Best Summer Convertibles

Courtesy Aston Martin

Top-down driving has always been fun—but it’s never been this comfortable.

Driving a convertible with the top down is an activity tailor-made for summer. But if the convertible you have in mind is an American muscle car like a Camaro or a Mustang, the category’s shift this season toward luxury—led by European carmakers—may surprise you. The likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley have offered convertibles for quite some time, but the trend is now so pervasive, convertibles might be considered the new luxury cars of choice—especially when it comes to combining speed and comfort with fun.

Like their American counterparts, these cars go plenty fast. (The new Bugatti 16.4 Veyron Vitesse hits a top speed of 233 miles per hour.) Most of them also put an additional emphasis on comfort, style, safety and electronic amenities. Convertibles are most often associated with sports cars; this new breed might be more accurately aligned with touring vehicles. It’s an idea that might even extend to off-roading (the next version of the popular Range Rover Evoque is likely to be a convertible).

For luxury, take the 2012 BMW M6 ($113,995), which goes on sale this month. The sublime interior is perfectly emblematic of the brand’s 6 series. The exterior has sporty good looks, but at 4,508 pounds it isn’t as sprightly as a traditional sports car. Though that weight contributes to its stability on the road, the M6 is anything but ponderous, and the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine proves it.

In fact, from a driver’s perspective the M6 offers a staggering array of options. Just about every aspect of the driving experience, from engine-throttle response to stability control, is programmable. By the time you cycle through all the possibilities, you’ll likely qualify as a power-train engineer. Two settings can be recalled at will by pressing either the M1 or M2 buttons on the steering wheel. Comfort levels are programmable as well, and though the Sports Plus mode proved to be the most challenging (and least comfortable) option, the other modes made a long day of driving around Santa Barbara, California, very enjoyable.

The Jaguar XKR and Porsche Boxster, too, will give you new perspective on passing scenery. And remember those American muscle cars? We couldn’t resist giving a nod to Corvette’s 60th-anniversary edition. It’s definitely time to hit the road…