Spring has finally sprung, and that can only mean one thing: top-down cruising. While open-air four or five seaters are great, there’s something to be said about carving the canyons in a two-passenger convertible with the wind in your hair, your favorite person beside you, and all the engine power sent to the rear wheels. From the trend-setting Mazda MX-5 to the opulent Mercedes-Benz SLK, here are our top four rear-wheel drive roadsters for the spring.
The word iconic is often thrown around in the car industry a lot, but in the case of the MX-5, it’s well deserved. Credited for bringing back an affordable roadster to the North American market when the original launched in 1989, the Miata was completely overhauled for the fourth time in 2016. Featuring the same curvy KODO – Soul of Motion styling also seen on current siblings like the Mazda3 and CX-5, the new MX-5 weighs 220 pounds less than the outgoing example, meaning handling is razor sharp. Under the hood is a high revving 2.0-liter motor making 155 horsepower and features the company’s proprietary efficient and performance-enhancing SKYACTIV engineering.
I would be doing a disservice to the general public if I left the Jaguar F-Type off of a best-of roadster list. The spiritual successor to the E-Type, called the most beautiful car in the world by none other than Enzo Ferrari, Jaguar introduced its lone true sports car in the modern lineup in 2013. The multiple award-winning F-TYPE comes in three supercharged powertrain flavors: two of them are 3.0-liter V6s churning out either 340 or 380 horsepower, and the other a monstrous 5.0-liter V8 producing 495 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Impressive specifications aside, the best part about the car is arguably the active exhaust option that, at the press of a button, opens up electronically-controlled baffles in the piping that generate the most glorious noise ever heard.
What’s better than Nissan’s hot 370Z? Why, the convertible version of course. Designed to look just as sleek as the coupe with the powered fabric top up or down, enjoying some sunshine is only a 20-second operation away. Many parts are shared with the standard variant including a lightweight aluminum hood, doors and trunk, as well as the silky smooth 332-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 powerplant. Customers can choose between a seven speed automatic and a six-speed manual with available SynchroRev Match, which matches the RPMS during downshifts to ensure a perfect gear transition.
The third generation of this luxury drop-top came out in 2012, giving the SLK a much more mature and contemporary appearance via a bolder grille and headlights, sharper bodylines and a bigger, wider stance. The updates aren’t just skin-deep either — a whole series of class-leading driver assist technologies were implemented not commonly seen on vehicles at the time. Attention Assist, using built-in sensors to monitor driver inputs, detects fatigue and if found, sends visual and audio alerts to signal that it may be time to take a break. Adaptive Brake preloads the braking system if the accelerator is suddenly released so that they are ready to go during an emergency situation.