Open Air Luxury

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
Roof up or down, these three convertibles embody the pinnacle of luxury driving

Top down, cruising along Alpine roads in the Italian sun, in many ways, it’s the ultimate driving experience – provided of course that the car you’re in fits the scene. You want something which not only has the performance to take those winding roads by storm, but the comfort required for a long drive. That means a grand tourer.

Though in our admittedly idealised scenario the Italian Alps are the backdrop, there are few countries which do grand tourers more succinctly than Britain. It’s an extension of the classical luxury and elegance we’re known for.

Take the Rolls-Royce Dawn for instance. The marque regularly declare themselves makers of the best cars in the world and we’re not one to dispute them; the Dawn is pretty much the epitome of convertible luxury.

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Between the dramatic proportions and the sensuous styling, the Dawn would stand out from the crowd even without the legendary Spirit of Ecstasy winging her way on the front. The exterior is pure Rolls-Royce, the iconic grill balancing menacing and elegant in equal amounts.

Inside, it’s all about the fine details, from the beautiful dashboard to the touches of wood which make it feel more like a luxury yacht than a car. Indeed, sitting in the Dawn feels like lounging in a state room, with all the exquisitely upholstered leather that entails. With the roof up, you find yourself in an oasis of luxurious calm; with it down, you can hear every horse of the 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine.

Impressive as the Dawn is however – and it is very impressive – when it comes to touring convertibles, there’s one name that instantly comes to mind, a car which has in a very real way defined the term GT – the Bentley Continental GT.

A bit more performance oriented than the Dawn, the 4.0 litre V8 engine might not be as powerful as its competitor, but the Continental weighs far less, allowing it to be pushed to greater feats of agility. With the top down, the noise rumbling from beneath you can be intoxicating, made all the more so by the sports specification of the Continental GT S.

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Not that performance means it lacks in comfort; the GT is, as the letters suggest, a Grand Tourer, and that guarantees all the luxuries of a true automotive icon. The four layer construction of the roof for example cuts out any outside noise, silencing that monstrous V8 in a shroud of tranquillity. Combined with the beautifully veneered dashboard, sumptuous leather and wonderfully roomy interior, there are few greater pleasures in life than cruising along in the Continental GT S.

Rolls-Royce, Bentley, it would be unfair to run down the greatest British luxury marques without mentioning Aston Martin. The Vanquish Volante is, after all, an absolutely stunning convertible. The sleek lines, the unmitigated elegance, it’s everything you could look for in a sportier alternative to the Continental and Dawn. The Zagato limited edition however is something else entirely.

Breath-taking is the only way to describe the Vanquish Zagato with any degree of justice. It’s aesthetically sublime, the ruby red and unique bodywork epitomising why Zagato are one of the most lauded automotive designers in the world. The latest fruit of a long-standing partnership, the car was originally showcased as a concept; it didn’t take long for Aston Martin to realise they were onto something special and release it as a short series production car.

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The Vanquish Zagato bears all the hallmarks of the coachwork specialists, from the wrap-around glasshouse to the logo on the upholstery. Even the roof has their iconic ‘double bubble’ construction, allowing more headroom without compromising on aerodynamics. Inside herringbone carbon fibre is paired with anodized bronze for a unique textural quality.

Underneath, the world class performance of the Vanquish Volante is still in full effect, with a top speed of 201 mph that leaves both the Rolls-Royce and Bentley in the dust. Granted it doesn't have quite the luxurious amount of room of the others, but you can have a lot more fun in it – and as we all know, driving should be fun. In all three instances however, it also happens to be very luxurious indeed.

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