top 10 convertibles for summer
andy enright runs the rule over this season's most desirable drop tops.
Please make it stop. That was my abiding memory of this last winter and Mother Nature - or at least La Nina - owes us this summer. With that in mind, now seems about as good a time as any to take a run through of this summer's best and brightest open top cars. There's a lot that's new so, stick with it. In the best traditions of Eric Morley, we'll run from ten down to number one.
10 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet
Hang on. Don't we have a Volkswagen Cabriolet in the sleek shape of the Eos already filling this market niche? Yes, we do but this is Volkswagen, a company that once sold Golf and Jetta estate models in the same market, so logic occasionally goes out of the window. The Golf Convertible will be pitched below the Eos in the hierarchy, thanks to a more affordable folding soft top borrowed from the Audi A3, and if it drives half as well as the standard hatch, it's certainly going to give its key competitors a major headache.
9 BMW 1 Series Convertible
Imagine you like the idea of a BMW 3 Series but don't like the styling and weight compromises brought about by the metal folding roof. Or a 1 Series Coupe would appeal - if only it looked less awkward. Then BMW's 1 Series Convertible is your car. As long as you can afford the usual high BMW up-front prices, the rest of the story is pretty much all good news. Rear wheel drive means exemplary handling and the latest model improves the package still further with styling tweaks, more equipment and even greater efficiency. Buyers of ES, SE and Sport models also get the Aero Curtain feature. This routes air through two ducts in the front apron and jets it out of the wheelarch, shrouding the front wheels, reducing drag and improving efficiency. It's all very clever stuff.
8 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
And now for some not so clever stuff, but which is too much fun to overlook. The Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is gloriously unsubtle but when it looks as good as it does, who cares? After all, what's a convertible for if not to attract attention and breathe in the winning aroma of cremated tyres? The Camaro packs 6.2-litres of R-rated entertainment under its bonnet and if the exchange rate holds up, we might bag a bargain.
7 Volkswagen Eos
The Volkswagen Eos is us with our sensible hat on. The five-piece folding hard top with glass roof section remains the Volkswagen Eos' party piece but this generation car now features cleaner, pared-back styling, a revised trim structure and a greater emphasis on engine efficiency. It commands a premium price but sales thus far show that many British buyers will pay for a quality product. It's also one of the few cars here that will shrug off the British winter with effortless equanimity.
6 Rolls-Royce Ghost Drophead Coupe
Rolls is playing its cards very close to its chest at the moment, but rumour has it that this year sees the Ghost range expanded with Coupe, long wheelbase and Drophead Coupe models. Although it may not be with us in time for summer, you may well be able to place an order with a tame Rolls-Royce dealer for a car that's set to be powered by a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 engine, making it one of the hot tickets.
5 Mercedes-Benz SLK
How do you replace the massively successful SLK? You'll probably have your own views on how well the new car's SLS/CLS-style face integrates with the rest of the lines. It's certainly big. The rear end looks a little perter and overall silhouette looks as neat and well-resolved as each of its predecessors, which have proven about as worryingly resistant to ageing as Tina Turner and Raquel Welch. The cabin has been given a thorough reworking too, with cool contrasting colours and finishes that are a world away from the typical coal hole German interior. Better engine efficiency and a less draughty cabin will also woo buyers.
4 BMW 6 Series Convertible
I was never much of a fan of its bulky and overcomplicated predecessor, but BMW has certainly cleaned the latest Six's styling up. If you're in the enviable position of not having to worry unduly about the finer detail of your disposable income, the 6 Series Convertible looks well positioned. Less porcine than a Bentley Continental GTC, far fresher than a Mercedes SL and guaranteed to be better screwed together than a Maserati Gran Cabrio, it's hard not to see it continuing BMW's record of success.
3 Ferrari California Stop/Start
Can I sell you a green Ferrari? Okay, so the Stop/Start function on the latest Ferrari California cuts CO2 from 299 to 270g/km, but the thing I love most about this car, more than the 193mph top end, more than the slick folding roof, more than the fantastic-sounding V8 is Ferrari's approach to fuel economy. At the launch of this car they didn't release its fuel consumption figures because nobody had been bothered to work them out.
2 Porsche 911 Speedster
You wouldn't find Porsche cutting corners on the facts and the figures, but the key number you need to know regarding the 911 Speedster is 144,100 which is the sum in pounds you'll need to get your name on the registration document. This collector's item is a very difficult vehicle to justify to the lay person. On the face of it, the Speedster appears awkwardly styled and massively overpriced. True Porsche fans, however, will love the detailing in the design, will appreciate that this is a vanishingly rare creation and will love it nonetheless.
1 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante
Hands up those of you who thought that with the launch of Ferrari's 458 Italia, the poor Gallardo might as well shuffle off, dribbling its fluids to a retirement home for senile supercars? Lamborghini clearly thought otherwise and the Performante, effectively a drop top version of the lightweight Superleggera, will smack you in the head and remind you that when it comes to bringing the drama, nobody does it better than Lamborghini. With no roof, you're even closer to the 562bhp main event and for that reason alone, the Gallardo Performante gets my vote as summer 2011's most desirable drop top.