Life Auto Five convertible cars perfect for Spring driving
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Five convertible cars perfect for Spring driving

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For the lucky northerners of this great brown land, convertible motoring can be a year round treat, but those in the southern states the outlook isn’t always rosy.

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But finally the chill in the air is starting to wane, the trees are budding and birds are twittering … So to speak. And if you’re in the mood for some drop-top action, here are five convertibles to suit all levels of spending.

So, get out and feel the Spring air through your hair and turn some heads as you cruise past the cool cafes or drive into the sunset.

Audi TT Roadster

audi TT roadster

The Audi TT Roadster has always been a bit of a show pony, but the all-new third-generation vehicle brings more substance to the table. OK, so it’s more expensive by virtue of the 1.8’s axing (with the 2.0 now starting at $81,500), but it’s considerably more satisfying to drive, plus there’s some really cool new tech involved.

Smart, sexy and athletic? Sounds too good to be true…

Motoring.com.au says: “…Fair dinkum, I was genuinely surprised with how much fun it was to blast the open TT along the Great Ocean Road.

“Although the steering lacks feel, it doesn’t detract from the fun and the well-sorted suspension makes pointing the car’s front-end where you want almost too easy. Indeed, the TT’s nose feels as keen as the coupe’s thanks to some nifty torque vectoring, and it rips into corners with the appetite of a ravenous hyena.

“The TT Roadster sits flat through corners, there’s virtually no body flex (an issue that afflicts many convertibles) and grip levels are impressive, enabling it to track beautifully – and rapidly – through corners.

“The new Audi TT Roadster is still a superb poseur, but it now also delivers a far more engaging drive experience. It’s as if you get that most splendid in-car tech as a bonus…”

What we liked:
Whiz-bang techno dash
Rapid roof, improved features
Engaging chassis, quattro grip

Not so much:
Firm-ish ride
No 1.8, so price is up
Manual gearbox dead and buried

ROOF RATING: 5/5 Power-operated cloth roof is super rapid and insulates the cabin well.

Read full Audi TT review

Mazda MX-5

mazda mx-5

Mazda has shown its determination to keep the MX-5 relevant by slashing the price of the new fourth-generation and expanding the Australian range to two SKYACTIV-G petrol engine choices – 1.5- and 2.0-litre, the latter coming in November.

But even the 1.5 in basic or GT specification with the choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will raise eyebrows. It’s fun to drive, has a sharp new look and pricing for the cheapest car in the range now starts at $31,990, making this one of the deals of the decade.

Motoring.com.au says: “…Exit from your favourite Sunday morning road and the engine shows it has enough flexibility for cruising. On a freeway in sixth gear at 100km/h the MX-5 lollops along at 2500rpm in top gear.

“Of course, there is also the six-speed auto to consider. A brief drive around Noosa Heads established it was well mated to the engine and didn’t go madly chasing up and down at the hint of a hill. Flip into manual mode and the flappy paddles allowed sharply swapped gears; and it will not change gears unless you ask to – even if the engine is banging away on the rev-limiter. As it should be then.

“But if you buy an MX-5 based on its cabin eloquence and functionality then you’ve got the wrong priorities.”

What we liked:
Pinpoint driving behaviour when being punted
Engine’s willingness to rev
Massive price chop makes it more appealing

Not so much:
Noisy
Rear-end gets choppy on big bumps
Really have to thrash it to get most out of it

ROOF RATING: 2/5 – Cloth roof is manually operated, lots of wind noise, average insulation.

Read full Mazda MX-5 review

BMW 2 Series Convertible

BMW 2 series

Lopping the roof off an existing coupe design has always been a tricky operation. The resultant vehicle may provide open-air thrills but it comes at the expense of weight, dynamism and efficiency. Despite this BMW has stepped up with the 2 Series Convertible.

Can the pose value inherent in the fabric-roofed German compact overcome the price hike over its coupe sibling?

Motoring.com.au says: “…The engine of the 220i is smooth and reasonably responsive, with progressive torque the main name of the game. There’s no point revving it towards 7000rpm; indeed, even in the sportiest drive mode the transmission would shift well before redline. As ever, the eight-speeder is smooth to use though can be a bit slow to react when in comfort drive mode, which is where the majority of driving will be done. ”

“Moving into the 228i the extra power is immediately evident, and welcome; overtaking becomes a simpler process, and at 7.3L/100km recorded (versus 7.1 for the 220i) the real-world effect is minimal in comparison. ”

“As a result the transmission feels more positive, too, able to lug a higher gear where appropriate but also kicking down with more vigour. ”

“All in all, the 2 Series Convertibles are nicely-designed and reasonably well equipped. However, even with its multiple configurations, the price premium and dynamic drop-offs cannot be overcome. ”

What we liked:
Extra urge of 228i
Smooth auto transmission
Simple roof operation

Not so much:
Steering is slacker than coupe’s
Narrow seats
Price premium over coupe variants

ROOF RATING: 3/5 – Power-operated cloth roof not as quick as Audi TT’s, but well insulated

Read full BMW 2-Series convertible review

Holden Cascada

holden cascada

Holden has returned to the convertible market for the first time in five years. And unlike the last Astra drop-top, which featured a folding hard-top, the newly-named Cascada has a soft-top, plus it’s also significantly cheaper and better specified than before.

Motoring.com.au says: “The classy design theme continues inside, where there’s a high level of standard equipment including perforated leather-appointed trim for all four seats, an electric park brake, heated and powered exterior mirrors, heated front sports Siena seats and alloy pedals.

“There’s also satellite-navigation, DAB+ digital radio, a single-CD player with MP3 capability, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB and auxiliary input jacks and even a heated leather-clad steering wheel.

“The Cascada is a classy, stylish open-top cruiser that’s built more for show than go, but offers plenty of space and equipment for a good price, and can actually fit passengers in the back!”

What we liked:
Top-down design
Price and packaging
Performance and equipment

Not so much:
Weight, scuttle shake
New name, same dash
Infotainment system

ROOF RATING: 4/5 – Power-operated cloth roof is fast and provides excellent weather protection.

Read full Holden Cascada review

Mercedes-Benz SLK

mercedes benz

Back in 1996 the first-generation SLK roadster caused something of a stir with its folding hard-top roof. Now we’re well into generation three, which launched in 2011, and we’re examining how the popular 250 model is holding up to the test of time.

Motoring.com.au says: “…There is one job Benz’s convertible hard-top roadster is really good at: posing. If you like being looked at, then roof down on a nice day the SLK is a good-looking winner – as presumably you are basking in reflected glory.

“Punch out of a tight corner with the electronic assistants relaxed and you can even square up the multi-link rear-end for an engaging amount of moderate oversteer. Gotta love rear-wheel drive!

“You get an online multimedia system, hard-disc navigation, internet browsing, climate-control and parking sensors, although the boot is a bit small.”

“It’s going to leave a big hole in your wallet, and is far from practical, but this car is both fun to drive and looks fantastic – and it’s the metal folding roof is a winner.”

What we liked:
It’s very stylish…
…and refined with the roof down
Lively and nimble on smooth roads

Not so much:
It hates rough roads
There’s limited storage
Roof should open and close on the move

ROOF RATING: 5/5 – Power-operated metal folding roof offers optimum insulation and weather protection.

Read full Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 review

SUNDAY-BEST-HOME

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