Characteristics of a Soft-Top Convertible
So what sets these particular convertibles apart from the rest? Naturally, the material used in the roof is a defining factor, but it’s not the only one. These cars are more nuanced, and each automaker has its own take on what makes a good soft-top roadster. Some of the more common attributes include:
- Performance: Power is not the most important thing in a roadster, but there does need to be enough to produce that effortless driving experience that makes these cars enjoyable. Whether it’s a turbocharged four-pot or a rorty V6 engine, impressive acceleration and effortless zipping between traffic lights are standard.
- Practicality: Sadly, you can’t have it all, and in order to accommodate all the moving parts needed in a good convertible, these cars need to sacrifice something. In most cases, this is trunk space and, if there are rear seats, any usable legroom. Larger models manage to maintain at least a modicum of practicality, but for the most part, the rear seat is best used as storage.
- Style: Looks are definitely important, both inside and out. Some of the more affordable models forego high-end leather, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a soft top that actually feels cheap. They should turn heads no matter the situation, but when the top is down, they should be impossible to ignore.
- Price: This isn’t set in stone since you can pick up a soft-top Jeep convertible for under $30,000, but the former isn’t really a grand tourer or roadster one desires. A Mazda MX-5 Miata is a much better option. On the other hand, a BMW soft-top convertible can easily enter the six-figure range, while a Bentley or Rolls-Royce will cost you several hundred thousand dollars. The final price will ultimately come down to just how luxurious you want the ride to be.
What to Consider When Buying a Soft-Top Convertible
You have to accept some compromises when you trade out a solid roof for a retractable one. Some of these are obvious, while others are more abstract. To help you decide if a soft-top convertible is the right choice for you, we have collated the various strengths and weaknesses of the body style into a list:
- Eye-catching styling
- Decent levels of performance
- Comfortable interiors
- Good list of standard features
- Wind-in-your-hair experience
- Can be fun to drive
- Soft-top status is something special
- Reduced rigidity affects handly
- Safety is lowered due to lower structural integrity
- Prices tend to be quite high
- Very limited passenger and cargo space
Is a soft-top convertible better than a hard-top?
Both body styles have certain strengths and weaknesses. The most notable drawback of a convertible is the poor aerodynamic profile when the top is down, and compromised body rigidity. Together with a higher curb weight due to all the extra gadgetry, this lowers performance potential, as well as safety. That being said, there are still some models that manage to overcome these problems, like the soft-top R8 Spyder from Audi.
How long does a soft top usually last?
Exactly how long a material roof lasts will depend on how well-maintained it is. However, the average lifespan of a soft top is between five and ten years.
Can you drive a soft-top convertible in the winter?
There is no reason why you can’t drive your convertible in the cold months, so long as you use common sense. If it’s raining or snowing, you’ll want to keep the roof up, but if the sky is clear and you don’t mind a brisk breeze, feel free to leave it down. There are many high-end soft-top cars with neck-warming technology.