Convertibles are best enjoyed while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. These cars pull the dread out of the everyday and fold the roof down with it. Some of this excitement comes at the sacrifice of rear-seat and cargo space. Still, it’s tough to worry about what could’ve been when the sun’s shining on your face. Like tanning lotions, convertibles come in varying strengths. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a go-kart for adults, but it pales in comparison to the violent rawr of the 670-hp Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Comparing the two against each other pits apples against oranges, but both convertibles are capable of raising your heart rate.
At the cost of a little chassis stiffness (not to mention the additional equipment required for track days), convertibles do away with some of the interference between the tailpipes and your ears. This is both a blessing and a curse. The answer depends on the length of your commute and the weather that defines the area you call home. We’ve lifted every storage lid, pressed every button, and studied these droptops as part of our intensive testing regimen in order to determine the difference between a great time and a compromised driving experience.
Although it's also offered as a hard-shell coupe, the droptop convertible version of the A5 is the four-seat two-door Audi that's built for sun worshippers. While we review the four-door A5 Sportback separately, all A5 models—regardless of door count—feature standard all-wheel-drive and share a 261-hp turbocharged four-cylinder that mates to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Those in search of additional power can step up to the 349-hp S5, which cranks up the two-door’s dynamic performance but costs nearly $10,000 more. (Audi also offers the coupe in 444-hp RS 5 form. Plan on dropping north of $75,000 for this model.)
You might have to squint to tell the high-performance 2023 Audi S5 cabriolet model from its standard-issue A5 counterpart. The meaningful differences hide behind the S5’s nose. Every S5 gets a 349-hp turbocharged V-6 with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a substantial leap from the A5’s 261-hp turbo-four. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive is standard equipment, and so are a pair of burly six-piston front brake calipers. Although the S5 is more bite than roar, its subdued exhaust note is a change of pace in a segment with a lot of buzz and thunder. The guts of the S5 are fashionable and they complement its accurate and predictable helm. It lacks the passenger space of the four-door S5 Sportback (reviewed separately), but all it shares available tech like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display, a large infotainment touchscreen, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system. The S5 isn’t quite as quick as more aggressive options such as the BMW M440i and Mercedes-Benz C63, but it’s nonetheless engrossing to drive, and it will fit the needs of those seeking a balance of comfort, sporty performance, and tasteful style.
Bentley Continental GT
We can think of few better cars in which to tackle a cross-country drive than the 2023 Bentley Continental GT. This grand touring two-door convertible offers upper-class styling and sumptuous luxury worthy of its six-figure price. With either the powerful V-8 or W-12 engine under the hood—both are twin-turbocharged—the Conti hustles, and its handling deftly walks the line between comfort and cornering composure. All of Bentley’s best materials including fragrant leather, rich wood, and textured metal trim line the cabin, which is packed with luxury features designed to make the journey relaxing as well as quick. And should you want a bespoke GT outfitted like no other, Bentley can handle that for you, too, through its Mulliner coachbuilding division.
From the driver’s seat, there’s little that differentiates the 2023 BMW 4-series from the 3-series sedan on which it’s based, and that’s a good thing. But on the outside, the two-door convertible body style and oversize twin-kidney grille give the 4-series a look entirely different from its four-door, 3-series counterpart. Practicality takes a back seat here, literally, as the 4-series’ rear seat is snug; nor is its trunk as spacious as the 3-series’ cargo hold. But if anyone cares, they can opt for the 3-series sedan. The 4-series convertible is stylish, quick, and refined as you’d expect BMWs to be. What’s missing, however, is the brand’s traditionally sharp handling, especially if you go with the entry-level 430i model, which comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Opt for the more powerful M440i, which sports a rambunctious turbocharged inline-six, and things get a lot more interesting—but even its backroad moves aren’t as special as we would hope.
As the two-door version of the M3 sedan, the M4 has high levels of comfort, luxury, and daily usability—and a reasonably roomy rear seat should you need them. Power and grip are two areas where the BMW M4 shines. The convertible M4 comes with a fiery 503-hp twin-turbo inline-six engine, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed automatic. An overwhelming number of driving modes that control powertrain-and-chassis configurability complicate finding a setup you’re happy with. That complaint aside, the M4 is one special automobile. Lots of power, tons of torque, and an available manual transmission remind us of what made M cars so damn good a long time ago.
Pitch it down a twisty road and the 2023 BMW Z4 convertible will make even novice drivers giggle. Two smooth-running turbocharged engines are offered—a 255-hp four and a 382-hp turbo-six—and the larger engine is ferocious. While the Z4’s handling isn’t as crisp as the mechanically-similar Toyota Supra coupe’s—the two share their engines and chassis—or rivals’ such as the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, the Z4’s ride comfort and posh cabin make it easy to enjoy. Having the soft top folded gives you a free-feeling driving experience, but with the top in place, the Z4’s cabin is hushed enough to be comfortable for a long highway drive. All models come with an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, so if you’re looking for a manual transmission or all-wheel drive, the Z4 may not be for you.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible walks the thin line that separates where the everyday meets the racetrack. Using the everyday Camaro (reviewed separately) as a building block, the tornado that is the ZL1 makes the mighty 455-hp Camaro LT1 and SS trims feel like comparative wind gusts. Credit the ZL1's trim-exclusive 650-hp supercharged V-8, as well as its wide Goodyear F1 SuperCar tires that are as sticky as s'mores. An available 1LE performance package awakes an even mightier beast, with the package adding even wider and stickier tires, adjustable camber plates at each corner, and Multimatic's Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve dampers. Think of the Camaro ZL1 as a NASCAR Cup Series racer for the street.
With supercar performance, an affordable price tag, and flashy styling, the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette honors the nameplate's decades-old status as an automotive icon—but with a mid-engine twist. The current C8 is the first generation to have its naturally aspirated V-8 engine mounted behind the passenger compartment, which boosts Chevy's halo sports car into the realm of exotic machinery. Its sharp handling and explosive acceleration are a match for sports cars costing tens of thousands more, but it’s also comfortable and refined enough to drive cross-country. The C8 is offered as both a convertible and a coupe, and the hardtop model has a roof panel that can be lifted off to allow the sun to shine in. Its cabin is cozy but comfortable, and there's adequate trunk storage for groceries or luggage, making the Corvette an easy sports car to live with on a daily basis. We're charmed by this perennial 10Best award winner, and we think you will be too.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 elevates the iconic nameplate into territory occupied by exotics from Ferrari and Lamborghini. With the engine now located behind the driver, it looks unlike any Z06 seen before. Not only is it considerably wider than the regular Corvette Stingray, but it also boasts bigger air intakes and a unique rear wing. Thanks to a flat-plane crankshaft, the new Z06's naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 doesn't sound like any Vette that's come before, and it blasted the car to 60 mph in just 2.6 seconds at our test track. While it inherits the best amenities and technology from the Stingray, its performance and handling have been heightened and sharpened. Chevy switched to a mid-engine layout to make the C8 Corvette a supercar that more folks can afford, and the 2023 Corvette Z06 promises to embarrass more than a few people driving insanely expensive supercars when they meet at a racetrack. We were so impressed by the z06 that we named it to our 2023 10Best cars list alongside the Stingray.
Whether it's crunching through dense forest trails or quietly idling up to a Wendy's drive-through window, the four-wheel-drive Ford Bronco is arguably the most exciting off-roader since the Jeep Wrangler. And like its off-road rival, the Bronco is also a convertible, featuring your choice of either a fabric or hardtop roof. A winner of our 10Best Trucks and SUVs award, the Bronco comes in both two- and four-door body styles, and it was designed to do everything a Wrangler can—and it does that and more. Yes, you can remove the doors on the Bronco just like you can on a Wrangler, but only the Ford retains its mirrors. Both brands' SUVs cater to the big muddy, but the Bronco suffers from noticeably less road noise when traveling the highways between puddles. It has more base horsepower too, with output ranging between a 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four and a 330-hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. If you're after more than that, feast your eyes on the swollen fenders of the 418-hp Bronco Raptor, reviewed separately. With a dizzying array of models, trims, and optional equipment, the Bronco offers vast configurability that allows it to fit a wide range of needs—even for those die-hards (like us) who want to shift gears with the help of a clutch pedal.
Ford Bronco Raptor
If you're lusting for a badass ride that offers extreme levels of off-road performance, you have quite a few options. A great one is the 10Best award-winning 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor, an off-road predator that muscles up the already-capable Bronco SUV with a burly EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, a multi-configurable four-wheel-drive system, a suspension setup with Fox dampers that can cope with whatever terrain you might throw at it, huge 37-inch tires with deep treads, and skid plates galore. Beyond that, the Raptorized Bronco is also capable of towing up to 4500 pounds and sprinting to 60 miles per hour in less than six seconds. It's not the most comfortable highway cruiser, but it's not intended to be; this Ford is for hardcore off-road enthusiasts who see the world as a massive, sandy, rock-strewn playground waiting to be explored.
For more than 55 years, the Ford Mustang has continued to evolve into a more sophisticated steed. This iteration comes standard with a 310-hp turbocharged inline-four EcoBoost engine with a six-speed manual transmission. And while the pony car gets as wild as the 760-hp Shelby GT500, reviewed separately, the more conventional choice is the Mustang GT with the 450-hp V-8 engine. Both the four-cylinder and V-8 can be mated to a manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic. Although a High Performance 330-hp EcoBoost is an available upgrade for the four-cylinder, the Mustang is best served with the growling V-8. While its closest muscular rival, the Chevy Camaro, has a more ergonomic interior, the Mustang's larger back seat and better outward visibility make it easier to live with.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
To call the 2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata an icon would be an understatement. The drop-top compact sports car reinvented the niche when it appeared for the first time back in 1989. Since then, it has only gotten better, honing its performance and handling to what it is today: one of the most entertaining things on four wheels. The Miata competes with the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR 86 twins but unlike those coupes, it's offered with either of two open-top body styles—a cloth-top convertible or a retractable hard-top Targa called RF. All models are powered by a revvy 181-hp four-cylinder and come with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, a combination that recalls the sports cars of yesteryear. An automatic transmission is available but stick with the manual; it makes this featherweight two-seater an engrossing drive partner. It isn't the best choice for daily commuting or long road trips, and tall drivers will find the cabin a bit cramped, but the Miata is equipped with the essentials, and its chassis is expertly tuned for maximum fun.
Life is short: Skip the SUV and drive a real performance car. Might we suggest the absolutely ballistic 2023 Mercedes-Benz C63 S? This twin-turbo two-door boasts a 503-hp V-8 powertrain and a chassis that delivers laser-focused handling, making it one of the most brutish models in Mercedes-AMG’s product portfolio. It doesn’t ride like a luxury car though it offers plenty of high-end features and premium materials inside its well-equipped cabin. It should be noted that the C63 offered this year rides on the previous-generation C-class platform, so those seeking the latest and greatest should consider waiting for next year’s 2024 model, which will be offered only as a sedan and will be powered by an even-more-ballistic 671-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid powertrain.
The Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet is sporty, handsome, and thoroughly engaging to drive, which is why it’s earned our Editors' Choice award every year from 2019 through 2023. What separates the E53 from the regular Benz-branded E-class is its athleticism, which can be seen, felt, and heard. The enhancements over the standard model start with its straight-six-cylinder engine, which is affixed with both a turbocharger and an electric supercharger and boasts a respectable 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. The E53 rides on AMG-tuned sport suspension and feature numerous visual changes from their special grille to their quad tailpipes, all of which communicate their more serious purpose at a glance.
It might look the part of a racy sports car, but the 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL-class is really more of a grand touring car with a fashion-forward wardrobe. Handling is sharp enough to be entertaining, but the SL’s party piece is its thundering V-8 powertrain. Although all models come with all-wheel drive and are powered by the same twin-turbo V-8 engine, the SL is offered in two strengths, starting with the 469 horsepower SL55 and graduating to the 577 horsepower SL63. The SL’s cabin has enough space for two adults and includes plenty of luxury and tech features, including a cool 11.9-inch infotainment display that can adjust its position to better meet the driver’s line of sight. Although Mercedes-AMG refers to the SL as a roadster, it does have two small rear seats. But the back seat is better used as a place for your tote bag or your shopping, as legroom is limited; with the convertible top in place, so is headroom.
Velvety, creamy, buttery, smooth–these are the words that come to mind in a Mercedes-Benz E-class. Even with its top down, the E-class convertible provides a sense of lavish comfort and there's a long list of options to enable customers to tailor their car to their taste. All E-Class convertibles are blessed with a 362-hp version of Mercedes's silken 3.0-liter inline-six. The E-class comes with a good-sized helping of luxury items ranging from a glove-compartment cool box to a power-adjustable steering column. Surprisingly, however, some things you would expect to be standard in this price class turn out to be optional, like leather upholstery and the more sophisticated of Mercedes's driver assists. The E-class is a tranquil, comfort-first cruiser, so those with a need for speed should check out the AMG E53 for its amplified performance. But if it's a beautifully crafted luxury automobile you're after—with a pedigree to match—the E-class has always been and remains a compelling choice.
Porsche 718 Boxster
Although the 2023 718 Boxster is technically the brand's entry-level car, its brilliant handling, powerful turbocharged engines, and connected-to-your-psyche steering make it anything but a diluted version of the hallowed 911. The Boxster and its sibling, the 718 Cayman coupe, are superb representations of what a sports car should be, making them excellent additions to our 10Best cars list. A mid-engine configuration gives the Boxster a balanced, light-on-its-feet feel on the road, and you can enjoy the aggressive exhaust note and the sun's warming rays at the same time with the top pulled back. Okay, you caught us waxing poetic; the Boxster isn't a perfect car. Cargo space is limited, there are only two seats inside its cockpit, and the best powertrain—the sweet, sonorous flat-six—is limited to the expensive GTS trim. But let's be real here—it's a sports car, so who would expect it to be all things to all drivers? That's what makes the 718 so special: It's brilliant at all things a sports car needs to be.
If you close your eyes and picture a Porsche, it's likely that the 911 renders first in your imagination. This rear-engined sports car is a legend—and for good reason. Make that many reasons. For decades it has been a benchmark for performance and handling and feel, inspiring rivals such as the Aston Martin Vantage, the Audi R8, and the Maserati MC20, to name a few. The "standard" 911 sticks to its roots with a set of twin-turbo flat-six engines that have been tuned for up to 473 horsepower. Higher-performance Turbo models are available—this is Porsche, of course—but we review those cars separately. Most 911 models have rear-wheel drive but all-wheel drive is available. A traditional Cabriolet convertible features a soft top that retracts all the way down, but Porsche also offers the 911 as a Targa which features a retractable panel above the front seats. Both have a cabin that is comfortable for two adults whether it's been decked out in luxuries or left bone stock. The 911's superiority stems not only from its lofty performance capabilities but also from the fact that it's comfortable enough to live with on a daily basis.
Porsche 911 Turbo / Turbo S
The Porsche 911 Turbo's delivery of speed is nothing short of freaky fast. Its all-wheel-drive launches are courtesy a standard 573-hp 3.7-liter flat-six or a 640-hp version for Turbo S models. It's among the quickest cars we've ever tested, getting to 30 mph in 0.8 seconds, to 60 mph in 2.1 seconds, and through a quarter-mile in just 9.9 seconds at 138 mph. Its rocket-like acceleration is undergirded by its ability to swallow corners in whole gulps thanks to its near-magical handling, amazing steering feel, and huge amount of grip. Although the 911 Turbo doesn't offer a manual transmission, the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is quicker and smarter than us anyway. More time with both hands at the wheel is a good idea with power like this. While we love the rear-drive 473-hp 911 with a manual transmission, that doesn't mean we'd ever say no to the quicker and more firmly-sprung 911 Turbo and Turbo S.
Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.
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