Five Reasons Why You Should Never Buy a Hardtop Convertible

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2008 Volvo S40 4-door Sedan 2.4L Man FWD Side Exterior View

Like a modern day version of The Black Death, this plague has already ravaged Europe. Despite published reports of rampant mechanical problems and ridiculous engineering compromises not seen since the Eisenhower Administrationpeople are yet again being suckered into buying hard top convertible automobiles.

Each year as summer arrives many people find themselves being overcome by the notion of owning a convertible. The purchase of a convertible car is the least practical automotive proposition bar perhaps a Lamborghini Murcielago (although that vehicle does come in an even less practical convertible guise as well). While you buy an SUV for your family and your duties, you buy a convertible with your heart. Convertibles, like sports cars, are the purest form of the automotive art. If a convertible is no fun to drive and ugly what is the point?

Sacrilegiously enough, some people are trying to turn convertibles into a quasi-rational proposition with highly technical hard tops that fold into the trunk. Or I should really say, what is left of your trunk. Hardtop convertibles may look cool when the metal roof folds into little pieces of origami but it will still leave you with no trunk space. Essentially the only time you can use the trunk is when the top is up.

So who do we have to blame for this? Well, in this country Mercedes started the trend anew (Lincoln used to sell a hardtop Continental in the 1950s) with the SLK but on the global stage it was Peugeot who took the lead. As the SLK is a pricey luxury car and not a low budget French compact it has taken a while for competitors from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti and Volvo to follow suit with inevitable copycats.

Currently selling 2 varieties of hardtop convertible around the world, the first Peugeot to use the technology was the low priced 206 hatchback. This regular version of the 206 that had a roof wasn't very reliable or rigid in the first place so once they turned it into a hardtop convertible it turned out to be a downright tart French lemon. But that didn't stop Peugeot from selling these convertibles by the absolute boatload. The fact that the hardtops had a habit of getting stuck as customers pulled off the dealer lot was beside the point.

Oddly enough, this summer we are seeing a huge influx of new hardtop convertibles on U.S. soil. No, Peugeot isnt coming back to the United States yet but who knows? If Fiat can buy Chrysler then why cant Peugeot take over GM? Scratch that. I dont think we need Escalades assembled by unionized French employees. They already hate us enough.

Pretty much all of these new convertibles are from the luxury spectrum with the new Infiniti G35, Lexus IS350, BMW 3 series and Volvo S40 all making entries. The only mainstream manufacturers to offer them are VW with the Eos and Mazda with its hardtop version of the Miata. (Another act of heresy but I will get to that later.)

Many buyers rationalize the purchase of a hardtop convertible by saying that it affords them the quietness and security of a coupe mixed with the fun of being able to put the top down. Well, if you haven't driven a modern day soft-top then you would be shocked by how quiet they are at freeway speeds. And if you are worried about car security, why aren't you demanding shatter proof windows on your next car? A thief can put a hammer through a side window as easily as he or she can use a knife to cut open your soft top.

If you don't believe that a cloth top convertible can be quiet then just mosey on down to any Audi dealer and test drive a TT or an A5. As one of the last luxury car makers to not buy into the hardtop convertible craze, this German automaker really has, along with Porsche, perfected the art. Beyond this, here are five good reasons NOT to buy a hardtop convertible this summer.

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Comments (14)
  1. The S40 is not available as a convertible though, I think you mean the C70.

  2. Lincoln didn't build a hardtop convertible in the fifties. Ford did with the Fairlane in 1957, 1958, and 1959. The Lincoln was considered to limited to make it cost effective. To anyone who has had to deal with a cloth "rag" top the new hardtops are great. With so many mistakes in this article, why does this guy have a job as an automotive writer?

  3. written by a prius owner. Look I have no room in my flat as I live in London. Why do I choose to live in a shoe box? because being here is fun. A convertible is fun, hard or soft top. Chill the f*&k out.

  4. I have an SLK

    1. My car is not ugly thank you very much

    2. There is plenty of room for groceries in the trunk with the top down

    3. The "extra weight" is not that crucial given that this is a *car* (& a roadster at that) & not a *sailboat*

    4. So? Welcome to the 21st century ... where *all* cars are complex - why not have some complexity that adds fun

    5. Why oh why would I buy something exclusively because it's existed in the past???

    Oh & BTW sounds like you've never lived in a large city - we who do know that rag tops get routinely slashed in any part of a city

  5. You are SO wrong. I leased a 2007 Mercedes SLK hardtop convertible and then a 2009 Mercerdes SLK hardtop convertible for an additional 4.5 years. I loved both these cars. I felt safe with the hard top (rather than soft top), a real glass window in the back, and many other features. There was absolutely room in the trunk, even with this small car and the to folded into the trunk. I would not hesitate to get another one and I WILL be leasing another hard top convertible next year. I never had one mechanical or other issue with the hardtop convertible. It was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of driving it whether the top was up or down.

  6. Interesting thoughts. I was looking for Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and I believe soft-top version just spoils all the beauty of the car! The is no hard-top version (and I don't really interested in it), so prefer non-convertible version of the sports car. I tried to drive Mercedes SLK250 with roof down at speed of 110 miles/hour - I'd say that's not very pleasant, and I'm no really a fan of convertible cars - just looks cool from outside.

  7. I have the Mercedes CLK 430. The car is beautifully engineered, but the soft top looks worn and strained. I prefer soft tops to hard tops for their elegance, but be prepared to replace them.

  8. Nonsense. I have a 2007 VW Eos, and it has been a great car. Slightly bulgy back end, OK, but the newer models are better looking. The roof is a sun roof, which no other hardtop convertible has, as far as I know, which is terrific in the winter just for the light. Cloth convertibles don't have that.

    The only drawback was that once I put the top down with a plastic bottle in the wrong place in the trunk. A terrible screeching noise followed, and the top had to be manually articulated to close and open it - repair cost was $600, which caused another screeching noise to come out of me.

    Apart from that, tho, its been great. I have parked it on the street in New York a lot, and, OK somebody broke my window and took my GPS, but that happens.

  9. Except for the facts that:

    a) a thief can SILENTLY slit a ragtop with a Swiss Army knife;
    b) there is AMPLE room in most hardtops for “around-town” chores like grocery shopping;
    c) most automakers COMPENSATE for the added weight with larger engines;
    d) most mid-to-luxury level hardtops possess complexities, the LEAST of which is the retractable roof;
    e) ragtops FADE in color and if driven a moderate amount, even the BEST stretch out over time, resulting in the billowing effect and ABSURD levels of cabin noise…

    …except for those facts, this critic (who seems to know more about bon-bon eating housewives than he does automotive aesthetics) pretty much nailed it.

  10. "Writers, write" to quote the movie. But you are a little grandiloquent rather than being, as the other posters have pointed out, accurate on several points.

    All being said: 1)to begin with, most drivers seldom use their trunk; 2)most convertibles art NOT suited to road trips and/or luggage; and 3)the additional weight can be compensated for by adhering to the posted speed limit (which not even hybrid drivers do - as less weight equates to a better mpg rating).

    The mechanical issues I can't argue, except to say that worldwide productivity AND Production Management is "in the toilet". . . just look at all of the recalls (items that were "missed" during testing and production). We can no longer get "widgets-out-the-door" with aplomb.

  11. You have issues...your primary concern is that you lose trunk space when the top is down. Here's a solution, don't have the top down during the 1 or 2 times a month when you need to use your trunk. The rest of your points are even more absurd. I think someone may be suffering from convertible envy.

  12. Total BS. Hardtops are BEAUTIFUL. "You Cannot Carry Luggage or Groceries in the Trunk and Have the Top Down" - BULL***T! I have a hardtop convertible and can put luggage in my trunk at ANY given time - regardless of my top being up or down. "They add weight" - the only time I feel weight is when 4 people are riding in my car. But wait... Isn't it the same with rigid-top cars? If I want to - my car JUMPS on the start thanks to the DSG transmission (look up VW Eos).
    I might agree on complexity. But soft-tops aren't a better option here: anyone can come up to your car and cut that soft-top. And boom: you are stuck with the same "huge repair bill".
    Plus soft-top spoils the whole look of the car when the top is up. Doesn't happen with hardtops))

  13. First of all, I actually think soft top cars are ugly when the top is up. If not parked in a garage they tend to wear badly and look like crap after a while. Which brings me to the main reasons why people buy retractable hard tops, a lack of an indoor garage and all weather capability. Secondly, convertibles aren't meant to haul cargo but the MX-5's cargo space (albeit small at 5.3 cubic feet) is not impacted by the retractable hardtop. Does the retractable hard top add weight? Sure, but that could easily be mitigated by the use of carbon fiber or aluminum. Is it more complex? Yeah, so is my dishwasher but the complexities only make it better.

  14. If a soft top is slashed or whatever you have to replace the entire top. If a hard top is damaged, you only have to replace the part that is damaged and not the entire top. Correct? I had a 2008 Miata and a little strap near the C-pillar that helps fold the top in broke at 3,000 miles. Had to replace the whole top. 3K+ dollars under warranty (thank god).

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