It may have turned cold but that’s no reason to park the convertible up for winter – here are our picks for enjoying a frosty morning drive in the open air!
The best convertibles for a cold winter’s drive
Porsche 911 Speedster
Inspiration for this story stems from a night-time drive across Northumberland’s ‘dark sky’ area in the Porsche 911 Speedster, the limited-edition swansong for the outgoing 991-era car. Based on the Porsche 911 GT3, the Speedster is the latest in a line of super rare drop-top 911s celebrated for their exclusivity and distinct from regular Cabriolet versions by virtue of their ‘chopped’ rooflines and faired-in rear decks. But the Speedster is really all about the engine, the buzzsaw, 9,000rpm boxer-six driving through a manual gearbox for a driving experience that’s intense enough normally, let alone with a blast of ice-cold air over your face. The only problem? Other than all 1,948 examples long-since having sold the experience of driving it under the stars makes all other 911s seem a little boring in comparison.
The original MX-5 celebrated its 30thanniversary this year and the team behind it were all convertible obsessives, to the point where chief designer Tom Matano insisted a junior member of his team commute to work with the roof down for a year to get into the spirit of what they were creating. OK, it probably helped they were based in California. But the latest Mazda MX-5 stays true to this ideal, having one of the quickest folding hoods ever seen. Stowing it is a one-handed operation that takes seconds, body coloured interior trim on the doors reinforcing an aesthetic link between cabin and outdoors. With a fierce heater and some of the toastiest heated seats in the business there’s no reason not to drive al fresco, even if there’s frost on the ground.
Morgan Plus Six
As the maxim goes there’s no such thing as the wrong weather to be outdoors, just the wrong clothing. And if there’s one convertible where snuggling into a fleece-lined flying jacket seems appropriate it’s the Morgan. Indeed, people might ask questions were you to drive it with the hood up. Suitably attired, an early morning drive through frosty countryside with the mist rising off the fields has to rank as one of the most quintessentially British of driving experiences. Modern is a relative description but the new Morgan Plus Six has all the classic appeal of any Morgan, complete with its ash frame and hand-beaten aluminium body. But underneath it’s got the mod cons of a lusty BMW six-cylinder engine, contemporary automatic gearbox and – whisper it – heated seats.
BMW M8 Competition Convertible
The BMW M8 Competition is the first time BMW’s M division has gone all out to build a proper luxury model and it hasn’t held back, especially in the Convertible version. The 4.4-litre 625hp V8 is shared with the equally awesome M5 Competition and sounds even better with the roof down than it does in the Coupé version. And, although it’s a tad heavier and softer, the Convertible is arguably more charismatic and fun, not least on a fresh winter’s day. The fabric roof folds in just 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, meaning you can grab opportunities when they come. M-specific all-wheel-drive securely handles slippery roads with a characteristically BMW rear-bias while true heroes can turn everything off and opt for a more macho rear-drive only mode. All the while the lush interior keeps you cosy on a cold day, with hot air down the back of your neck and heating for steering wheel, seats and even armrests.
Audi R8 Spyder
Modern supercars are faster, more usable and more capable than ever. If there’s a criticism it’s that they too easily isolate you from your surroundings, leaving you frustrated at the lack of excitement at responsible road speeds. The answer? Removing the roof for a more invigorating taste of the power at your disposal. And one of the best for doing this is the Audi R8 Spyder, its four-wheel-drive meaning you can safely explore its performance on wintry roads while you enjoy the fabulous noise of its naturally-aspirated, high-revving V10 engine. In an age of dull turbocharged motors this powerplant is a stand-out feature on the R8, the ability to appreciate it to the full in the open air and delight in its unmistakably powerful V10 roar a rare treat. Arguably it makes for a more exciting R8 than the fixed-roof version, unleashing a sense of soul not present in the more clinical coupé.
The SL has been a mainstay of the Mercedes convertible range since the late ‘50s, flying the flag for such cars through the ‘80s when it looked like roadsters would slip out of fashion and introducing technology like pop-up roll hoops when safety legislation threatened their future. In the early 2000s it evolved into a folding metal hardtop, looking equally rakish as a refined coupé as it did with the roof down. The modern SL continues this tradition, combining the best of both relaxing GTs and more spirited sporting convertibles and contriving one of the most refined and comfortable open-top experiences on the market. Along with heated seats Mercedes also has its Airscarf system, the waft of warm air down your neck meaning you can enjoy your SL roof down on even the chilliest of days.
Wrap up in your best winter tweeds, slip a flask of something warming in your pocket and take a winter’s drive in the open air in the grandest cabriolet around. Because wafting around the countryside and enjoying an invigorating blast of winter air aboard a Rolls-Royce seems about the most English of driving experiences. And in a Dawn there’s room to share the experience with friends and family, with space for four to relax in comfort on the softest of leather, cossetted by seat heaters and spirited along by an effortlessly powerful and refined V12 engine. In the early days owners would have driven their Silver Ghosts with blankets on their knees, whatever the weather and wherever in the world they happened to be. Today you can celebrate this spirit with all mod cons. And, for the drive home, raise the power-operated roof and snuggle down beneath its insulated fabric in ultimate luxury and refinement.
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