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The Open Road
By Nate Chapnick | Photo: Courtesy of the brands | May 27, 2016
All work and no play... no way! Hit the highways and have some fun in the sun piloting one of these top-down thrill rides.
As the mercury rises, so too does the temptation for fast open-air driving. Here, three of the hottest new roadsters, from Jaguar’s sensual F-TYPE to Mercedes’ AMG SLC43 to Porsche’s turbocharged 718 Boxster S, excel in the art of living life in the fast lane. But which model has the most mettle? Men’s Book gets behind the wheel to determine the drop-top to beat.
2016 JAGUAR F-TYPE S CONVERTIBLE
Crafted by famed designer Ian Callum, the Jaguar F-TYPE’s purity of form and timeless proportions have made it a future collectible since it debuted in 2014. Callum’s design is as unabashedly roadster as they come: seating for two sans top wrapped in a lightweight all-aluminum body, powered by a screaming supercharged V-6. Yes, this cat has claws.
Your relationship with the F-TYPE starts the moment you walk up to it, when its flush door handles automatically deploy to meet your hand, as if the car were a true British gent reaching out for a handshake. Once inside, the wow factor continues with vents on the center stack that rise magically to cool you once the climate control is activated. Hit the pulsating start-stop button, and the F-TYPE’s 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 comes to life. A grab handle for passengers on the center stack is a thoughtful gesture, if only to make you feel slightly less guilty when throwing this Jag around a corner. While these bespoke details at first seem minor, they help to form an emotional connection that you’ll quickly make with the F-TYPE.
And this bond is one that’s impossible to break once you hear the car’s howling 380-horsepower supercharged V-6 rocket off the line. Mash the pedal, and the Jag launches with authority, waking up the neighborhood with its standard Active Sports Exhaust. Even though the F-TYPE is the slowest in this comparison from 0 to 60 mph (albeit by two-tenths of a second), you would never realize it from the outsize growl and punctuated shotgun-like gearshifts of the exhaust note.
On the road, the F-TYPE is a blast to drive, though taller drivers will find themselves wishing for more legroom on longer hauls. The F-TYPE’s sophisticated Adaptive Dynamics feature makes it easy to dial in your driving preferences depending on your mood, from relaxed in comfort to punchy in sport mode. In comfort mode, the Jag’s ability to soak up the bumps is impressive and the best of this bunch, especially when you consider the limited wheel travel of its low-slung design.
Bottom Line The 2016 F-TYPE S Convertible is certainly the looker of the group, and you will pay for those looks. However, Jaguar’s maintenance program is complimentary, and most everything you want comes standard in the car.
Base price $83,700
Engine 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Horsepower 380 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 339 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 rpm
Maximum cargo capacity 7.0 cu. ft.
City fuel economy 19 mpg
Highway fuel economy 27 mpg
Fuel tank 18.5 gal.
Weight 3,558 lbs.
0 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 171 mph
2017 MERCEDES-AMG SLC43
Some 20 years after its debut, the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 has been renamed and re-energized with a new engine and a head-to-toe makeover. The 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC43, as it is now known, drops the SLK’s burbling V-8 engine in favor of a new, smaller, more fuel-efficient biturbo V-6 engine that rocks 362 horsepower.
From the outside, Mercedes gave the SLC a new front grille and revised headlamps, but it still retains the same general shape of the previous SLK: long hood, small cabin and short overhangs. Unique to the SLC is its retractable hardtop, however, which offers better sound and weather insulation than the cloth tops used on the Boxster and F-TYPE S in this comparison. Of course, having the hardtop does have its drawbacks; chief among them is that the car must be parked or at a very slow crawl to operate the roof, which means you’d better hope you’re near an overpass when those blue skies turn stormy. The Porsche and Jag both allow you to raise and lower the top at speeds up to around 30 mph.
On the road, the SLC43 feels nimble and effortless. The 0 to 60 mph time is in the middle of this very competitive pack, accomplishing the task in just 4.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. With the standard Dynamic Select system, the driving experience is tailored specifically to your style with five modes, ranging from comfort to Sport+. The SLC43 feels like a totally different car depending on what mode you select—modifications tweak the engine, suspension, steering, exhaust and transmission to create distinct driving flavors. While Porsche offers an equally impressive system with its Sport Chrono package, Active Suspension Management and Sport Exhaust options, all told, these features will push the cost of your Boxster up by some $6,250. Still, the Boxster’s midengine layout gives it an advantage over the SLC43 and the Jag on the racetrack, with or without the electronic systems.
Slide inside the SLC43, and you feel like you’re putting on a well-tailored suit. If you tend to be more sensitive to the elements, the SLC43 is for you, with its class-exclusive Airscarf system, which blows hot air directly on your neck, working in concert with the three-stage seat heaters to keep you toasty well after the drop-top season ends. A 7-inch display is controlled using Mercedes’ familiar COMAND control knob, which makes adjustments simple and hassle-free.
Bottom Line With the lowest price in the group, the Mercedes-AMG SLC43 offers the biggest bang for your hard-earned buck.
Base price $63,000 est.
Engine 3.0-liter biturbo V-6
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Horsepower 362 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
Torque 384 lb.-ft. @ 2,000-4,200 rpm
Maximum cargo capacity 10.1 cu. ft.
City fuel economy 00 mpg
Highway fuel economy 00 mpg
Fuel tank 18.5 gal.
Weight 3,518 lbs. est.
0 to 60 mph 4.6 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
2017 PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER S
Making changes to something that’s already nearly perfect is never an enviable position for an engineer. Instructed to update the Boxster marque to not only improve fuel economy and emissions, but also to replace its much-loved flat-six with a turbocharged flat-four-cylinder power plant, was no easy task. But the new 718 Boxster S is faster and more powerful than ever before, yet also more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, all while using a smaller engine.
Powering the 718 Boxster S is a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat 4-cylinder that puts out 350 horsepower; that is 35 ponies more than its predecessor, despite returning a 14 percent improvement in fuel economy. When it comes to torque, the gains are even more impressive; up 43 lb.-ft. to 309 lb.-ft. thanks to the Boxster’s new turbocharger. Even with this smaller engine, the Boxster S still manages the best run from 0 to 60 mph in this group, accomplishing the task in just 4.2 seconds with Porsche’s optional PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. When equipped with the $1,920 Sport Chrono package, this time shortens to 4.0 seconds flat, making it eight-tenths of a second faster than the Jaguar. The only thing that you’ll miss in this new Boxster iteration is the sound from the previous model’s flat-six engine. Even with technology that amplifies the natural sound of the engine, it’s just not the same.
On the outside, it takes a trained eye to distinguish the new 718 Boxster S from its predecessor. The new $2,140 optional LED headlights are the most noticeable change, while the rear sees new LED taillights that look almost as if they’re floating. On the street, the Jaguar’s sensuous lines proved more eye-catching to passers-by than the Boxster, but the Boxster’s midengine layout still proved to have more curb appeal than the redesigned Mercedes-Benz SLC43.
Inside, the 718 Boxster received only minor updates: The biggest change is a new three-spoke steering wheel, a marked visual and tactile improvement over the previous model. The new wheel also sports a plethora of infotainment controls. As with the outgoing Boxster, the new 718 includes an impressive 9.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity in its “frunk” (front cargo area) and its rear trunk, regardless of the roof’s position. This gives the Boxster an edge considering the Mercedes’ 10.1 cubic feet are reduced to 6.4 cubic feet when the top is down. So go ahead and pack to your heart’s content. Taller drivers will find the Boxster to be the most comfortable in this group, but if you have relatively broad shoulders, you might feel a bit squeezed by the seats, in which case the Mercedes will be the better option.
Bottom Line While Porsche’s new 718 Boxster S may not have the same sweet sound that you’re used to, its impressive performance chops continue to thrill.
Base price $71,600
Engine 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower 350 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 309 lb.-ft. @ 1,900 rpm
Maximum cargo capacity 9.7 cu. ft.
City fuel economy 23 mpg est.
Highway fuel economy 32 mpg est.
Fuel tank 16.9 gal.
Weight 3,054 lbs.
0 to 60 mph 4.2 seconds
Top Speed 177 mph