Hot 2019 Convertibles

Doff your lids this summer and take to the streets — and bring the family along. Some of the season’s best new convertibles were made for you enthusiasts who want a little excitement but aren’t after pure sports cars. You’ll get performance, sure, but without the hard edge that makes your passengers wince over every crinkle in the asphalt. These three cars’ tops feature the finest new technology, meaning they’re far quieter and faster to open and close than those ragtops of yore. Read on for how each car stands apart on today’s crowded roadways.
BY MICHAEL FRANK — Summer 2019
Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Another Level of Quiet

Ordinarily you choose a convertible because you want to drive with the lid down. But Bentley has all-purpose comfort in mind, so its engineers crafted a brilliant fabric top — one that’s so quiet when closed, the interior noise level actually matches that of the prior-generation metal-roofed car.

The yacht of cars: Yes, other cars offer wood trim, but if you want wood in your Bentley, we recommend choosing from a pairing option that combines two complementary veneers offset with chrome striping, similar to what you might find on the deck of a yacht. Options include walnut, eucalyptus, and Hawaiian koa wood. You can further customize the look with a dyed leather headliner for the inside of the convertible top.

Heavy metal: Don’t dig wood? Trim your cabin in what’s called Côtes de Genève, an aluminum finish ordinarily reserved for watch faces. Craftsmen buff away the scantest amount of metal, creating a waved surface that has an uncanny heft when you touch the panels. For the creases on the car’s exterior, technicians use a process called superforming, in which they heat materials to nearly 1,000 degrees so they can bend with exceeding precision.

Super cruiser: Thrilling. That’s a word frequently associated with a Lamborghini or Ferrari, but we found this 626-horsepower, 12-cylinder Bentley thrilling, too, precisely because the carmaker didn’t try to make a direct rival to those fire-breathers, which demand a breakneck pace to feel alive. This Bentley thrills at all speeds — whether we were loafing along with the lid dropped catching rays in the seaside towns of southern Spain, where we tested ours, or plying high-velocity corners carved into the Andalusian hills. True, at full-bore, the air-suspended ride yields excellent handling, but back off and soak in the view and you learn that this car’s really all about a Bentley-esque, above-the-fray manner that left us grinning even after eight hours at the wheel.

More info: From $236,100; bentleymotors.com


BMW Z4 M40i

Same Name, Different Car

Carmakers, like winemakers, don’t throw away good names. If you make a great Barolo in Italy, you don’t trash the name and start over with each new vintage. So though the BMW Z4 label sticks around, as it has since 2002, engineers started fresh to make the new-for-2019 Z4 quicker, with a muscular in-line six-cylinder engine producing 382 horsepower, and added leg and shoulder room, too.

Suspension + engine magic: The new Z4 features the around-town playfulness of a Mazda Miata, yet can be pushed toward a very spunky edge thanks to its wider track offering more lateral grip and electronically controlled dampers so you can stiffen handling at will. It vaults to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, and its paddle-shift, eight-speed gearbox will erase any desire you may have for a traditional manual.

Making room: Are you a taller driver who feels hemmed in by most two-seat convertibles? The driver’s seat supplies an extra-long rake for longer legs, and added width increases elbow room. Plus, the 9.9-cubic-foot trunk gulps golf bags or a three-day weekend’s worth of luggage.

Smart tech: Pair your phone to the car’s digital systems and the Z4 learns your driver preferences. For example, the car’s Intelligent Personal Assistant learns your most frequent destinations and suggests rerouting along the way in case an accident blocks your usual commute. Likewise, it knows your seat-heating preferences and your musical tastes, too, and can join teleconferences at your request and read out your emails. Plus, it auto-updates over home Wi-Fi, so new features, such as an update to mapping software or even a new app, won’t require a dealer visit.

Awesome options: We like the heads-up display that superimposes speed and navigation instructions on the windscreen, so you don’t even have to look at the gauge cluster. Also, get the wind baffle that nests behind the front seats, because it significantly cuts ambient noise during top-down driving. With the Comfort Access option, you can drop or raise the car’s cloth top while the Z4’s parked in your driveway just by using the key fob.

More info: From $63,700; bmwusa.com


Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet

New Engine With Lots of Tricks

The E53 uses an in-line six-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor as well as an electric auxiliary compressor and turbocharger. The electric power plant drives all four wheels as you leave a stoplight and spins the electric auxiliary compressor, forcing more air through the engine. All that technology combines to make the E53 exceedingly quick, with a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.4 seconds. Even better, its torquey engine (384 pound-foot) pins you to your seat from a start and remains ultraresponsive, so you always have instant passing power. Still, you get good fuel economy at 20 city/26 highway, in part because when the car’s Eco Start/Stop is activated, that electric motor doesn’t burn gas in stop-and-go traffic.

Good genes: This E-Class’ multilayered lid was co-engineered with its more expensive sibling, the $134,000 S-Class Cabriolet, making both cars ultraquiet, even with the tops down. You can unfurl the convertible at up to 30 mph — handy in case the sun pops through the clouds while you’re cruising.

Add and delete: These days, lots of buyers prefer fewer logos and less chrome. Mercedes took note, so now — for no charge — you can order your E53 minus the Turbo 4Matic+ badge on the front fenders and without the AMG E53 logo on the trunk deck lid. But don’t stop there. Get the Night Package, which converts chroming at the front air intake and below the rear bumper into deep gloss black, and blackens the chrome tailpipes, too. This transforms the E53 into a sportier-looking machine, especially if you opt for one of eight different silver, white, or black paint hues.

Always versatile: The E53 benefits from both an air-sprung system and driver-adjustable dampers. We found ourselves supremely entertained while ripping along two-laners in backcountry Georgia. The song of the AMG-tuned exhaust reached a howl near redline, and this Benz’s quick-shifting, nine-speed gearbox with paddle controls gave us a measure of control ordinarily preserved for true manuals. Add in the utility of a trunk-pass-through for longer luggage and all-weather traction, and you have a super fun, 365-day dream of a drop-top.

More info: From $80,350; mbusa.com 

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