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Check the Top before Buying Your Convertible

Aside from the initial purchase price, make sure to budget for any extra features you may need, as well as for the operating costs of owning and driving a convertible. Keeping such a vehicle generally costs about the same as operating a coupe or a sedan. Also consider the type of top you get, since soft roofs, although quite durable, will need replacing at some point. Hardtops on the other hand, are more likely to become faulty and in need of a costly repair.

Manual vs. automatic tops

There are soft versus hard tops, and both can be operated manually, electrically, or a mix of these, where powered roofs still need to be manually unlatched. A handful of convertibles nowadays, usually those with soft tops, require manual operation; for example:

  • The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a non-luxury two-seater with a soft roof that retracts and comes forward by manually flipping a latch. Nonetheless, it is very easy to operate.

On the other hand, luxury convertibles have hardtops that are almost always fully automatic and require no more than the touch of a button:

  • The C7 Chevrolet Corvette features a powered soft top that can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph.
  • The Porsche 911 Cabriolet comes with an automatic soft top that provides proper insulation when raised, and a wind deflector when lowered. Driving this model ensures you have an enjoyable ride regardless of the weather.
  • The steel hardtop on the 2016 BMW 4 Series can fold and lower in as little as 20 seconds. The downside is that since it is a hardtop, it sacrifices the trunk space normally available.
  • An exception is the 2016 Ford Mustang, as it has a power-operated soft (rather than the usual hard) top.
  • Another exception: the multilayer soft top of the 2016 BMW 2 Series is completely electric. The cloth roof saves more trunk space and folds quicker than a metal top. What’s particularly great about this model is that you can get your soft top in a metallic finish. It also blocks out much of the road noise.

Extras

Additional options range from convenience to luxury features. To make your ride as comfortable as possible, look for models that come with heated and cooled seats, wind deflectors, and leather upholstery that is also sun-reflective.

Luxury options that can be found in non-luxury rides as well include: automatic climate control, rearview cameras, Bluetooth and smartphone interfaces, navigation systems, etc. If you are interested in a four-seat convertible, check that the front seats return automatically to their previous position.

Engines

Most drop tops have four- and six-cylinder engines whose combined mileage can rate mid to upper 20 mpg. Luxury convertible cars use six-cylinder or V8 engines; these are more powerful even though most rate lower than 20 mpg.

Transmission

Porsche 911 Cabriolet and the Mazda MX-5 Miata feature both manual and automatic transmission, though not all Cabriolet models have manual transmission. Similarly, the C7 Chevrolet Corvette has automatic transmission, plus a seven-speed manual one.

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