Ah, spring: longer and sunnier days, an end to evenings huddling around a gas heater, and a wardrobe change to cool kits. Of course, ‘tis also the season to enjoy drop-top cars and soak up the sun. As spring slides into summer, it’s time to mess up your hairstyle and catch some rays as the cabriolets and roadsters that stayed shut during the colder months can once again go into open-sky mode.
Driving top-down is a special experience that gets you up close to the environment. It brings in smells and sounds that you forgo cooped up in a car, making you feel part of the scenery, rather than detached from it inside a glass-and-metal cage.
Whether it’s cruising past Camps Bay’s cocktail joints or making a relaxed Sunday breakfast run, going roofless breeds a carefree, elbow-on-the-windowsill demeanour that goes a long way to dissipating road rage.
The taxi that overtook you in the emergency lane? Hakuna matata, man. (Well, we can dream can’t we?) To celebrate the onset of summer, we take a look at some of the coolest drop-top cars available in SA.
1. BMW Z4
While Mercedes-Benz is culling its SLC (formerly known as the SLK) and it’s also rumoured that the Audi TT may be killed off, BMW has decided the roadster segment is not yet a lost cause and recently launched its all-new Z4 in SA.
The sDrive 20i is the entry point into BMW’s open-sky family and it’s powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo with 145kW for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds.
The range-topping Z4 M40i provides more speed and snarl with its 3.0-litre 250kW TwinPower turbo, claiming 4.6 seconds for the 0-100 dash.
Wrapping the two-seat cockpit is an edgy new body that flexes aggressive visual muscles with its crouched stance and bold, geometric contour lines.
The fabric soft top takes just 10 seconds to fold up or down, at driving speeds up to 50km/h. When up, the well-insulated roof allows the driver and passenger to chat without having to raise their voices.
2. MAZDA MX-5 RF
The latest RF (retractable fastback) version of Mazda’s acclaimed two-seater roadster sticks to the tried-and-trusted recipe of hair-ruffling enjoyment, with exemplary rear-wheel-drive handling and sharp steering. And the latest incarnation throws more power into the bargain than its 1.8-litre predecessor, with a 2.0-litre engine that zoom-zooms the car up to 194km/h.
The MX-5 is brimming with modern gadgets, and the retractable hard top opens and closes in 13 seconds, in a theatrically choreographed sequence, at the flip of a switch.
3. FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE
For a more sociable driving experience, Ford offers seating for four in its iconic pony car. The facelifted ’Stang was recently launched in SA, brandishing updated styling and cabin tech. Available as a more budget-friendly 213kW EcoBoost 2.3 turbo, and a 331kW 5.0-litre GT with a thunderous V8 engine, the Mustang Convertible comes with a multilayer insulated cloth top that makes it nearly as quiet inside with the top up as the hard-top Mustang.
The roof lowers in just seven seconds, and there’s enough luggage space for two golf bags.
4. FIAT 500S TWINAIR CABRIOLET
Drop-tops aren’t just a pleasure for the wealthy, and the compact Fiat 500S is the cheapest way to go topless in SA. It has an electrically folding soft roof that peels off easily, and the 900cc turbo engine has enough performance to ruffle man-buns, scooting from rest to 100km/h in 10 seconds, and onto a top speed of 188km/h. And all for under R300K.
5. LAMBORGHINI HURACÁN PERFORMANTE SPYDER
On the other end of the price scale, this Italian supercar will rip your man-bun right off at 325km/h — that top speed courtesy of a 5.2-litre engine packing 470kW, which makes it the most powerful V10 car yet made by Lamborghini.
It also has clever active aerodynamics that press it harder into the road on corners, but let it slip through the air with less drag in a straight line. And you’ll get change from R7-million.
• From the October edition of Wanted 2019.