This summer's three hottest convertibles

By Liz Dobson

It's only a few weeks to summer so to prepare for the sunny weather, so it's time to put down the roof and hit the road with three soft-tops

Jaguar F-Type V8 S Pictures/ Ted Baghurst
Jaguar F-Type V8 S Pictures/ Ted Baghurst

The businessman did a double take as I pulled up to the traffic lights on Queen St, walked up to my test car and said: "Give me a ride in your car and I'll marry you."

Okay, there may be a man drought in Auckland but I rejected the stranger's proposal as I was sure it was the car not the driver Mr Businessman had fallen instantly in love with.

Not that I was jealous of my ride, because I too was smitten with the phenomenal Jaguar F-Type V8 S sports car.

Sure, the orange hue helped it garner attention but it was the body shape of the two-seater soft-top that also had piqued interest during my five-day test drive.

"Is it an Aston Martin or a Maserati?" A common question from strangers, while my chiropractor and two-time Porsche owner Simon Kelly told me he spent 15 minutes staring out the window trying to work out what the car was.

And when I was finished at his clinic, Simon demanded I take him for a drive, instantly converting him from a Porsche fan to a F-Type lover. Though he probably didn't appreciate when I gave him whiplash after taking off at speed from motorway on-ramp lights - hey, it supposedly hit 100km/h in 4.3 seconds and I was just testing it.

Simon would have to save up though, because the supercharged 5-litre V8 petrol engine with a phoar-inspiring 364kW of power and 625Nm of torque cost $180,000.

It sat on 20-inch wheels and came with quad exhaust pipes that are all the better for hearing the car roar.

The interior was macho looking, with sports seats in the V8 S, and a clean, easy to use dash. The roof took about 12 seconds to retract and the boot was teeny tiny, though Jag has created weekend luggage that fits in the space (see right).

Drive-wise, you can have the F-Type in "quiet" mode - with two exhaust open - but push the button on the console that opens the four exhausts ... and magic happens.

Strangers propose. Grandmas whoop with delight. Your colleagues form an orderly queue so they can go for a ride.

That's because of the active sports exhaust open the four pipes, and with a rev of the engine the V8 crackles very loudly and gives off a rumble that probably sounds like Smaug the dragon from The Hobbit films.

I had it over the long weekend, and due to zero tolerance on speed, I had to set the cruise control on 53- or 103km/h rather than risk losing my licence. So to amuse myself I drove through the St Marys Bay tunnel at under 70km/h, tapped the accelerator with all four exhausts open and laughed as the V8's roar echoed.

Compared with the mid-engined Porsche Boxster, the F-Type constantly demands your attention. There was no sitting back and relaxing.

No, driving the F-Type is like having George Clooney as your boyfriend: people covet him; there's the constant attention; you never know quite what he's going to get up to; but wonderful to look at, and a joy to be seen with. Now if it was George who had proposed on Queen St, I'd have said yes.

Mercedes E250

There's only one mode of transport to arrive in at a concert if you want to make an impression and, no, it's not a limo - it's a convertible.

Mercedes E250 Convertable. Photo / Ted Baghurst.
Mercedes E250 Convertable. Photo / Ted Baghurst.

Sure, a limo may be the pick for rock stars but, to turn the heads of the queuing fans, it pays to arrive at the venue in a convertible with the roof down and the music blaring.

In Auckland recently for the One Direction concert, my two teenage nieces and one of
their friends were the hit of the night when they arrived at Vector Arena in my test car, the Mercedes-Benz E250 cabriolet.

The rain had stopped just as we arrived at the venue, so the roof came off, the music came on (and no it wasn't One Direction) and we drove to the Vector Arena past the
huge line of young girls.

While the British boy band may have won my nieces' hearts, the ride was the hit of the night and won me the title of Best Aunt in the World.

My nieces certainly had good taste in cars, with the petrol cabrio priced at $118,900 for
the 2-litre, four-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged engine offering 155kW and 350Nm.

The seven-speed auto had eco and sport mode plus manual via steering wheel paddles.

At the Australia launch in August, my pick was the E400 cabrio ($137,900) that had the 3-litre, six cylinder (245kW/480Nm) bi-turbo engine. While the E250 provided all-round performance, and fuel economy, I'd still like to take the E400 for a longer road trip - minus the nieces though.

The four-seater had 19in alloys, and have the safety-conscious Driving Assistance Packages that include distronic (where you are warned if you are tailgating), attention-level display on the instrument panel, blind sport monitoring and 11 airbags.

The two front leather seats were heated and had airscarfs - neck-level heating units.

On the road, the cabrio had real appeal thanks to the E-Class's large front grille that screamed ''Mercedes-Benz'' - though probably not as loud as a 1D fan screams at a concert.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio

There's nothing worse than driving along the motorway with the roof off on a convertible when suddenly it begins to rain. But it's not the water that's the hassle, it's the sneers from fellow drivers.

2013 Citroen DS3 Cabrio. Photo / Ted Baghurst.
2013 Citroen DS3 Cabrio. Photo / Ted Baghurst.

Well, there are no sneers when you drive Citroen's DS3 cabriolet during inclement weather because the soft top works at up to 100k/hr.

It also cunningly retracts into three positions: spot one is behind the driver's head, spot two behind the rear passengers, and the last sits on top of the boot. Though that spot means restricted rear vision.

And as the Metservice says we're in for a hot summer, having the retractable roof will be handy if you're stuck on the motorway and you feel like an instant shot of vitamin D.

The Citroen DS3 cabrio is available in New Zealand in two model variants with 1.6-litre petrol engines.

The DStyle parades on 16in alloys and with an auto transmission ($40,990) and the aptly named DSport ($42,990) on 17ins and the turbo engine paired with a stonking six-speed manual transmission. My pick was the responsive manual. The cabrio is based on the DS3
hatchback's two-toned appearance, with a favourite of mine being the coloured side mirrors. There's the LED strips behind the front fog lights and 3D brake lights at the rear.

The DS3 cabrio comfortably seats five adults though the narrow, long boot means you have to lever bags into the boot space, which luckily is large (245 litres) due to the roof sitting on top of it, not in it.

- NZ Herald

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