With the good times of summer just around the corner, there's no better time to start thinking about getting an open-top car. Here are the top 10 convertibles currently on sale in Australia, in no particular order. (All prices exclude on-road costs.)
Mazda MX-5 - $47,280-$52,010
The MX-5 is a legend in the auto industry. Literally millions of motorists all around the world enjoy its playful driving character, user-friendliness, and relatively cheap initial price and low ongoing ownership costs. With a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, producing 118kW, the MX-5 is all about balance. Mazda is developing an all-new model with help from Fiat/Alfa Romeo. It's expected to carry on the heritage in fantastic fashion.
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class - $84,950-$157,450
The SLK comes with all of the luxurious you would expect from a top-line Mercedes. One of the great things about the SLK is the fact there are four models to choose from, ranging from an efficient SLK 200, to the fire-breathing 310kW SLK 55 AMG V8. It is pricey, and there are a lot of options to select from, but as a high-quality piece of open-top engineering the SLK is one of the finest packages around.
BMW 4 Series Convertible - $88,800-$126,600
BMW started introducing a new naming structure for its showroom lineup in 2013. This 4 Series is actually the latest 3 Series two-door. It's slightly longer than the 3 Series but inside, it's virtually identical. Powertrains are also carried across, with an all-turbo range consisting of petrol and diesel options. If you haven't seen one of these in the metal, it is quite a stunning car for a mass-produced model. It carries on the 3 Series heritage with pride, offering excellent on-road dynamics and sheer driving efficiency.
MINI Cooper S Cabrio - $48,800-$51,150
Like a dart with seats, the MINI Cooper S Cabrio is an extremely exciting little car for the money. It uses a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine producing 135kW. It's quick, clocking 0-100km/h in just 7.3 seconds. And the handling is nothing short of sensational, gripping and swinging around corners like a kid on a clothesline. It's seriously fun. Best yet, the engine sips just 6.4L/100km. Downsides? The funky interior will take some getting used to and there is a bit of a question mark hanging over the fit and finish and overall interior build quality. The new model is coming out in 2015 with a more potent and more efficient 2.0-litre turbo.
Volkswagen Eos - $49,990-$51,990
Volkswagen's Eos is essentially a Golf convertible, only sportier. That means you're getting all of the renowned build quality and efficiency of a Golf with the freedom of open-air motoring. It's available in two trim levels in Australia, from the entry 103kW 2.0TDI which uses just 5.9L/100km, to the range-topping 155kW 2.0-litre turbo which uses 7.7L/100km (official combined ratings). The added benefit of the Eos is that the roof is actually a hardtop, so with the roof up you get the quietness and solidity of a coupe. Boot space is hampered by the metal apparatus though.
Jeep Wrangler - $33,000-$49,000
You probably didn't think of it as a convertible, but in fact, the Jeep Wrangler is a drop-top; the roof can be lifted off. It does take quite some time to unscrew the hard-top version, but the fabric soft-top models are pretty much like any lift-back roadster. If you want heritage, the Wrangler could be considered as the very first open-top SUV, and it's currently the only car like it in Australia. It's available in a number of flavours, including two-door and four-door, with either a powerful V6 petrol or a more economical 2.8 turbo-diesel.
Jaguar F-Type - $119,430-$201,475
Power, beauty, and soul. The F-Type is a modern throwback to the classic and seductively sexy E-Type of the 1960s. In that sense, it's a modern work of art. It has all the right curves in all the right places, and it goes like absolute stink if you opt for the 364kW V8 version. Even the base model supercharged V6 belches out an almighty roar. An absolutely splendid drop-top.
Ferrari 458 Spider - $588,451
If money isn't really an issue for you, you can't walk past the Ferrari 458 Spider without taking a closer look. It manages to be ferociously fast, agile and extremely well-balanced, and beautiful to look at. Right next to your ears is a 4.5-litre V8 that screams to 9000rpm, and produces 425kW while it's there. The engine has picked up multiple International Engine of Year awards in the past three years. This is a car that is not only a worthy contender in this top 10 list, it's also a contender to be one of the very best cars on sale today.
Porsche Boxster - $102,800-$133,890
Sometimes regarded as the purest driving machine on the market, the Boxster is all about tickling the senses and taking you to the roots of driving enjoyment. From its raw flat-six engine - available in 2.7 and 3.4 capacity - to the perfect steering and handling balance, this is a car that will make you look forward to the weekends even more. Surprisingly, it's also very fuel efficient so you can drive and drive before needing to stop to fill up. In fact, the base model 2.7 consumes an average of 7.7L/100km, which is better than some regular hatchbacks.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder - $395,800
Sitting at the furthest end of the convertible food chain, the R8 V10 is to be respected for its exceptional build quality, sheer luxury and practicality - for a V10 supercar - and outright performance. The latest edition comes with a new dual-clutch transmission that provides lightning-quick gear changes, while the 386kW V10 and quattro all-wheel drive system propels the executive stunner from 0-100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. It also happens to be the best-handling Audi ever made, with genuine balance and confidence in all weather conditions. Did we mention the engine sound?