TIP-TOP WITH THE TOP-DOWN

A few of our favorite summer rides that let you doff the roof for pure driving pleasure.

Compiled by Andre James / Photography courtesy of the manufacturers

AUDI R8 SPYDER From a limited series to a permanent addition, the character of the R8 models carry forth sharpened design enhancements for the 2021 model year. The V10 performance variant takes the sporty stature up a notch, with the lower trim finished in matte Titanium color and the sideblades, mirror housings, and rear spoiler finished in carbon. At the rear of the vehicle, the dominant diffuser frames the sport exhaust with black oval tailpipes. The V10 performance models come standard with 20-inch 5-double-spoke-dynamic design milled cut wheels in titanium finish, with an option to change the color to anthracite finish. The ceramic brake calipers are available in red or blue, along with the standard gray finish. Weighing just 97 pounds, the soft-top in both R8 Spyder models features an electrohydraulic drive system to raise and lower the roof in about 20 seconds, at speeds of up to 31 mph. When opened, the soft top folds into a flat storage compartment over the engine. With the top up, the rear power window blocks the wind or can open to allow the rich sound of the naturally aspirated V10 engine (the same naturally aspirated engine found in the R8 LMS racecar) to flow into the vehicle cockpit. The R8 V10 performance generates 602 horsepower and catapults from 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds, with a top track speed of 204 mph for the Spyder. The seven-speed S tronic® dual-clutch transmission can shift gears in as little as 120 milliseconds. The R8 RWD features a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter FSI V10 engine that produces 532 horsepower and sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and on to a top track speed of 200 mph. MSRP for the 2021 Audi R8 V10 Spyder RWD is $154,900; and $208,900 for the 2021 Audi R8 V10 performance Spyder Quattro (audi.com).

BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT SPEED CONVERTIBLE Boasting enhanced chassis technology, including All-Wheel Steering, an electronic rear differential and the option of carbon-ceramic brakes, the third-generation Continental GT Speed Convertible is the most powerful, driver-focused interpretation of the benchmark convertible Grand Tourer, designed, handcrafted and engineered in Bentley's carbon-neutral luxury automotive factory. The powerplant is either a 4.0-liter V8 engine or an enhanced version of Bentley's renowned 6.0-liter W12 TSI engine, delivering 650 hp, 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and a top speed of 208 mph. Superior handling comes via Active All-Wheel Drive and Bentley Dynamic Ride, an anti-roll control system. Available in seven colors, the unique Z-fold convertible roof system can be deployed or stowed in 19 seconds at speeds up to 30mph. While the engine's purr is a sweet symphony to many, improvements in sealing and acoustic treatments have brought about a three-decibel reduction in overall noise level compared to its predecessor. Befitting a Bentley, the luxuriously appointed cabin sports Speed badging on the passenger fascia, an Alcantara steering wheel, and a unique color split trim in hide and Alcantara. Special to the Convertible range, the neckwarmer is seamlessly integrated into the heated and vented Comfort Seats, optimizing efficiency and airflow around the electrically adjustable headrests. Combined with a heated steering wheel and heated armrests, these sophisticated comfort features create an indulgent driving experience in all environments. MSRP for the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible starts at $302,000 (bentleymotors.com)


BMW 4 Series Convertible The four-seater continues the tradition of exhilarating open-air motoring, rightfully deserving "The Ultimate Driving Machine" moniker with its modern styling, low-slung shoulder line, cutting-edge technology, and performance. The most noticeable change from the previous generation is switching from a hardtop to a newly designed insulated soft-top, which is approximately 40 percent lighter and increases cargo space, provides additional headroom, and creates a lower center of gravity for improved handling. Opening and closing the soft-top takes 18 seconds and can be performed at speeds up to 31 mph. Convertible- specific noise reduction measures in the areas of the intake system, engine cover, and underbody dampen engine noise and thereby increase acoustic comfort when driving with the top down. A premium driver-centric cockpit boasts newly designed front power Sport seats and a leather Sport steering wheel as standard. The M Sport Package and M440i Convertible models offer additional soft knee padding on the sides of the center console and an M Sport steering wheel and door sill plates with the M logo. The start/stop button is located in the center console along with the newly designed gear selector lever, the iDrive Controller, and the buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch. Rear seating for two includes integral head restraints and features a center armrest with storage and cupholders and a pass- through section to the cargo area. At the top of the power pyramid are the M440i and M440i xDrive Convertibles, with the B58 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder BMW TwinPower turbocharged engine producing 382 hp @ 5,800 – 6,500 rpm, and acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds. All variants of the 4 series can reach an electronically limited top speed up to 155 mph depending on the selected wheel and tire combination. Drivers can opt for either traditional rear- wheel drive, or BMW's latest intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system, offering additional traction during both performance driving and in varied weather conditions. MSRP is $53,100 for the 430i Convertible, $55,100 for the 430i xDrive Convertible, $64,00 for the M440i Convertible and $66,000 for the M440i xDrive Convertible (bmwusa.com).

LEXUS LC 500 CONVERTIBLE The LC 500 Convertible may be based in part on the LC 500 coupe, but it is more than just a crop-topped replica, as careful attention was given to the LC Convertible's suspension, which is tuned specifically to complement the subtle changes in weight between coupe and convertible. Even the sound system is fine- tuned with an EQ that adjusts based on the driving environment, whether the top is open or closed. Able to be operated at speeds up to 31 mph, the roof takes just 15 seconds to open and 16 seconds to close. An innovative folding mechanism includes a tonneau cover for when the top is stored. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive LC Convertible shares the same direct-injected V8 powerplant as the LC Coupe. The 471 hp engine posts an impressive 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds, and its maximum track speed is electronically limited to 168 mph. The engine is paired with a Direct-Shift 10-speed automatic transmission. A focal point of the cabin is a 10.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display to provide immediate access to audio or climate controls and various systems, including the voice-activated navigation system. Lexus Enform Remote service, included with the first year of ownership, lets you lock and unlock doors, start the engine and climate control, check the fuel level, and more all through your smartphone, smartwatch, or devices enabled with the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. MSRP for the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible starts at $101,100 (lexus.com).

LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR SVJ ROADSTER With its razor-sharp lines, the open-air version of the Aventador coupé is head-turning even before the V12 engine is fired up. Prepare to hold onto your hat when the roof is removed, as the roadster's V-12 engine is the most potent production series produced to date by the Italian supercar manufacturer. With an output of 770 hp at maximum 8,500 rpm, the convertible accelerates from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds and boasts a top speed of 217 mph. On the flip side, a braking distance of 60-0 mph takes 101-feet. Dynamic aerodynamics are courtesy of Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, Lamborghini's patented active aerodynamics system, which actively varies aero load to achieve high downforce or low drag, depending on dynamic conditions using electronically- actuated motors positioned in the front splitter and the rear wing. Adding a little more than 110 pounds to the car's total weight, individual sections of the roadster's roof, comprised of high-pressure RTM carbon fiber, weigh just over 13 pounds each. The roof, removed via quick-release levers in the cabin, stows securely under the front hood.

Just 800 units of the Aventador SVJ Roadster will be produced with an MSRP of $573,966 (Lamborghini.com).


MERCEDES-AMG GT ROADSTER Among the 2021 model year enhancements is 54 more horsepower, bringing the total to 523 hp, capable of accelerating the roadster from 0-60 in just 3.7 seconds. The list of standard equipment has also grown to encompass AMG RIDE CONTROL suspension with adaptive damping adjustment, electronic limited-slip differential on the rear axle, AMG high- performance composite braking system, and red-painted brake calipers. Additional enhancements include the new lithium-ion starter battery and the "RACE" drive program setting. A sleek "Stealth Edition" variant is distinguished by the AMG Exterior Night Package, black brake calipers, the AMG radiator grille in dark chrome, headlamps with black elements, a black soft top, and mixed-size tires with 19-inch matte black Y-spoke wheels on the front, and 20-inch wheels on the rear.


Equipment found in the interior of the "Stealth Edition" includes AMG Performance seats, an AMG Interior Night Package, AMG steering wheel in DINAMICA microfiber with black steering wheel spokes and shift paddles, upholstery in exclusive Napa-style leather in black with diamond quilting, black topstitching and trim elements in black piano lacquer (optionally in carbon fiber/black piano lacquer). A unique badge in the center console also denotes this special model. MSRP for the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster from $130,700 (mbusa.com).