Hooniverse Asks- Are Hardtop Convertibles Making Softies Obsolete?


There seems to be two kind of folks out there: convertible lovers, and those who, after a drive, can remember which side of their head their hair is parted on. Going even further, we can split those convertible folks into the soft top/hard top branches. The former of those enjoying the ease, lighter weight, and greater room afforded by a fabric top, while the latter appreciates the greater security, quietness, and panache of the metal roof.

So many cars have gone the hardtop route – heck, even the MX-5 offers one as an option – that one wonders if soft tops are on the way out. These days BMW has gone hard for both the Z4 and 3 series, leaving only the 6 to solider on as a softie. Mercedes has also gone hard for all but one of theirs, and even Ferrari has thrown that last modicum of performance enhancing weight savings out the window by making the California a tin can with a pop top.

Oh sure, there are still plenty of soft tops available today – Porsche probably not able to find room in the 911 cabriolet for a metal folding roof, and both the Mustang and Camaro coming with fabric for their fun in the sun. But do you think those are the last vestiges of an obsolete form factor? Are perhaps higher theft rates and lower quietness standards of fabric roofs dooming them the annals of topless history? What do you think, are hardtop convertibles making the fabric roof obsolete?

Image source: ohs57

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30 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Are Hardtop Convertibles Making Softies Obsolete?”

  1. DonFehlio Avatar

    I'm not too big on convertibles anyway. The Miata PRHT is just one step closer to what I've wanted all along:
    <img src="http://www.miataturbo.net/attachments/general-miata-chat-9/80132-miata-coup-aaaaaay-mc11-jpg?dateline=1371774686&quot; width="600">

  2. Vavon Avatar

    <img src="http://les-peugeot-mythique.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/peugeot-coupé-cabriolet.jpg"&gt;
    I love driving convertibles and I personally prefer the hardtop versions for the following reasons:
    – better safety in case of a roll-over
    – better all-weather capabilaties
    – better protection against vandalism.
    – No need to change the roof because of wear.
    But the hartops are on their way out because a lot of people think they are not "real convertibles"

    1. FЯeeMan Avatar

      That's a great picture, by the way!

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    Yes, probably. Which sucks.

  4. marmer01 Avatar

    Yes, although I'm guessing there will always be soft tops because of weight, cost, and tradition. The Bentley GTC and the RR Drophead Coupe, for example, went with fabric, as does Audi and the domestics. I still think there's an element of technical wow in the hardtops that some brands gladly embrace: VW EOS, Mercedes, and even the Miata.

    1. DonFehlio Avatar

      Don't forget the Chrysler 200, which has always been on the cutting edge of technology!

      1. Stu_Rock Avatar

        And the Pontiac G6 too!

      2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        Have you ever seen how the hardtop looks when it's folded into a Sebring's trunk?
        Nightmares, I tell you. Nightmares.

    2. monkey_tennis Avatar

      I think that here in Yurp the pendulum is already swinging back slightly in favour of soft-tops.
      Most of the convertibles sold here are variants of C-segment (compact) family hatchbacks. The inherent packaging problems of a folding hardtop in a small a four-seat car and the impact on dynamics of a higher centre of gravity (added to the significant changes needed to an otherwise standard platform for any convertible) to produce an unattractive proposition: A car that may look good; but is less practical, poorer to drive and much more expensive than the model it is a variant of. The high price pushed these cars into a zone (competing with the (soft-top) Audi A3s and (soft-top) Minis) where badge-snobbery worked against the mainstream European manufacturers.
      So the latest round of model changes have seen:
      – the slow-selling (hard-top) Eos has been replaced by the new (soft-top) Golf Cabriolet,
      – the Vauxhall/Opel Astra Twintop (hard-top) has been replaced by the awfully-named Cascada (soft-top).
      I don't know what Ford are planning but I predict that the new model to replace the current, last-generation Focus CC (hard-top) is also likely to be a soft top.

      1. monkey_tennis Avatar

        Forgot to say:
        I think that folding hard top convertibles will remain in the market, but will shrink back to being a niche-within-a-niche. Fabric tops will once agin dominate in the biggest selling sectors.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      I dunno. Most of the new ones I see have the "freedom top."
      <img src="http://project-jk.com/images/writeups/freedomtop/JKL-Sunroof.jpg&quot; width="500">

      1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
        Dean Bigglesworth

        Seems to me that the "freedom top" offers less freedom than the ragtop..

        1. IronBallsMcG Avatar

          Compared to the old hard top it's a real step in the right direction. The "Freedom Top" portion is two pieces, which allows you to store it behind the rear seat standing up in a provided bag.
          Of the four Wranglers I've had, the one above is the only one that's been a soft top. When I bought the new one I debated hard vs. soft. The absolute worst was an aftermarket "targa" hard top. It suuuucked.
          I concur with JeepJeff in regards to 2 door vs. 4 door. It seems that the higher the price the more likely it is that someone will spring for the hard top. You're probably more likely to see a soft top 4 door Sport than a soft top 2 door Sahara, IMHO.
          And of course there is the dual top option…

          1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
            Peter Tanshanomi

            As someone who loves hot summer days and open-air motoring but is a fair-skinned sunburn (not to mention melanoma) risk, this is the best configuration I can come up with…and it's something other traditional convertibles or retractable hardtops can't come close to duplicating.
            <img src="http://www.autotrucktoys.com/jeep/images/BT52508-01-Bestop-Bikini-Top.jpg"&gt;

          2. IronBallsMcG Avatar

            With the standard soft top you can unzip the sides and remove the rear window. That's what my wife prefers. We did that more than dropping the full top.
            <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/member_images/7/web/3187000-3187999/3187130_2_full.jpg&quot; width="500/">
            If you're feeling adventurous you can remove the doors too.

      2. jeepjeff Avatar

        The four doors are almost all hard tops (I see a few soft tops around here), but the two doors have a much more even split on hard-vs-top in my informal didn't-count-at-all survey.

    2. MVEilenstein Avatar

      Came here to post this.

  5. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Soft tops aren't going anywhere, at least on smaller cars and sportscars. The manual roof on the bone-breaking MINI Roadster is my favourite so far, haven't been in an MX-5. Something like the Renault Megane CC is absurdly heavy, and slow even with the 2.0 turbo. Same thing for the T5 Volvo C70, it feels very sluggish. And both have mail-slots for boots with the roof down. Suppose they are okay for cruising, but the top of the windshield is so far back that it doesn't feel like a convertible unless you look straight up, which is difficult while driving.
    Some benefits of the soft top:
    -They leave a usable boot
    -They are lighter
    -They look better(many modern hard tops are ghastly with the roof up)
    -They are generally faster
    -Less complicated, less to go wrong
    They are just better. I guess it's not hard to see which camp I'm in.

    1. Ate Up With Motor Avatar
      Ate Up With Motor

      And of course the retractable hardtop is more expensive to produce…

  6. I Think Not Avatar
    I Think Not

    Obsolete? Nah.
    However, I think we need a return to the true roadster — a car with no top!
    What I want is the MX-5 equivalent of a Jeep. No top? No problem. The seats are neoprene, there's no carpet (just some spray-on bedliner-esque floor coating for grip), holes in the floor for rain drainage, and some waterproofing on the interior electrics so that, while parked in anything short of a torrential downpour, you won't even need to bother putting on the cockpit cover, which would be something like one of these aftermarket offerings available today:
    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/932/301/2327650011_large.jpg"&gt;

    1. Kogashiwa Avatar

      YES. Actually I quite badly want one of these:
      <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_bNE0jnP8UfQ/TM0pdPsjXvI/AAAAAAAALGY/LIu9IynmX6g/s1600/5.jpg"&gt;

  7. Neen85 Avatar

    I've owned two soft top convertibles;
    91 Miata
    85 Mustang GT
    I love convertible driving with the top down but I loath soft top cruising. It is loud, thermally inefficient and both of my tops would leak given enough rainfall. They are a pain to replace and if you don't DIY the job…the cost is absurd. I am all for lightweight hard top retractables.

  8. FЯeeMan Avatar

    Were I to get a 'vert, (wind in what's left of the hair, +1, wind drying out the contacts, -1000000), I would probably lean toward a hard top, based on a 4 day rental of a 96 Mustang in St. Louis with <10k on the clock. The broken latch let through a not inconsiderable amount of cold, damp late Octoburrrr air.
    I did test drive a used 911 with the soft top up a few years later, and it wasn't until the sales guy pointed it out, that I realized I had been 70+ with the top up and there was no appreciable noise, so there is that…

  9. jeepjeff Avatar

    Oddly enough, I'm not sure which camp I'm in.
    The soft top on my Jeep hasn't been terrible, aside from it being horribly worn out and in desperate need of replacement. If I weren't street parked, I'd just have yanked it months ago, and have run in the summer without a top.
    At the same time, I'd like to put skis on top of my Jeep, which can be done with a hardtop and a roof rack with fixed mounts or with no top at all. As much as I love driving with no top in most weather conditions, I still have a limit (I like driving into mountain storms to go skiing, a bit much for no top. I'm simply not that hardcore ;). OTOH, a hardtop is around 3-4x as expensive as a soft top to purchase.
    So, the less expense and lightness of soft tops appeal to me too, and given a top in good condition, pulling down the roof on the Jeep isn't bad (it's a bit of a production, but still doable in a minute or two).
    I also dream of owning a roadster of some sort without any top at all.
    So I guess both and neither, at the same time. (Which means my real answer to the question is: No, I don't think soft tops are going away. There's plenty of room for both styles of top in the world.)

    1. IronBallsMcG Avatar

      I have this set-up on my TJ (until I sell the thing). Bought it for my fishing kayak.
      <img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-kA5-x_dro3g/T9H61l5KtTI/AAAAAAAAAi4/XVFTy4g8NvE/w696-h520-no/IMG_20120506_084228.jpg"width=500&gt;

      1. jeepjeff Avatar

        I'm not a huge fan of how these look, but it may end up being the right compromise (ie, replace my soft top, get a removable rack like that for winter and live with it).

        1. IronBallsMcG Avatar

          Oh, I agree, and they can be noisy.
          But with the basket off I've hauled 4×8 sheet goods, box springs, and who knows what. It definitely made the thing a lot more practical.

  10. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

    I don't think anyone has really licked the problem that has plagued hardtop convertibles since those Ford Skyliners — namely, that there is precious little trunk space with the top folded. Worse yet, in some cars that offer either a soft or hard top, the folding mechanisms for the two tops share a number of parts, so the soft top takes up more space than it really needs to .

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