can. Bystanders won’t be able to help themselves, but it’s the driver that will get the greatest satisfaction from this classic example of the breed.
Prices from £159,995
By Matt Joy