Best cars to drive with the top down

TOP-DOWN GLORY: The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet offers a high-class ride with a heating system that extends your top-down season to the cooler months.
TOP-DOWN GLORY: The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet offers a high-class ride with a heating system that extends your top-down season to the cooler months.
MERCEDES-BENZ

It’s a silly passion for a region of the country that spends too much time in the cold, rain, and snow, but nobody loves convertibles more than New Englanders. Maybe it’s because we so appreciate every hot and sunny day that we want to make the best of them.

And what could be better than driving with the top down? Herein, some picks for the sunshine season.

2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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Available with a turbocharged V-6 or V-8 engine, the E-Class Cabriolet is a comfortable soft-top cruiser with room for four adults and power to spare. The top drops at speeds up to 25 mph, and two air deflectors, one atop the windshield, the other behind the backseat, electronically deploy to keep the wind from mussing your ‘do. Mercedes’ optional AirScarf system blows adjustable heat at your neck to extend the “top-down” season through the cooler months. When that season finally ends, the fabric top insulates well enough to fool you into thinking you’ve got a coupe.

BEST DEAL FOR SUN LOVERS: With a starting price of $33,000, the VW Eos is a bargain among hard-top convertibles.
BEST DEAL FOR SUN LOVERS: With a starting price of $33,000, the VW Eos is a bargain among hard-top convertibles.
Volkswagen

2016 Volkswagen Eos

The Eos is long enough in the tooth to have chin-level fangs by now, but it remains the best deal for sun lovers since the starting price is below $33,000. This makes it the least expensive choice among these nominees, not to mention the cheapest convertible for 2016 with a power-folding hardtop. Value isn’t its only draw: VW’s four-seat convertible has a standard power moonroof in its folding hardtop, a bonus feature that keeps the rays coming even when the temperature drops. Add to that the long list of standard features, from a power driver’s seat to a navigation system and punchy turbo engine, and the Eos is an attractive drop-top choice.

2016 Audi S5

The S5 Cabriolet’s cloth top lowers in a reasonable 15 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. You’ll probably spend most of your time at a faster clip, given the S5’s 333-horsepower, supercharged V-6 pulls strong as revs and speed build. The performance comes with practicality to match: The S5 Cabriolet has a habitable backseat with its own climate controls, and the trunk has 10.2 cubic feet of cargo room. That’s respectable for a convertible.

2016 BMW 228

The BMW 2 Series is everything a small, four-seat luxury convertible should be: playful in its handling, refined in its ride quality, and timeless in its styling. The power top works at speeds up to 30 mph, and it’s optionally workable via remote. The M235i’s turbo six-cylinder packs thundering acceleration, but the 228i’s turbo four-cylinder is also punchy. Sun lovers with weekend baggage know the cargo compromises of a convertible, but the 2 Series’ trunk has 11.8 cubic feet with the roof up, nearly as much as many compact sedans. The dropped top doesn’t diminish that space by much: With it down, there’s 9.9 cubic feet.

2016 BMW Z4

The Z4 has aged well; it still looks sharp, with agile handling and strong acceleration to match. Avoid the optional (and firm) M suspension, and the hardtop convertible has better ride quality than you’d expect for something that looks the part of a racetrack runner. The available turbo six-cylinder has a lag-free wall of power, but even the base turbo four-cylinder is good for sub-6-second zero-to-60-mph times, according to BMW. Oh, and that power-folding hardtop keeps wind noise as hushed as a coupe when up.

2016 Jaguar F-TYPE

Settle into an F-Type roadster and you’re just 11 seconds away from wind in your hair and sun on your face. That’s one quick top. The only thing quicker is the car itself, which hits 60 mph in 5.5 seconds in its slowest form, according to Jaguar. Get all the way up to a V-8 F-Type R and 60 mph takes just 4 seconds flat. Either way, the F-Type roadster shares every variant with its hardtop sibling. Want a stick shift? All-wheel drive? Any particular engine choice? The F-Type roadster offers them all.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Not every car for sun lovers needs to be a convertible. The Range Rover Evoque has an available glass skylight that extends from the front seats all the way to nearly the tailgate. The panel, which has a power sunshade, is both long and wide; it takes up just about all the ceiling space without any cross-members to break up the view, a necessary component with many traditional panoramic moonroofs. The skylight is the perfect antidote for those clear winter days: plenty of sunlight, zero frostbite. If you want a real droptop, wait another year. Land Rover has an Evoque Convertible on the way for 2017.

2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

An icon for decades, the SL-Class has a two-piece retractable hardtop. As in the E-Class Cabriolet, Mercedes’ AirScarf system blows warm air onto your neck. The top has a transparent overhead panel so sun lovers can soak up the rays even when the top is up. Get Mercedes’ optional Magic Sky Control, which varies the opacity of the panel via electric current, and you can change the amount of sunlight coming through with the touch of a button.

2016 Porsche Boxster

The Boxster’s power cloth top, included on every trim but the track-ready Boxster Spyder, works at up to 30 mph. But the real magic is how fast it goes: We clocked ours at just 9 seconds. That’s speedy enough to drop on a whim before the light turns green. Windscreens snap into place behind the front seats, keeping wind intrusion at bay below about 65 mph. The Boxster only seats two, but its mid-engine layout vacates room for a traditional trunk in back plus a bonus trunk up front. The combined space amounts to a respectable 9.9 cubic feet, and it isn’t affected if you put the top down.

2016 Porsche 911

The 911’s cloth top works at speeds of up to 31 mph and takes about 13 seconds to lower. That’s respectable, but the car’s powered wind deflector is the real treat: It motors out and up from behind the rear seats at the push of a button to quell wind noise, even on the highway. All of that comes in one of the most viscerally fun-to-drive machines you can buy, with styling that should age well for years, if not decades, to come.