The keen-eyed among you will have noticed that we didn’t produce our usual ‘New Convertible Cars to Expect this Year” article. The reason being, it would have made rather light reading. 2017 is particularly notable for an absence of new convertibles, particularly, as we have noted before, at the more affordable end of the market.
You can put it down to several things. Global political/financial uncertainty, changes in fashion or cut-backs at major manufacturers but the story isn’t all bad. Convertibles have never been mainstream sellers and are often seen as halo cars that promote the brand as much as making significant profits. They are not so much falling out of favour but gaining a clear position as a luxury item. While it was once desirable to have a convertible version of a mainstream hatchback, todays customers are now looking to have a premium badge on the nose.
Notable also are changes in the car industry and at some of the major car manufacturers best known for their convertibles. A push towards low-carbon cars is seeing major changes. Normally aspirated petrol and turbo-diesel engines are on their way out, while hybrid and electric power is seen as the way forward. Whether this will work well for convertibles is yet to be seen. The rare fully electric convertible cars we have seen are promising, with instant power response and low noise. Not as charismatic as a purring V8 but certainly not dull. The biggest cost to driver enjoyment may not be from the drive train itself though but the added weight (particularly from batteries) and inevitable use electronics dulling the connection between driver and road.
Despite the doom and gloom, there is still hope on the horizon, with a selection of new offerings known to be under development:
The refined British brand has a drop-top DB11 Volante undergoing tests with a launch set for the Spring of 2018. No major changes are expected from the coupe apart from a fabric soft-top.
The Bavarian Motor Werks have two very interesting cars in the …werks. A replacement Z4 Roadster shows a lot of promise. Seen under testing with a fabric soft-top rather than the heavy folding hardtop of the current car. A sign then of a return to form for a car that had gained luxury and lost a little of its fine balance. On the other hand, the development team will be fighting hard to tune feedback into an electric power steering system that is known for being a little detached. Said to share a platform with the upcoming Toyota Supra, the Z4 is likely to take engines from the current 4-Series BMW. Driver’s car or posing machine? We’ll have to see.
They also have the BMW i8 Spyder still to come. Taking its time after the hardtop was launched in 2014, the hybrid Spyder has been spotted undergoing tests with a targa-style removable roof panel. Expect few changes to the underpinnings or power-train from the coupe.
The Corvette ZR1 muscle car promises to be quite a handful. The changes from the standard car are far from subtle with a large rear wing and bonnet bulge. Expect a big engine and big performance.
The limited edition Ferrari J50 sold only in Japan may be a car you will never see in the flesh but the design is likely to influence future cars that you might just catch a glimpse of.
The beautiful Maserati Alfieri concept car is aimed at production in two or three years time but likely in coupe form. If there ever is a convertible version, this might not come straight away. Plenty of time to save up then. An outsider, but with so much potential it is hard to ignore.
The forth generation MX-5 Roadster is proving popular and unites the original concept of a light-weight affordable sports car with modern engines and design. Smaller and lighter than the previous generation, it is said to be a return to form but also is softened a bit with gadgets and luxuries to make day-to-day ownership more comfortable.
Mercedes Benz have certainly not given up on the convertible. The once austere premium brand has gone all bling in recent years and now almost offers a car for everyone. Their convertibles now run from the C-Class (through E-Class) to S-Class as four seaters and the range also includes the SLC, SL and AMG GT two-seat roadsters. Something for most budgets perhaps but essentially all well appointed premium cars.
Mini have persisted with a new updated version of their 4-seat convertible and there are rumours of a next-generation Roadster in the works. Here’s hoping it looks something like the gorgeous MINI Superleggera Vision concept pictured above.
Ultra-exotic Italian brand Pagani launched their Huayra Roadster in Geneva. It is of course, fast, fabulous, hugely expensive and the 100 car limited edition is all sold out.
After a lengthy break from convertibles Toyota may make a return, with fourth generation MR2 said to be on its way. Just rumours at this point beyond management claims that a additional sports car is being developed.