Wondering how best to enjoy the warm weather after a very cold and long winter? Nothing beats the feeling of dropping the top of a sporty convertible to experience a beautiful spring day. When you add stunning good lucks and awesome performance, it just makes the experience that much better.
To that end, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible may be the perfect top-down tanning machine. Completely redesigned for 2014, the designers of the new Corvette hit the ball out of the park. Sharing aggressively beautiful body lines with its coupe sibling, the Corvette convertible offers everything you can ask for in a sports car: great looks, a functional yet comfortable cockpit and tremendous performance. Though still identifiable as a Corvette, the new styling is not just modern, but futuristic, with sharply creased lines, a long hood, short rear and menacing front fascia.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is in the cockpit, where rich, luxurious leather covers seats and most other surfaces. Comfortable supportive heated and cooled seats are very well bolstered and help keep you in place during spirited driving. The trunk is pretty much an afterthought and not intended for serious cargo-hauling, but it should hold enough luggage for a weekend getaway.
Lowering the fold-away soft top with glass rear window and defroster is as easy as pushing and holding a button for about 25 seconds. Even at high speeds, wind-buffeting is kept to acceptable levels. With the top up, a liner keeps the cabin quiet and isolated from the elements. A back-up camera mated to the 8-inch display screen is a welcome safety feature. A really cool feature is a heads-up display for the speedometer and tach that shows that information floating on the windshield.
With a zero to 60 time of 4 seconds, this thing is seriously quick, thanks to a 455-horsepower 6.2 liter V-8 engine mated to a 7-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission that transmits power to the rear wheels. Do yourself a favor and get the manual for maximum enjoyment and performance. Even with that much power, mileage is an impressive 17 city, 29 highway. The beautiful roaring exhaust note sounds so good, you don’t even need to turn on the fancy audio system, especially with the top down.
Bill Pastor, sales manager at Elco Chevrolet/Cadillac brags, “The new Corvette is world-class; the interior is now up to the standards of the rest of the car, and the lighter more rigid frame helps fuel economy and performance.”
A new Corvette Stingray convertible will set you back about $60,000 to start, with available options adding up to $15,000 or so more if you check all the boxes.
Another hard-to-beat convertible is the gorgeous Jaguar XK, which aims for the same targets as the Corvette, but goes about it in a decidedly British way. Where the Corvette is brutishly strong and aggressively handsome, the XK is still powerful and extremely good-looking, but a bit more refined with more elegant trappings. Think Rambo vs. James Bond.
The most striking feature of the XK is its looks. In a word, it’s gorgeous. Echoing the classic lines of arguably the best looking car of all time, the Jaguar XKE of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the XK has a classic long hood, short rear and curves like Kate Upton. The convertible gives up a bit in the looks department to the coupe, with its beautifully sloped roofline, but sun-lovers will accept that trade-off and a small trunk for top-down fun and sun.
The interior is equally beautiful, with typical luxurious Jaguar leather on just about every interior surface, accented with real wood (the burled walnut is spectacular). Well-bolstered heated and cooled front seats are most comfortable. Even the steering wheel is heated. Audio, navigation, dual automatic climate control and other controls are operated via a large touchscreen monitor that is relatively easy to use and also functions as a back-up camera. The vestigial rear seat is better used as a storage space, as anyone with legs would have a hard time fitting back there. Raising and lowering the power insulated fabric top only takes about 20 seconds.
The XK comes equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine with 385 horsepower that, when funneled to the rear wheels through its 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, can propel the XK to 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds. With the XKR’s supercharged 510-horsepower V-8, that sprint is reduced to 4.6 seconds. Unfortunately, there’s no manual transmission available. Gas mileage with the supercharger is only 15 city, 22 highway. Hey, you gotta pay if you wanna look this good. The exhaust note sounds better than most modern music and roars like, well, a jaguar, when the engine is provoked. Though possibly a bit more of a grand tourer than a pure sports car, the XK provides more handling prowess and performance that most drivers will be able to utilize, especially on the street. With the sport mode engaged, the XKR, with its stiffer suspension, terrific steering feel, powerful brakes and neck-snapping acceleration, becomes very sporty indeed and feels like it could hold its own on the track.
The XK convertible will cost you about $90,000 to start. The supercharged XKR begins at about $105,000.
Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.