David Linklater picks his favourite convertibles, just in time for summer.
It's officially summer - which probably means you should have bought that convertible you've always wanted six months ago, when the weather was rubbish and you could get a better deal. But who thinks about open-air motoring in the middle of winter?
Drop-top driving is a special experience and there's a lot of convertible choice out there, in every segment. Here's a heads-up on what open-top cars will give you the most smiles-per-mile this summer. Enjoy.
Luxury four-seat convertibles: you'd be surprised how many there are. What is it you want from a car like this? It's got to be the latest thing, it's got to be dripping with high technology and it's got to exude a hint of excess.
BMW's new 650i does all of that. Standard equipment includes a massive 10.8-inch colour screen (about as big as an iPad) for the major cabin functions, Adaptive Drive with switchable suspension modes, Surround View parking cameras, Head-Up Display, satellite navigation and so-called Comfort seats.
Under the bonnet is a ridiculously powerful 300kW/600Nm 4.4-litre TwinPower V8 that propels you to 100km/h in five seconds, yet still returns 10.7 litres per 100km, should you choose to burble along the waterfront in sedate style.
The top is traditional fabric and can be lowered in just 19 seconds, either from behind the wheel or from the keyfob remote.
If the whole idea of drop-top motoring is to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of summer, you can't do much better than a Jeep Wrangler.
It's ghastly to drive at speed, but slow down and you can enjoy the completely open cabin - drop the windscreen and remove the doors, even - and explore the countryside far from where the seal ends.
The Mazda MX-5 is still in only its third generation after 22 years and remains the benchmark for rear-drive roadster thrills at an affordable price. Mazda has remained remarkably true to its philosophy of light weight, delicate handling and adequate power with the MX-5. It's always been a drop-top, although for the latest model Mazda added a folding-roof option - as ever, cleverly packaged so that it adds virtually no weight to the car.
If you're bored with driving modern cars, an MX-5 will reignite your interest. It's simply brilliant, as well as being the world's most popular sports car and the purest expression of the roadster philosophy.
PORSCHE BOXSTER S
A superb soundtrack: the unique rasp of a flat-six engine right behind the driver's seat, the handling character that only comes from a mid-engined machine and staggering performance.
The Boxster has grown a little bit more wild with each iteration - the latest S, with a 228kW 3.4-litre powerplant and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, is an exhilarating drop-top in every respect. It's that simple and very exciting.
Why do we like the Eos so much? Folding hard-top convertibles are often terribly compromised compared with the small cars on which they are based: for all the advantages in weather protection and security, they don't look as good and suffer from compromised driving dynamics.
The Eos avoids the big issues by being a totally different proposition to the Golf on which it is based (mainly because there's also a Golf soft-top). It has its own name, its own visual identity and the most innovative folding roof in the business: a five-piece affair that incorporates a glass centre section and sliding sunroof.
Not sure why the styling has been blandified so much in the facelift model, but Eos is still deeply impressive for its smooth 2.0-litre turbo/DSG powertrain, excellent build quality and clever engineering.By David Linklater Email David