Convertibles come with many names: roadster; cabriolet; carbio; drop top; drophead coupe; open two-seater; open top; rag top; soft top; spider; and, spyder. Whichever name it has stickered on the bootlid, they all do the same thing: make every drive a memorable one. Our Northern Hemisphere friends suffer from short sunshine hours. In South Africa, we bask in it for more than 240 days a year to make a justifiable case for convertibles. However, these cars sell in relatively small numbers in comparison. There are many bargains to be had. So, tread carefully and be ready to enjoy your driving again!
The beauty of depreciation makes for stunning bargains when in comes to luxury vehicles. For niche vehicles such as convertibles, this rule applies ever more so. As a buyer, you’ll have the power in the bargaining process and the pick of the lot too. From two-seater sporty cars to luxury four-seater models, there’s a bevy of beauties available for rather reasonable bundles of your hard-earned cash.
With more and more families embracing a two-car garage, a convertible for one family member is now a possibility and – in Gauteng, mostly – a reality. Taking the longer way home, why not drop the roof to take in the sights and sounds while on a drive? That’s the beauty of a drop top.
Depending on the vehicle of your choice, the warble from the exhaust pipes, the envious stares from passersby and enjoying the sense of freedom of riding a motorcycle without actually riding one, the appeal of convertibles is mighty strong…
Compromised in all ways but as a two-seater (and I’m including 4-seater convertibles in this statement as their rear seats are largely for show, frankly) in design and application, cabriolets limit buyers as to the car’s practicality.
There many considerations before clicking on a used car advert to buy it: hard-top or soft-top? This might seem a trivial matter, but after careful thought you’ll find that a retractable hard-top would be the best possible option for South Africans in our crime-ridden cities. However, hard tops do have their cons: these designs are heavy and very complex, and they gobble up a lot of boot space to further limit their practicality. In comparison, soft tops are usually manually-operated and take up far less space. For hard tops, when the roof is up, it offers a coupe-like driving experience: a 2-in-1 vehicle.
These svelte cars, head-turners in many cases, are attractive in general. Have you, however, looked beneath the lines to study the structural compromises to convertibles? With the roof cut off, and added beams in the bodywork to stiffen up the chassis, these cars suffer from a phenomenon called scuttle shake. These vehicles also boasts poor rearview visibility thanks to its rollover bars and small rear windscreens. And those rear seats? Will you need to carry more than one passenger rather often? If so, you’ll need to search a bit deeper to find a luxury four-seater convertible… Or, cut a friend from your life.
Which models offer the best value and proposition?
There are many different models, shapes, sizes and price points to study. The most popular models on our roads are the Mercedes-Benz SLKs, Audi TTs and the BMW Z4s Convertibles, while the Mazda MX-5s are most definitely growing in popularity on the pre-owned market.
With features, engine sizes and age to contemplate, the SLK offers a lot of two-seater goodness for not that much of your cash. Is it the best value proposition? With relatively low running costs and great numbers of spares available, it is the default choice for this buyer.
Scratching a bit deeper, the slightly older BMW 3-Series Convertible offers slightly more space while the Audi TTs and A5s’ style keeps turning heads. The Mazda MX-5 is for the driving enthusiast and should not be underestimated for quality and performance.
2013 Audi TT 2.0T FSI Roadster
It has a certain timeless and classless charm about the shape, doesn’t it? This the second generation of the now-iconic Audi TT offers a cool 155kW of power from its 2.0-litre engine for brisk performance to get your hair more than whipped in the air. With a rag top, this Roadster is simple and spacious. Also, at this price and in this condition, it is quite the rare bargain.
2010 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Automatic
For those seeking a more GT-oriented two-seater, this is a great vehicle that comes with BMW’s hallowed Ultimate Driving Pleasure handling traits. It is also powered by a gutsy 225kW powerplant for exciting performance. This one is a hard top giving a 2-in-1 vehicle.
2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 Automatic
This is a beauty for those seeking understated and classic lines with effortless cruising abilities. It is in immaculate condition, with a unique colour and is ultra-desirable with its long list of features. These are incredibly popular for a reason: they’re just so good at everything.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E500 Cabriolet AMG Automatic
Refined, rare and really special: this is a powerhouse of features, luxury, soft top roof and performance for a not-so-considerable amount of money. If you’re after a something different, something very bold yet classy, this is your dream drive. View the features of this beauty and you’ll be fighting with your better half for the keys every day.
2013 BMW 330i Convertible Automatic
This engine and that hard top make this a top bargain buy. These E97-generation BMWs are fast becoming collectible thanks to that naturally-aspirated straight six engine. In this configuration, it must rank as one of the best ways to sample its 190kW and distinctive exhaust notes. In this condition, these are rare.
2007 Porsche Boxster S (987)
Boasting arguably one of the best handling chassis in the world, the Boxster saved Porsche from financial doom when it was first introduced. It also brought the Stuttgart brand to a new audience – one which was as particular about the brand’s heritage as those of its more premium models – to offer a vehicle that has remained unbeaten in its class. Distinctive looks, iconic sound, timeless appeal: this Boxster S is a stunner.