Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are often asked by friends and family, and through our contact page: which car is best for me?
Most buyers can identify the top three non-negotiable factors that will guide their purchase decision. But… where to from there?
In this series, we look at these cases and single out three cars that fit the brief. If there are more than three, we’ll highlight the three models that have scored well in past CarAdvice reviews.
Before we get to it, let's just put this out there - this was one of the more enjoyable positions to imagine ourselves in when doing The Shortlist.
Howard has a budget of "up to maybe $130,000", and he wants a fun second car, a cabriolet/convertible, specifically. It'll be used sparingly, a weekend runaround, while his Jaguar F-Pace 30d R Sport does the majority of the weekly grunt work.
The kicker? Ideally, it needs to be a four-seater. That's not to say that Howard can't just ditch the kids and go for a drive with the missus, but the clear stipulation by him was that if it's going to be a two-seater, it bloody needs to be brilliant.
So, here's the criteria:
- Up to $130,000 - can be less, obviously, if the car is a strongly recommended option
- Convertible - doesn't matter if soft or hard top
- Four seats preferred - can be two-seat, if it's entirely justifiable
Now, first thing's first: because old mate "loves Jaguar quality", he could perhaps have a look at a Range Rover Evoque convertible. This is partly included to annoy our SUV-hating commenters, but mainly because it could be a really good option: it has four seats, it is convertible, and it fits under budget.
Buuuuuut let's be serious.
There are heaps of two-seat options that slot under budget, including one that was called out by Howard in his correspondence with us: the Jaguar F-Type four-cylinder the new entry-level version with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in it, is just under budget with pricing starting at $125,712 plus on-road costs.
Tony was pretty stoked with the car on his drive in Europe, but we're yet to sample it here and put it through its paces on Australian roads... so we'd probably wait to do that here before suggesting that Howard rush out and buy it. But we do have another two-seater that could tickle his fancy as one of our final three suggestions...
Let's flush out the also-rans before we get to the final three.
One of the Audi S5's nearest competitors, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet, is no C63 S, and hardened car lovers may turn up their nose at it. But by the same token, it looks every bit the part, and comes in at a considerably lower price, listing at $120,611 plus on-road costs - some $60k less than the C63 S.
The C43 has a strong 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine with 270kW/520Nm, a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, and that combines to give it a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds - identical to the smaller Porker. It's a rewarding drivetrain, and the AWD system allows it heaps of traction in corners. But its not that much fun to drive, despite being quick.
One of the AMG's rivals is the BMW 440i Convertible, yet another option that could suffice. In coupe form it certainly does, but the heavy hard-top roof dulls the drive experience to a degree in the 4 Series line-up. Still, it has four seats and is fast, and handles really well, too. We'd more happily suggest the smaller four-seat BMW 240i. With its soft-top roof and stonking six-cylinder engine, not to mention involving dynamics and sub-$90k price tag, it ticks a lot of boxes.
There are plenty of two-seat convertibles that we've rated highly that could make the grade - the Mazda MX-5, Abarth 124 Spider, Audi TTS Roadster and Alfa Romeo 4C each offer very different takes on the same theme, some more dramatically than others. However, we narrowed it down to just one two-seater, given that it seems pretty important for Howard to take his kids places.
Those are the cars that missed the cut. Here are the three that made The Shortlist:
Porsche 718 Boxster
I mean, it's a Porsche. Do we need to say much more?
The idea of having that sort of budget and being able to get yourself into one of the most renowned sports car brands on the planet is enticing. While some people may describe the Porsche 718 Boxster as a poor man's choice, there's a fair chance those exact naysayers may never have driven one.
The fact is, it delivers on the Porsche promise - it isn't practical, it doesn't have four seats, but it's unapologetically focused on offering the best driving experience imaginable.
The new four-cylinder turbocharged engine is superbly willing, with 220kW of power and 380Nm of torque propelling it from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds, and paired to the optional PDK dual-clutch automatic there's very little to fault in terms of the way it goes. And it has the intrinsic handling capabilities that are expected of one of the Stuttgart brand's offerings, with superb steering and impeccable ride comfort and body control.
Admittedly, the value equation isn't terrific here. The buy-in for a Boxster entry-level model is $119,960 plus on-road costs for the automatic, and there are a few option boxes we'd suggest would need to be ticked, as well. But hey, if you've got $130k to spend, perhaps letting the budget rise to $140k won't be too big of a stretch. We'd suggest that - badge desirability aside - Howard shouldn't be tempted by the Boxster S, which costs too much and doesn't quite justify the extra spend.
Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro Cabriolet
We may have put a red line through the Audi S5 Cabriolet, but its more affordable sibling, the A5 2.0 TFSI quattro Cabriolet, is arguably better than it in every way. Not only because it's a whole chunk cheaper - $24k, in fact, with the A5 range-topper stopping at $95,000 plus on-road costs - but because, on Aussie roads at least, there's every chance you won't ever be able to explore the capability offered by the S5's more potent drivetrain.
That isn't to say that the A5 2.0 TFSI quattro's drivetrain isn't potent - with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque, and it has all-wheel-drive and a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The 0-100km/h time for this model is 6.3 seconds, so it isn't as spritely as the German sports car listed at the top of this list, but it has four seats - not to mention plenty of equipment.
Standard gear includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory, memory driver’s seat, a flat-bottom steering wheel, colour ambient lighting, Audi's MMI navigation with an 8.3-inch screen, the brand's impressive 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit screen for the driver, Audi connect with Wi-Fi, a 10-speaker, 180-watt sound system, leather and electric front seats with heating and neck-level heating, and three-zone climate control.
At the launch of the A5 Cabriolet and S5 Cabriolet, Alborz reckoned that spending the extra cash to get into the AWD model is only worth it if you will appreciate it - and considering this new 2.0 TFSI quattro model is just 0.2sec slower to 100km/h than the previous generation S5 Cabriolet, it seems a good observation.
It is planted and dynamically capable, with excellent ride comfort and steering that is excellent, not to mention heaps of traction. An accomplished offering, one that really deserves its spot on this list.
Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Okay, so this is one that just had to make the list based on the fact Howard could theoretically buy two of them for his budget. But it has a lot more going for it than just an affordable price tag.
With a list price of $65,916 plus on-road costs, the Ford Mustang GT brings with it a belter of an engine - a 5.0-litre V8 with 336kW and 530Nm, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed automatic gearbox. It's fast, and perhaps more importantly for buyers, it makes a good noise - which is made even better by the fact you can drop the top - even if it is a bit muted, but with so much budget left over, a trip to the exhaust shop will fix that.
It's a muscle car, not a sports car. That is to say, it's a serrated-edge knife, not a scalpel, and like we said, if Howard wants a drive experience where he can slice through corners rather than chop up his tyres on them, he should look elsewhere.
Still, the Mustang GT Convertible is a practical offering, and given the price tag, one that can't be ignored for a buyer after a four-seat open-top sporty car... if you can overlook the shocking two-star ANCAP crash test score.
And it has handy items like Ford's Sync 3 media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity, leather seat trim, seat heating and cooling up front, keyless entry with push-button start, and multiple drive modes. Worth a test drive, for sure.
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.