Whether you want to inject some fun into your daily driving, long to trade in the SUV for a good midlife crisis car, or simply daydream of top-down driving on a sunny afternoon, it’s hard to go wrong with a luxury roadster.Consumer Reports’ recent tests find the Porsche Boxster tops a quartet of convertible two-seat sports cars that blend a fun-to-drive character, plenty of performance, lots of features and striking style. In their latest tests of the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Audi TT and BMW Z4, Consumer Reports’ engineers found each model scores well, but the redesigned Boxster comes out ahead easily, scoring 8 points higher than the SLK — which had the next highest test score.
Consumer Reports’ findings include the following:
— Porsche Boxster. The mid-engine Boxster delivers the purest sports car experience of the four roadsters Consumer Reports tested. Its engineers found it to be quick and agile, with an invigorating engine note. Braking is superb. Turn-in response is telepathic, and the body stays even keel. All of that makes it truly fun to drive. The Boxster also has an impeccable interior, a tolerable ride and a convertible top that operates with the press of a button and can be quickly raised or lowered while driving up to 31 mph. Thanks to a wind blocker, wind buffeting is minimal with the top down.
— Mercedes-Benz SLK. Helped by its retractable hard-top, Consumer Reports found the SLK was the most luxurious of the four cars and the best for a long drive. With the top up, it provides the enclosed quiet and comfort of a sports coupe. But the top can be folded away with the press of a button. The SLK also shines for its sporty character. Handling is crisp and agile, with good steering feedback. At its handling limits, the stability control allows some tail slide, but the car is balanced and predictable. The ride is firm yet supple. And stopping distances are very short. The 1.8-liter turbocharged engine in the SLK250 can sound a bit wheezy, but it delivers plenty of thrust while getting an impressive 26 mpg overall.
— Audi TT. Testers found that the TT convertible is not only a nimble, fun-to-drive roadster, but also one of the few convertibles available with all-wheel drive. Handling is sporty but less engaging than the Boxster or the SLK. Stops are very short, but the stiff ride can be somewhat taxing. A lot of noise comes through the soft top. At its high handling limits, the TT showed tenacious cornering grip. The TT is relatively roomy inside and has a nicely finished cabin with stylish details.
— BMW Z4. Consumer Reports also found the Z4 performs well, accelerating faster than many competitors. It garners better fuel economy than the Boxtser, SLK and TT — an impressive 28 mpg overall from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The retractable hard-top operates slowly but keeps the cabin relatively quiet. The engineers found the Z4 isn’t as much fun to drive as the others. Braking is excellent, and handling is secure, but more body lean and a penchant for running wide when pushed makes it less engaging. The taut ride often becomes jarring. And the diesellike clatter of the idling engine is not the purr that enthusiasts crave. The interior is well finished, with firmly padded and supportive but very snug seats.