I have to admit, straight off the bat, that I despise cabriolets, or rather, the idea behind these cars.
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Words by Gerhard Horn
To me, a car is an extension of the owner’s personality, and I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who wants to drive around in a car without a roof. It simply screams “look at me everyone,” and as a massive introvert, I can’t think of anything less appealing than motoring sans roof.
I wasn’t always as vehemently opposed to topless motoring, but an unfortunate altercation between myself and a drunk bergie made me change my mind. I stopped at the robot, at which point said bergie staggered closer to ask for some loose change. As it wasn’t my car, I had none to hand over, which didn’t go over all too well. So he spat on me. Had I been in a car with a roof, I would have been phlegm free, but alas. These cars seem to bring out the worst in people, as this is not a one-off incident. A good friend of mine was once assaulted with a Slush Puppy while driving a drop-top Audi R8.
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Also, I’ve been told cabriolets are all about the style, which is way down on my list of priorities. My wife buys my clothes and my fashion sense is best described as whatever happened to be on the top in my closet.
Still, I do get the appeal, especially in summer. Driving down the coast with the roof folded down is a sublime way to pass the time. Even down here in Jozi we have some nice country roads, where one can roam freely without worrying about a ball of saliva splattering all over the windscreen.
In any case, if you’re feeling brave and in the mood to buy something a little fruity, here’s a list of my top 5 drop top vehicles in South Africa.
This might possibly be the best car on this list, considering the mixture of amazing attributes that have come together to form it.
It’s (relatively) affordable, luxuriously equipped, but, most important of all, it’s a back-to-the-basics kind of sportscar. It has a rev-happy 2.0l engine, mated to a snickety six-speed manual, which sends all of the power it develops to the rear wheels only. As any card-carrying petrol head will tell you, that’s a near perfect recipe.
Where to take it: A short, but technical piece of tarmac. The R511 between the N14 and Hartbeespoort would be perfect if they ever finish upgrading it.
BMW 240i Convertible
The Beemer is basically the same recipe as the MX-5, but with added spice. Instead of a tiny four-cylinder with adequate power, the BMW uses a turbocharged 3.0l inline six providing a 250kW/500Nm kick in the kidneys.
Even with that healthy power output, it provides a comforting driving experience in the hands of a novice. You can tootle along with that powerful engine humming along smoothly, or you can engage Sport mode, which turns it into a raging, noisy monster of a car. I like that in a car.
It’s a bit pricey, but thanks to the quality, speed and dynamic prowess, it’s worth every penny.
Where to take it: Mpumalanga. The passes down there and this car were made for each other.
Porsche 718 Boxster
You can’t compile a list of drop-tops and not include this car. I have to admit that I was never a fan, mostly because of the amount of praise heaped upon it by other motoring writers. It’s like that know-it-all student that always wins all of the awards at the end of the year.
But then I drove one and I immediately reformed to the church of Porsche. It’s a cliché, but in a Boxster you feel part of the machine. The experience is so immediate and satisfying that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Porsche recently removed the famous six-cylinder engine and replaced it with a smaller four-pot unit, much to the dismay of many a motoring writer. I haven’t driven it yet, but I’m willing to give Porsche the benefit of the doubt. Still, it always produced a glorious howl when you gave it some stick and the noise a car makes plays a big role in my relationship with it.
Where to take it: It doesn’t matter. It’ll be epic wherever it goes.
My father always told me that if you’re going to do something, do it properly. So if you’re looking for a proper wind in the hair experience, get a car with no doors, no side windows and no windscreen.
Why doesn’t it have these things? It’s to save weight, which is the killer of all things glorious when it comes to cars. What the KTM does have is a turbocharged 2.0l Audi engine, which is powerful enough to catapult it to 100km/h in around three seconds.
It’s hard to get hold of in South Africa (I drove it in Austria), but if you really want, you can get one.
It offers a raw driving experience – massively uncomfortable, but utterly addictive. This one is definitely not for amateurs, as it will happily chew you up and spit you out if you disrespect it.
Where to take it: A track day, preferably.
Ferrari 458 Spyder
Yup, another cliché. Surprise, surprise, the ultimate driving machine (apologies, BMW) is a Ferrari.
Keen motoring enthusiasts will note that it’s not the new 488 mentioned here and there’s a good reason for that – I haven’t driven that, but I drove the 458 around Kyalami. It was sheer motoring Nirvana.
I can’t think of anything wrong with the 458. There’s just so much to love. From the way it changes gear faster than you can blink an eye, to the eardrum-bursting howl from the V8 engine. Lowering the top just brings you closer to the noise, which sounds like angels singing the soundtrack of the apocalypse.
I adore this car. Yes, I know it costs a few million and it makes zero sense, but none of the really great things ever do.
Where to take it: I would buy this car and move to Franschhoek, just so I can take the pass to work every single day for the rest of my life.