Roadies Without Borders: What to steer in warm weather months when its time to get away
By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
If the drive is part of the thrill of summer trips from here to the mountains, beach, lake, city or countryside, then you should want the best ride possible.
Vacation excursion lore doesn’t generally lay claim to satisfying spins in rolling roadsters; it’s more like ear-splitting “are we there yets?” in stodgy station wagons, monotonous minivans and superciliously sized sport-utilities.
But there are exceptions.
Since 2004, California-based kbb.com has put together its “10 Best Road Trip Cars.” The findings come out around Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer.
Here’s a hint about the 2012 list: don’t expect to see anything with three rows of seats, multitudinous cupholders or a carrier on the rooftop.
Actually, any type of top is considered not worthy on this year’s guide. Paying homage to the convertible’s comeback, kbb.com — an online information service from Kelley Blue Book auto pricing guide — limited its top group to ragtops.
Notably, the nine 2012 models and one ’13 edition are available at new-car dealerships in greater Charleston.
“Say the words ‘road trip’ and for many people, one of the first images that pops into mind is top-down driving in the sun with wind blowing through your hair,” said Jack R. Nerad, kbb.com’s executive market analyst.
“This year there seem to be more great new convertible options than ever before, which is perfect for the start of the summer driving season,” he said.
The information service noted that the soft-top almost faded away in the early 1980s.
According to kbb.com, many industry experts three decades ago were predicting the end of the convertible. Worried about the soft top’s safety and security, car manufacturers were persuaded to abandon the once popular body style.
“However, history proved the naysayers wrong and these days we are in the midst of a ragtop renaissance,” kbb.com said.
The company appropriately unveiled its list before Memorial Day. According to AAA, 30.7 million people were expected to visit destinations 50 miles or more away from home May 24-28, which is up 500,000 travelers from last year. The holiday also launches the peak driving season in the U.S.
Now, in order is the kbb.com list, with brief descriptions of each model:
• 1. 2013 Porsche Boxster •
The entry-level Porsche, with bodywork inspired by the Carrera GT and boasting 265 horsepower in the Boxster and 315 hp in the Boxster S, remains a sun-chaser’s dream machine.
• 2. 2012 BMW 6 Series •
The biggest of BMW’s four convertibles is exceptionally well-suited for road trips that mix highway cruising, back-road bombing and five-star accommodations.
• 3. 2012 Audi A5 •
Few convertibles meld style, refinement and performance into one package as beautifully as the A5 Cabriolet. Defying a trend, the roadster shuns a retractable hardtop in favor of an acoustically-designed soft top.
• 4. 2012 Ford Mustang •
The convertible top gives this muscle car a lot of flexibility. Whether you opt for the base V-6 producing 305 horsepower or the 600-horse Shelby V-8, this ragtop is a blast to drive in any situation.
• 5. 2012 Mercedes-Benz E Class •
While every convertible promises open-air fun in the sun, the E-Class’ available Airscarf system warms the head and neck area of the driver and front passenger for top-down jaunts under the stars.
• 6. 2012 Chevrolet Corvette •
With more-than-abundant horsepower, stratospheric handling limits, look-at-me styling and a surprisingly livable highway ride, the Chevy Corvette might just be the unofficial car of existential crises.
• 7. 2012 BMW Z4 •
Compared to a traditional cloth top, BMW’s first-ever retractable hardtop delivers a quieter highway ride, greater outward visibility and a top-up profile that rivals the roadster’s classic top-down shape.
• 8. 2012 Audi TT •
The roadster deftly balances sportiness and elegance with its snug-fitting power soft top and all-wheel drive. The TTS version bolsters horsepower to 265 and adds adaptive Magnetic Ride suspension.
• 9. 2012 Chevrolet Camaro •
What has a 580 horsepower V-8 under the hood and a cloth top for a roof? No, it’s not an exotic; it’s the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible. Buyers can opt for the tamer V-6 and listen to a Boston Acoustics sound system.
• 10. 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata •
The MX-5 Miata is definitely diminutive, but it’s the small size that eliminates distractions, helping it do the one thing all road trip cars should: magnify the joy of travel.
For more information, visit www.kbb.com.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.