Whether it’s a brand new or sought-after classic, a convertible is always the right choice if you want to make a statement. Throughout history, the convertible has been associated not only with sportiness and driving pleasure, but also with elegance and luxury.
The earliest convertibles were sports cars with roofs cut off, such as the Jaguar XK120 and MG TF in the 1940s and 50s. This tradition was changed in the 1960s with: cars like the Ferrari 250 GT California and Mercedes-Benz 280SL – which follow the same recipe, but ended up being two very different cars. The convertible quickly became a luxury vehicle based on coupés, with the exception is the Mercedes-Benz SL and SLK models, which are built from the ground up to be convertibles.
Today, convertible cars are usually seen as a fun ride to cruise in luxury along a boulevard, boardwalk or the Riviera while soaking up the sights and sun. If that’s your dream, here are 10 of the best convertibles on the used car market for the perfect cruise along the coastline.
10 2008 Pontiac Solstice GXP ($16,000)
The Pontiac Solstice was a coupe and convertible built between 2006 and 2010. The regular Solstice was equipped with a 2.4-liter i4 that produced 177 horsepower, but was later upgraded to a 2.0-liter turbocharged i4 that produced 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. the Solstice GXP.
The Solstice was a surprisingly good sports car and with the dealer-applied power upgrade – which boosted power to 290 horsepower – the Solstice’s Ecotec LNF engine was the GM engine with the highest specific power at the time. The Solstice is a great car not only for an exhilarating drive along a canyon road, but also for a cruise along a coastline.
9 2012 Audi A5 Convertible ($17,000)
The Audi A5 was introduced in 2007 and was considered a hit in the automotive world. Audi released a convertible in 2009 that largely had the same engines and powertrains. In the US, the A5 Cabriolet was available with a 2.0-liter turbocharged i4, or a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V8 in the S5.
The Cabriolet was standard front-wheel drive, although the Quattro system was available as an option. The A5 Cabriolet is a great car, with more luxurious features and generally more comfortable than many other convertibles. Thanks to the relatively small engine, the A5 gets low fuel consumption, resulting in a longer sunset ride.
8 2016 Mazda MX-5 ($18,000)
The Mazda MX-5 is one of the best budget sports cars ever made. The model redefined the segment and proved that fun and engaging sports cars don’t have to cost the same as a house. This tradition continues to this day with the current generation MX-5, which is easy to use as a daily driver and as a racing car.
The current MX-5 is equipped with a 2.0-liter i4 with 181 horsepower. This may not seem like much, but thanks to its light weight, the MX-5 accelerates to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds (8.5 for the automatic). While it has adequate performance, it is also capable of cruising a winding road in comfort and letting the passengers enjoy the journey.
7 2002 Ford Thunderbird ($9,000)
In 1999, Ford decided they needed a new Thunderbird model, because the previous one didn’t perform very well. So they went back to the original Thunderbird and shaped the 11th generation accordingly. The result was a modern interpretation of the original, but it flopped spectacularly.
The car itself was fine, but the marketing for it was way below par, resulting in appalling sales. Ford was criticized for its approach, with reviewers claiming that this car was aimed at people nostalgic for the original. Ford pulled the plug in 2005. However, the Thunderbird is still there, and became very affordable thanks to depreciation – making it a cheap boulevard cruiser.
6 2012 BMW Z4 ($20,000)
The Z4 is BMW’s version of the sporty roadster recipe. The Z4 was introduced after the Z3 was discontinued and BMW has announced that the current generation Z4 will be its last. The E89 Z4 went on sale between 2009 and 2016 and was the first Z model since the Z1 not to have a fixed roof version.
The Z4 was available with a range of engines ranging from a 2.0-litre turbo i4 in the sDrive18i to a 3.0-litre twin-turbo i6 in the sDrive35is. The mid-range sDrive28i was fitted with a punchy 2.0-liter turbo, which produced an impressive 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 28i was also equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission – the best in the world at the time – resulting in a smooth and comfortable driving experience.
5 2013 Mini Cooper S Convertible ($15,000)
The second generation Mini Cooper (after BMW acquired the company) was introduced in 2006. It was updated from the first generation on a redesigned platform built to be sportier and accommodate more powerful engines. MINI launched the convertible model in 2009 and had largely the same engines as the hardtop.
The Cooper S was equipped with a 1.6-litre turbocharger Prince engine – a collaboration between BMW and Peugeot – and produced 170 hp. Power is sent to the front wheel only via a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Mini Cooper S is an easily manoeuvrable car and has the same ‘Driving Pleasure’ DNA as its parent company.
4 2004 BMW M3 Convertible ($17,000)
The BMW M3 E46 is considered the best of the M3 range, and one of the best M cars ever made. The coupé is the most sought-after model, which means that they ask a considerable amount, even second-hand. The easier but less appreciated option is an M3 Convertible†
The M3 Convertible has the same parts as the coupé, but the disadvantage is that the convertible is heavier and less stiff due to the roof mechanism and structural reinforcements. Either way, the M3 Convertible could still be one of the best driver’s cars ever, or just a powerful cruiser to soak up some much-needed sunlight.
3 2002 Jaguar XK8 Convertible ($10,000)
The Jaguar XK8 Convertible is specially designed for comfortable cruising along the coast. The XK8 replaced the aging XJS in 1997 and was in production until 2006 when the more modern XK took over.
Equipped with a 4.0-liter V8 – which was supercharged in the XKR – the XK8 produced 290 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. The Jaguar XK8 was a great car when properly maintained and was slightly different from the usual Mercedes-Benzes. When considering an XK8, make sure to look for one with a good service history to avoid paying the price of the car in repair costs.
2 2012 Nissan 370Z Roadster ($19,000)
The Nissan 370Z Roadster is a car that is usually overlooked, thanks to the coupé version that is so popular. The roadster was introduced along with the coupe in 2009 and was sold until 2019, before being discontinued to make way for the forthcoming Nissan Z car.
The 370Z was equipped with a 3.7-liter V6 that produced 330 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels only via a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. The most popular transmission choice in the Roadster was the automatic, as it helped create a sense of comfort and luxury.
1 2009 Mercedes Benz SL550 ($19,000)
The Mercedes-Benz SL is the undisputed king of the luxury convertible market. There may be more luxurious and powerful cars in the segment, but the SL has the best combination of the two desirable aspects. The SL was available in many trims, but the mid-range SL550 is currently the best value for money.
The SL550 was a North America only model – in other areas it was simply called the SL500 – and was so called thanks to the 5.5-litre V8 under the hood. The engine produced 380 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque and went to the rear wheels only through a 7-speed automatic transmission. The Mercedes-Benz SL is truly the best budget-luxury convertible for cruising along a winding coastline.
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