The Challenge: Find a cool soft-top for less than £10k

Posted: July 16, 2015 by The Car Spy in Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Honda, Mercedes Benz, MG, Nissan, Porsche, TVR
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And so the conversation started with: “I need some advice. I have a yearning for a soft-top that is not limp-wristed, must be fast and capable of putting a smile on my face. I have a budget of £10k and I want to buy the car and fuel for the summer with the money”. The challenge was on.

Our friend is a car enthusiast, drives an expensive Range Rover but luckily he is not too hung-up on badge snobbery. A mid-life crisis was unfolding however and the interest in a drop-top was likely to be short-lived especially when the balmy days of summer had turned into the dark, cold days of November. Residuals had better be half-decent then for whatever was chosen for the summer ride.

A quick search in the usual on-line showrooms revealed a surprising number of candidates that could potentially do the job for the man. So the plan was to produce a Top Ten list of candidates but it almost became a struggle to keep the list down to twenty such is the variety of choice out there.

However, performance and value for money became the cutting tools for slimming down the list and a magic Top Ten was finally accomplished based on the criteria we had set for the car.

Each car in our list will give you a pleasant shove in the back with at least 200bhp on tap (ahem, with the exception of one) and you will get to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds in most of them. Some will make a glorious sound in the process. Out of the £10k budget we have allowed for a grand’s worth of fuel and insurance to get through the summer.

If you are bothered about the name on the boot-lid then some of you might dismiss half of our suggestions with ease. For those of you with an open mind and a financial awareness that precludes any prejudices against driving a car more than two years old you will hopefully concur with our findings.

For added measure the cars we have listed are cars you can buy today (as long as they haven’t been sold before you read this article) so we have tried to make the choice as real as possible.

And so, in no particular order:

Honda S2000

Honda S2000 – we sold quite a few of these back in the day and even today we can marvel at the sheer flexibility of Honda’s VTEC engine and its ability to rev up to 8000 rpm with ease. Depending on the year model of choice up to 247 hp will be available from the 2.0 litre and the later cars have nicer alloys. Graphite grey or black with a red or black/red interior are popular colours. This particular example would fit the bill very nicely at £9000.

audi-tt-3-2-v6-quattro-2dr-dsg-118574228-7

Audi TT 3.2 V6 Quattro – The shape of the Mk 1 TT has stood the test of time well and Audi has struggled to improve on a design that was somehow just right at the very start of production. The silky-smooth V6 version offers 247 hp and married with the superb DSG gearbox this TT will eat up the miles with ease. Black and silver are preferred colours for the TT and this one looks spot on for £8246.

nissan-350z-v6-roadster-124545272-3Nissan 350Z V6 Roadster – Shamelessly copying from the TT’s curvy shape but still managing to retain its own identity the 350Z dishes up a wholesome 287 hp. The 3.5 litre V6 powerplant also produces a nice snorty note which means driving with the roof down at every opportunity. Some colours can make the car look a little dumpy but this lovely burnt orange example for £8295 looks a peach.

bmw-z4-roadster-z4-si-sport-roadster-e4-S1870789-1BMW Z4 3.0 – Sadly the M Roadster was out of reach of our budget but the lusty 262 hp straight-six 3 litre is a capable substitute. Manuals are okay-ish but the splendid 6-speed auto box with flappy paddles makes for entertaining driving. Black or dark grey are good choices for colours and this low-mileage Z4 for £8395 ticks all the boxes for us.

 

mercedes-slk32-amg-slk32-amg-125280955-1Mercedes Benz SLK32 AMG – If there is one winner in the horsepower stakes amongst our choices then the SLK32 AMG romps home with first prize. The supercharged six-cylinder produces no less than 349 hp and (on paper at least) is likely to be the quickest car on our short-list. The engine noise is beguiling and this version of the SLK distances itself comfortably from the limp-wristed image of the lesser-powered SLK’s. Choose colours wisely and avoid the strange reds, blues and yellows – stick with safe silver or black like this one being advertised for £8950.

Chim4TVR Chimaera 4.0 – Such is the popularity of older TVR’s these days that is was surprising that we could find even one suitable car to include in our list. A 5.o Chimaera was our first target but finding anything less than a basket-case for under £10k was impossible. The 4.0 V8 however will rustle up 240 hp and will undoubtedly make the best noise of any of the cars on our list. The V8 soundtrack is intoxicating and you will be looking for excuses to find a tunnel on every trip. Any colour will do and our choice is this lovely-looking blue example on offer at £8999.

boxster32Porsche Boxster 3.2 – On the other hand there is a large choice (by comparison) of Boxsters out there so the key is to go for the 258 hp 3.2 and not the 2.7. Also look for the latest version you can find for the money. These cars are (almost) bullet-proof and wear the miles well whilst offering brilliant handling and eager performance that will put a large grin on your visage. Most will be found in tasteful, blues, blacks or silver and we found this splendid Seal Grey low-mileage 3.2 on offer at £8995

alfa-romeo-spider-jts-v6-S1850277-1Alfa Romeo Spider V6 – Before you start mumbling about the unreliability etc of Italian cars take a deep breath and consider the virtues of the Alfa Spider. It is arguably the prettiest car on our list. An Alfa that has been cared for has been owned by somebody who loves their cars. For that reason they would have made sure that maintenance and any failed bits would have been taken care of under their stewardship. Our budget allows for the purchase of a 260 hp V6 version which is probably the best V6 engine ever made. Oh yes it is. Let your heart rule your head and be different with this classic Alfa Red example for a lowly £8250.

bmw-e46-m3-00-06-m3-smg-S1862065-10BMW M3 – The second BMW to appear on our list (not a surprise really) and it’s the E46 M3 with its energetic 330 hp straight six powerplant. The car is a joy to drive and once again this is a car that we have a great deal of experience with (including the earlier E36 M3). Service history is everything with these cars and avoid anything with missing BMW history in the early part of its life. The manual 6-speed gearbox is our preferred choice but the SMG sequential transmission is fun to live with. Most colours look good on the car and this Mystic Blue M3 looks very appealing at £9000.

mediaI3W5IUWOMG MGB – Come on, if you are going to live the dream of classic open-top motoring then the MBG is still top of the list. Original early car values have gone ballistic now and you would need £20k to buy a decent example. For our budget we are looking at the later rubber-bumper cars which have been converted back to chrome and all of the US-spec rubbish bits removed. Performance will be underwhelming from the 95 hp 1.8 litre engine but that doesn’t matter because it will keep up with modern traffic all day long and make a nice noise whilst doing so. How about this Tartan Red model with chrome wire wheels for £8200? Could be worth a bit more than that by the time you sell it too!

So there you have it, a chance to let the wind blow through your hair this summer without breaking the bank. Most of the cars listed would depreciate by very little if anything at all and one or two might actually be worth a little bit more by the end of the year.

Which one did our friend go for? He hasn’t made up his mind yet since we gave him too much choice!

Feel free to let us know which soft-top you would choose or if you think there are any other cars out there that deserve to be on our list and why.

 

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