Driving a convertible with the top down is an activity tailor-made for summer. But if the convertible you have in mind is an American muscle car like a Camaro or a Mustang, the category’s shift this season toward luxury—led by European carmakers—may surprise you.
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The likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley have offered convertibles for quite some time, but the trend is now so pervasive, convertibles might be considered the new luxury cars of choice—especially when it comes to combining speed and comfort with fun.
Like their American counterparts, these cars go plenty fast. (The new Bugatti 16.4 Veyron Vitesse hits a top speed of 233 miles per hour.) Most of them also put an additional emphasis on comfort, style, safety and electronic amenities. Convertibles are most often associated with sports cars; this new breed might be more accurately aligned with touring vehicles. It’s an idea that might even extend to off-roading (the next version of the popular Range Rover Evoque is likely to be a convertible).
For luxury, take the 2012 BMW M6 ($113,995), which goes on sale this month. The sublime interior is perfectly emblematic of the brand’s 6 series. The exterior has sporty good looks, but at 4,508 pounds it isn’t as sprightly as a traditional sports car. Though that weight contributes to its stability on the road, the M6 is anything but ponderous, and the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine proves it.
In fact, from a driver’s perspective the M6 offers a staggering array of options. Just about every aspect of the driving experience, from engine-throttle response to stability control, is programmable. By the time you cycle through all the possibilities, you’ll likely qualify as a power-train engineer. Two settings can be recalled at will by pressing either the M1 or M2 buttons on the steering wheel. Comfort levels are programmable as well, and though the Sports Plus mode proved to be the most challenging (and least comfortable) option, the other modes made a long day of driving around Santa Barbara, California, very enjoyable.
The Jaguar XKR and Porsche Boxster, too, will give you new perspective on passing scenery. And remember those American muscle cars? We couldn’t resist giving a nod to Corvette’s 60th-anniversary edition. It’s definitely time to hit the road…
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This story was originally published by Departures.
The Boxster ($49,500) gets a new look in 2013, but the changes--including reshaped lights, fore and aft, and a slightly more tilted windshield--are subtle. But the two-seater is still fast with a top speed of 164 miles per hour.
The engine is also slightly smaller than its predecessor, but revs higher. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is the availability of a four-cylinder engine that gets better gas mileage. There must be some sort of monetary crisis in Europe. porsche.com.
Fans of the more expensive and sportier Vantage S will recognise a number of design cues in the new Vantage Roadster ($132,870). (There's nothing wrong with borrowing from the relatives.) This aluminium two-seater hits a top speed of 180 miles per hour.
An automatic transmission is an option, but even the biggest fans of manual gearboxes might appreciate the Hill Start Assist feature that will help drivers out of tricky spots on steep inclines. astonmartin.com.
Audi's A5 Cabriolet ($44,700) is typical of modern convertibles in that raising or lowering the roof is no longer an onerous chore.
The A5's roof retracts in just 15 seconds and the task can be done at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The muscular A5 seats four and attracts plenty of attention with its LED lights. audiusa.com.
Sometimes driving with the top down sacrifices some speed. Take the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse ($2.6 million), for example, which is the convertible version of the brand's Super Sport.
It manages 233 miles per hour versus its cousin's 255 miles per hour--as if anyone would notice the difference. Maybe it's better to think of it this way: The Vitesse reaches 60 miles per hour before you can count to three. And yes, it is the world's fastest mass-produced convertible.
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