Driving with the top down is the best way to salute the start of spring and drive deeply into summer.
After all, few things compare with the freedom and enjoyment of open-air motoring, and in Australia there's plenty of great weather to 'go topless' for much of the year – and then pop the roof back up when the mercury drops and the rain starts to fall.
After facing extinction in the 1980s, when American rollover rules cracked down on the safety of convertibles, open-air cars have continued to star through the 21st century.
A wide range of cabriolets and convertibles is now available in Australia, equipped for all sorts of driving enjoyment and budgets both big and small, but it’s easy to zero-in on four favourites.
Price: from $34,190
This is the one that all the others are measured against. It’s not the biggest, or the flashiest, or the costliest, but nothing matches the purity and enjoyment of the MX-5.
Since 1989 the Japanese two-seater has been the world’s favourite sports car, with razor-sharp responses and and the simplest folding roof in the business, to make it the open-air benchmark.
Recently updated in the engine room for more go with less stress from its 2.0-litre engine, and also available as the RF with Retractable Hardtop roof and even with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox, there is still nothing for the money that comes close to an MX-5.
Ford Mustang Convertible
Price: From $59,490
The first-choice rental car for Aussie tourists taking the scenic Highway 1 drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in California is now available at home.
The droptop is the glamour puss of the Mustang lineup, available with both four-cylinder and V8 engines, as well as manual and automatic gearboxes, to suit every driving style.
But the big American muscle car is all about style, from its folding canvas roof to the four-seater cabin for indulgent fun.
Boot space is not great, and it wobbles a bit on nasty surfaces, but a ‘stang is tough to toss and its also great value for a big car with a giant history.
Audi TT Roadster
Price: from $74,700
Audi has open-air choices for almost everyone, from the baby A3 hatchback right up to the supercar R8 Spyder. But it’s the TT that emerges as the real deal, with a good looking body, two-seater cabin, easy-opening roof and the classy final finishing that makes every Audi a special treat.
It’s the car to enjoy driving, to admire your reflection in a shopfront window, and to recommend to friends.
If you want to go all the way, playing the Porsche performance game at a fraction of the price, the TT-RS is seriously quick and massively good fun – with an exhaust soundtrack that will announce every arrival and punctuate every romp down a twisty country road.
BMW 4 Series Convertible
Price: from $89,200
Class. Elegance. Style. BMW ticks all the boxes with the latest droptop 4 Series, the latest name for the two-door version of the 3 Series sedan which has provided its bedrock since the 1980s.
The convertible Four scores with a comfortable four-seater cabin, a comfy ride and a roof that is beautifully built, has one-touch practicality, and – since a switch from metal back to canvas – still allows reasonable space for bags in the boot.
Sometimes it can feel a bit wobbly, but it’s only on the worst Aussie B-roads and if you’re extracting the plentiful performance from a car which demands to be driven.
Best of all, if you want a convertible that’s a serious road runner then BMW has the M4, a hotrod with a twin-turbo engine that will really put the wind in your hair.