Why waste money on a new convertible when these cars exist?
Convertibles get a little flack in the car world. This is because even though the "less informed" think that convertibles are sporty, most car guys know that they are heavier and therefore slower than coupes. Despite this a large swath of gearheads (this writer included) see the benefits drotops offer. A convertible may sacrifice some rigidity, but having the top down on a nice day is a wonderful feeling. With that in mind here are five awesome droptops with performance guts, all for less than $25,000.
The first car on this list is a CarBuzz favorite. We raved about the Z4 M Coupe, but the roadster is also a very good car. Just 3,042 were built and they all came with a six-speed manual (no SMG in sight). The Z4 M was powered by the same 3.2-liter S54 inline-six engine as the E46 M3 making 330 horsepower. You can now find low-mileage examples for less than $25,000 like this Imola Red one with only 28,434 miles on it! You can even find a few of these in stock at CarMax, so go ahead and put that legendary warranty on this beauty. It is true that you can also find the rarer Z4 M Coupe for less than $25,000, but those will typically have much higher mileage and will take you longer to track down.
Our next choice is probably the riskiest purchase on the list. However, it may be the best value. A base Mercedes SL400 costs $85,000 and comes with a 3.0-liter V6 producing 329 horsepower. For just $25,000, you can buy a 2005 SL55 AMG with 5.4-liter supercharged V8. This engine produces a whopping 493 horsepower! That's even more than the twin-turbocharged V8 SL550 that is sold today. Just because this Mercedes is more than 10 years old doesn't mean you don't get a slew of technology toys. The SL55 was available with massaging seats and a panoramic sunroof for those days when you wanted to look at the sun without feeling its heat. Repair bills may be insane, but this car is worth it.
This next convertible was actually a bit of a surprise to us. We did not think that you would be able to find an S5 Cabriolet for less than $25,000 and we almost included the old S4 on the list instead. In the US the S5 convertible was only available with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is fine. Audi's dual-clutch is a masterpiece of engineering and the 333-hp supercharged V6 is an awesome engine with high tuning potential. The S5 is the most practical car on our list with four seats and a fairly usable trunk. Although those amazing looking seats from the S4 sedan do impede rear leg room a bit. An Audi S5 for less than $25,000 will likely be a high-mileage example that is out of warranty, but hey, you get what you pay for.
We have another pleasant surprise on this list in the form of a mid-engine convertible for under $25k that isn't a Toyota MR2. The first-generation Porsche Boxster has long been available for under $25,000, but you can now find the much improved second-generation with that budget as well. These aren't beat up base models either. We found a nice yellow 2005 Boxster S with just 31,046 miles on it. The Boxster S came with a 3.6-liter flat-six engine with 280 horsepower. The car weighed less than 3,000 pounds so 0-60 mph was low (5.1 seconds) and mpg was high (19/27 mpg). The Boxster's interior was pretty basic, but just enjoy the top-down pleasure of a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution and the flat-six music.
Compared to the other cars on this list, the Honda S2000 may not seem like the boldest choice. However, the S2000 may be far and away the best choice on this list. For less than $25,000 you will have your choice of almost any S2000 that is currently for sale. There are probably a few 2008 examples out there with 10 miles on the clock that command more than $25,000, but forget them. The Internet is littered with S2000s with as little as 10,000 miles on them. With a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine making "just" 240 horsepower, the S2000 is the least powerful car on this list. Don't let that discourage you, though. This is one of the best driving convertibles ever and it doesn't carry the same stigma as the Miata.