Drive Car of the Year 2012 - Convertible contenders
Volkswagen Golf Cabrio.
- Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet
- Porsche Boxster
Last year, Drive’s judges had to ask themselves how much a truly inspiring open-top drive should cost, answering the question by awarding Volkswagen’s Golf Cabriolet the award for Best Convertible of 2011 over the Porsche Boxster and the Mercedes-Benz SLK200.
Priced under $40,000, the Golf Cabrio ceded some performance and dynamic ability to both the Boxster and the SLK, but not enough to justify the Merc’s $45,000 premium, nor the reigning champion Porsche’s almost-$60,000 extra spend.
Looking backward usually only gives you an aching neck, but in this case last year’s shock win to the cut-price VW soft-top remains sharply relevant because competition this year again comes from a Boxster.
Since that defeat, the Boxster has been completely rebuilt including a wider, lower body, less weight, a smaller but more powerful engine and a cabin design inspired by the recently revamped 911 coupe.
The new 2.7-litre flat six engine in the base model replaces the former 2.9-litre unit and develops an extra 8kW (up to 195kW) while losing 10Nm (down to 280Nm). It’s also 15.4 per cent more efficient (7.7L/100km) when teamed with Porsche’s “PDK” seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It also has a stop-start system for the first time, and energy recuperation to feed power back into the battery during coasting.
The Boxster also gets the same front suspension set-up as the rear-engined 911, plus the same electro-mechanical steering. Interior styling is also lifted from the 911, while exterior design is more aggressive. The new Boxster also addresses one of the key criticisms of the old one, replacing the manual roof release mechanism with a fully automated one.
The Golf Cabrio is unchanged since last year and is an altogether simpler proposition. Its appeal to Drive’s judges last year was its Golf-like driving manners, employing the same twin-charged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine as the former overall DCOTY winner, the Golf 118TSI.
It combines responsive urgency with outstanding efficiency, especially when paired with the six-speed dual-clutch auto that is a terrific accomplice on a winding road, if a little grabby around town.
As with the Boxster the rag-top roof recedes into the boot space, although the VW still has a small hump evident on the back deck. However, the Golf trumps the two-seat Boxster with a tight but handy back seat space that’s probably for children and bags only.
A trio of Mercedes drop-tops narrowly missed the cut this year. At $225,000 – or twice the price of the Boxster plus some change - the Mercedes-Benz SL350 immediately had a significant hurdle to overcome. Its punchy 3.5-litre V6 won it points, but vague steering and soft suspension even in ‘sport’ mode counted against it.
Mercedes’ SLK 55 AMG roadster also missed a berth. It looks terrific and rides well, but can struggle to get its prodigious power to the ground in an orderly fashion and the seven-speed auto can be a bit baulky.
Mercedes’ other recently-released roadster, the SLS, brooks no such criticism with a retractable fabric roof that turns up the volume on one of the all-time great engines, Benz’s 6.2-litre V8.
However, a prohibitive buy-in just shy of half a million dollars – or 12 times the price of the Golf Cabrio – ensured the mighty Merc missed the DCOTY cut but remains firmly on every judge’s “I wish” list.
|Performance Statistics||0-60 km/h||0-100 km/h||0-400 m||Top speed|
|Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet 118TSI||5.2||10.8||17.8||132|
|Porsche Boxster 2.7 PDK||3.2||6.9||14.9||159|
2011 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet
2010 Porsche Boxster
2009 Porsche Boxster
2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen Eos
2006 Mazda MX-5