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Convertibles have a short shelf-life - pick your summer outfit from these drop-tops.
Spring is here and with the warmer weather comes a new wave of open-top cruisers designed to make the most of the Australian summer.
Convertibles have always been more fashion accessory than mere transport, so it's vital to know what's new and what's not when shopping for your next drop-top.
It's worth noting that - supercar variants apart - convertibles have a short shelf-life. They may look stunning when new but they only hold the audience's attention until the next model rolls into town. Then they're as old as last season's summer wear.
CarsGuide has pulled together a drop-top guide for any budget.
The acclaimed MX-5 is still the cheapest ticket to open-air thrills. The Japanese maker has added a more powerful 2.0-litre engine that takes the price to $34,990, but you can still get the 1.5-litre for $31,990.
If straight-line power isn't the be-all and end-all, the Mazda excels as a sports car. It is old-school motoring with light but precise steering and a suspension set-up biased towards cornering over comfort. Interior space is minimal and there a bit of noise with the top down but that only adds to the appeal.
Mazda Australia has sold more than 1100 MX-5s so far this year and spokesman Tony Mee says warmer weather customarily causes a spike in convertible sales. Mazda is looking to capitalise on that with the arrival of the hard-topped RF (retractable fastback) version, which should sneak in before the end of summer.
Minis are all about expressing your inner child and the convertible takes that to new heights. It still comes with all the customisable interior and exterior bling (the fabric roof can be optioned with a Union Jack motif) yet in base guise is comparably priced to the Mazda at $37,900 for the 1.5-litre Cooper. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder Cooper S hits $45,400 and the performance-oriented John Cooper Works arrives in October priced at $54,900.
Italy's take on the Mazda MX-5, the Spider gets a 1.4-litre turbo that delivers an on-paper performance advantage over its Japanese cousin. Power is up, from 118kw in the 2.0-litre Mazda to 125kW, but more importantly peak torque, or pulling power, increases from 200Nm to 250Nm and arrives much lower in the rev range.
Offsetting that is bigger bodywork and a more spacious cabin fitted with more gadgets, which is expected to push the price out to the mid-$40,000 range when the car officially goes on sale next month.
In keeping with the Abarth heritage, the 124 Spider is fitted with a limited-slip diff, beefed-up anti-roll bars, Brembo brakes and Bilstein dampers.
Overnight, the Mustang has become the most popular convertible in the country but the downside is there's a big waiting list. The wait for a 5.0-litre V8, which costs $66,205, is six to nine months. If you can't wait that long, the four-cylinder turbo ($54,990) will take about three to four months to arrive.
Despite the limited supply, it is outselling every other passenger car in the Blue Oval fleet this year.
This works as a showboat or speedboat, depending on your engine choice. Prices start at $55,900 for the modestly powered 220i, hit $68,900 for the 228i and stretch to $86,215 for the M235i with a 100km/h sprint time of 5.0 seconds flat. Fit and finish are classy and it is more than capable of handling daily driving duties.
Porsche's "cheaper" soft-top rounds out the list of regular convertible contenders. The German two-seater combines cabrio and sports car and the $113,900 price looks cheap against the supercars.
The 718 Boxster is quite happy trundling up cobblestone alleys with the adaptive suspension set to Comfort but comes into its own on country roads where you can really soak up the sunshine and smells — the noise is drowned out by the burble of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
You'll need $143,400 to take possession of the Boxster S, with enough thrust to deliver a hair-raising 4.6-second run to 100km/h.
Hold on to your hat
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class convertible is due next month in C200 and C300 guises, priced from $85,900 and $99,900 respectively. Standard gear in the Benz showboats includes an acoustically dampened soft-top, LED headlamps, satnav and digital audio and a head-up display.
The higher-performance C43 AMG and Mercedes-AMG C63 S variants aren't scheduled until early next year, priced from $119,900 and $179,900.
Range Rover's Evoque convertible is due ahead of the summer heat, with predicted local arrival in November.
If the drop-top model — the world's first convertible SUV — emulates the success of the regular Evoque, design boss Gerry McGovern will have established a new prestige niche others are sure to follow: the "four-wheel drive for four seasons".
Pricing is expected to start at $84,835 for the entry level turbo diesel, rising to $91,015 for the top-spec petrol model.
I'm a convert
The top end of town has had a busy year for drop-tops. Vying for the headlines are the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder for a lazy $470,800 and the Ferrari 488 Spider at $526,888. The price isn't the issue; the look is and these are very different beasts.
The Lambo is all angles and polygons; the Ferrari more moulded metal — the choice is yours. What they have in common is an undeniable on-road presence the extroverted can appreciate. That effect is accentuated with the top down and the mechanical symphony belting out to occupants and passers-by alike.
For those whose motoring exhibitionism runs to seven figures, there's also a limited-edition run of La Ferrari drop-tops (officially due to be shown at October's Paris motor show) but you'll need to know someone who knows someone... the initial production run is already sold.