Run to the Sun
After months of suffering sub-zero temperatures, severe snowstorms and other downright awful weather, folks across the country are now ready for some fun in the sun. Since many might be feeling the lingering effects of cabin fever, it could be time to hit the open road solo, or at most with that special someone. And what better way to chase those springtime rays than with a new convertible or motorcycle? Take a quick look here and then get out there and run to the sun — your psyche will thank you for it.
Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster
Price: Starting at $196,495
Let’s start this sun-running list with a car capable of fulfilling many springtime fantasies. Aston Martins are among the most beautiful vehicles on the road, and this V12 Vantage Roadster is as wonderful to hear as it is to behold. A 6.0-liter engine composes the V12 symphony. In addition to the rapturous roar emanating from the exhaust, the powerplant also makes 565 horsepower — clearly an awesome way of enjoying the open road on a warm spring day.
Ducati Scrambler Icon
Price: Starting at $8,495
Positioned on a low rung of the price ladder for these 2-seat sun chasers, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon possesses a time-tested moto look the name implies. With a base price of $8,495, the Icon has a 75-horsepower desmodromic 803cc L-twin engine with a 6-speed gearbox — plenty of scoot to keep a smile planted on your sun-drenched face. Icon is one of four Scrambler variants, the others being a slightly sinister Urban Enduro, retro Classic and flat-track-inspired Full Throttle. Although it’s up for a bit of off-pavement exploring, the Icon’s demeanor definitely leans more toward street sweeper than trailblazer.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Price: Starting at $23,970
Proving that you don’t need big power to have big fun, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most popular roadsters on the market. In fact, the Miata holds the Guinness world record as the best-selling 2-seat roadster in the world. With prices starting below $25,000, this perfectly balanced convertible will help get your groove back as you cruise the coast, attack a winding mountain road, or head down the street to the corner market. A power hardtop or manual soft-top are available — the hard lid retracts in 12 seconds; the manual ragtop can be lowered in just a few seconds.
Kawasaki Versys 1000LT
Price: Starting at $12,799
Finally on American shores for 2015, the Versys 1000LT practically begs to be taken out on the open road. A sporting adventure-tourer, the 1000LT has an aggressive fairing and standard color-matched luggage for short trips. Other standard features are ABS, 3-mode traction control and an adjustable windscreen. Power comes in the form of a 1043CC 1.0-liter inline 4-banger with more than 100 estimated horsepower. With roots in Kawasaki’s long line of Ninja sportbikes, the Versys 1000LT can handle any twisties the open road tosses its way.
Price: Starting at $81,000
If you’re looking for an elegant way to enjoy the wind in your hair, the Jaguar F-TYPE is an excellent choice. Beautiful inside and out, the F-TYPE carries your passenger in heated leather seats with available side bolsters to keep bodies planted during spirited driving. Your passenger will have their own climate controls to stay comfortable even when the top is open. No matter which F-TYPE you choose, you’ll have plenty of power — even the base level gets 340 horsepower from its supercharged V6. Bonus: the 2016 model will offer a manual transmission.
Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS
Price: Starting at $10,399
Another aggressive touring machine, the V-Strom650XT ABS aspires to adventure in looks and deeds. It has a fuel-injected and liquid-cooled 645cc DOHC V-twin engine and a decidedly birdlike fairing with integrated air ducts for improved powerplant cooling. Although riding on reverse-spoke wire wheels for more comfortable off-pavement excursions, the 650XT still employs tubeless tires for fast road trips and easier repairs. And although it probably doesn’t need to be mentioned given its name, this V-Strom has standard ABS.
Ferrari 458 Spider
Price: Starting at $263,553
If you’re looking to go big on performance and presence, the Ferrari 458 Spider will certainly fit the bill — assuming you can foot the bill. Arguably one of the best 2-seat convertibles to come from the Italian car company, the 458 offers incredible handling and plenty of horsepower — 562 to be exact. Whoever rides with you in the 458 will be impressed; if they aren’t, perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong road-trip partner. As Ferrari points out in its literature, the 458 is for “people who like to add an extra shot of exhilaration to driving to dinner or a day out at the coast.” We’d call the 458 a double shot.
KTM 1290 Super Adventure
Price: Starting at $20,499
What can we say about this sweet Austrian enduro-tourer besides this: Just look at it. The 1290 Super Adventure exudes everything two wheels good, from its dual front brake rotors on back to billet-aluminum-like hard cases. The 1290 SA sports a 1301cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine making 160 horsepower at the crank. To keep riders cool, ductwork beneath the fuel tank directs radiator heat away from the pilot. Another cool feature is directional lighting — determined by the bike’s lean angle — for increased visibility while cornering in low light conditions.
Porsche Boxster S
Price: Starting at $63,300
Driving a Porsche — any Porsche — is an awesome experience. Steering is spot on, handling is perfect, and it responds so quickly that the car seems to be reading your mind. The lightweight Boxster S delivers on this description, and drivers get to enjoy some fresh air as well. The rear-drive mid-engine configuration provides outstanding agility, and the 315 horses offer plenty of oomph. With two luggage compartments — front and back — you might even have room for an overnight bag.
Price: Starting at $10,490
Another sport tourer at a sweet price point, the new-for-2015 Yamaha FJ-09 is actually a tweaked version of Yamaha’s excellent FZ-09. Tourers will appreciate the FJ’s more upright riding position, and the extended frame will better accommodate luggage and that inevitable extra occupant. The FJ-09 has an 847cc triple with six gears and features standard ABS and traction control, as well as adjustable handlebars and windscreen. The FJ-09 comes in Matte Gray or Candy red. Hard saddlebags and mounts are extra, and will cost another $600 bucks when all is said and done, but worth the extra cash.
Price: Starting at $49,250
While some of the entries on this list are simply 2-seat convertibles, the Z4 carries the attributes of the classic roadster — the sweeping hood, long wheelbase, low beltline and rear-wheel drive. Even if you’re already on the move, the touch of one button can lower the top in 19 seconds, at speeds up to 25 mph. Three engine options are available in the Z4 — a 240-horsepower 4-cylinder or a 6-cylinder unit producing 300 or 335 horsepower depending on which trim you purchase. Unfortunately the 6-cylinder versions are no longer available with a manual transmission, so if your version of the roadster experience includes rowing through the gears on your own, go for sDrive28i.
BMW S 1000 XR
Price: Starting at $16,350
From the German company that pundits say invented the adventure motorcycling (or ADV) segment, we have the S 1000 XR sport tourer. Like the KTM 1290 Super Adventure, this master Beamer puts out 160 horsepower at the crank; this time from a 4-cylinder 999cc engine sourced from the S 1000 R. The S 1000 XR has a full suite of advanced safety features, including ABS, traction control and an optional semi-active suspension system. This new bike has an all-aluminum frame and a host of touring features, including a lower exhaust canister to allow a full saddlebag on that side of the bike. The S 1000 XR has standard ABS and a range of accessories including heated grips, hard cases and a navigation system. Colors are Racing Red or Light White.
Price: Starting at $40,350
Typically a classic roadster is defined as having a front engine and rear-wheel drive, but there are exceptions we’re willing to accept. The Porsche Boxster has a mid-engine layout, and we’re clearly not taking it off the list. This Audi TT is one of the few roadster options with all-wheel drive, and we’re certainly willing to live with that as well. Available as TT with 211 horsepower or TTS with 265 ponies, this roadster carries its passengers in comfort with 12-way heated power seats, attractive LED lighting and a premium BOSE sound system with 12 speakers and an AudioPilot noise compensation feature that keeps you in tunes even with the wind rushing past at speed.
Can-Am Spyder F3
Price: Starting at $19,499
And now for something completely different. In yet another take on the 2-seat sun chaser, Can-Am’s 3-wheeled Spyder F3 will have you basking in ultraviolet rays and open-mouthed stares from just about anything with a pulse. Riders straddle the Y-framed-chassis of this street snowmobile and hang on for dear life at a twist of the wrist; the F3’s Rotax 3-cylinder 1330cc liquid-cooled engine puts out more than 100 horsepower. Three different packages are available: Touring Escape, Muscle Attitude or Urban Nights. An F3-S trim starts at $20,999. The F3 has a full suite of stability systems, and options include a Garmin GPS and holder, heated driver grips, custom decals, driver or passenger backrests, custom wheels and eight different handlebars.
Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Price: Starting at $59,000
It seems like building 2-seat convertibles is not something American car companies typically embrace, so if you insist on driving American then the only choice is the Chevrolet Corvette. Don’t get us wrong, that’s not a bad thing. Completely redesigned a year ago, the seventh-generation Corvette is arguably the best version GM has ever made, and the interior is certainly the most attractive we’ve seen in a Corvette. The power-operated convertible top can be lowered via the key fob or at speeds up to 30 mph. With power options ranging from the standard 455-horsepower V8 to the outrageous 650 horses in the Z06, the Corvette can certainly reboot the perception of wind in your hair.
Price: Starting at $19,999
And now for something even more completely different: a three-wheeled vehicle from a snowmobile company, licensed like a motorcycle but more carlike than the Can-Am Spyder F3 . . . the Polaris Slingshot. Unlike the F3, you don’t straddle the 3-wheeled Slingshot — the driver and passenger sit side by side in a position that could be described as crazily carlike. But make no mistake, this is not a car; it has no airbags nor does it meet any auto safety regs. That said, the Slingshot employs a GM-sourced 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine that makes 170 horsepower. It has more grunt than the Can-Am F3 and provides more sun-running fun than you ever imagined. The slingshot also has a nifty weatherproof interior and aluminum roll hoops that can support five times the vehicle’s weight.
Nissan 370Z Roadster
Price: Starting at $41,820
If you’re looking for a nice balance of performance and value, the 370Z Roadster might be the right choice. With a price starting in the low $40,000 range, the Z is the least expensive roadster with at least 300 horsepower on the market. In fact, the Z boasts 332 horsepower — available with either a 7-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. You’ll look like an expert with Nissan’s SynchroRev Match system, which automatically adjusts engine speed when manually shifting to the next gear position, essentially “blipping” the throttle to smooth out up/down shifts. With the available leather-trimmed power-adjustable seats with heating and cooling, you and your passenger will stay comfortable no matter what the temperature — inside the cockpit or out.
Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low
Price: Starting at $24,399
As its name implies, the Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low offers the lowest saddle height in the premium touring segment at 25.6 inches, getting the rider’s feet closer to the street. The overall width of the motorcycle has been addressed as well, providing riders under 5 feet 7 inches with the utmost confidence and control. New for 2015, the H-D EGUCL has an air-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke V-twin 103 engine, six speeds and a belt drive. A pullback handlebar puts controls 2 inches closer than previous Classics, and a new hydraulic clutch decreases lever effort. Standard features include hard saddlebags, ABS brakes, electronic cruise control, LED lighting and the H-D Smart Security System. We recommend plumping the extra $1,050 bucks for the two-tone orange paint, making this cool ride a true sun runner.
Price: Starting at $84,000
If you’re looking for a more elegant 2-seat option, it’s hard to beat the Mercedes-Benz SL. With the touch of a button the hardtop can be retracted out of sight in 20 seconds. In addition to enjoying the unlimited headroom, SL passengers get dual-zone automatic climate control, GPS navigation, leather-covered seats, rich wood trim, multicolor ambient lighting and a high end harmon/kardon audio system. The SL can be a perfect cruiser with the 329-horsepower biturbo V6 in the SL400; if you prefer to blow the doors off just about anything else on the road, there’s the SL65 with its outrageous 621-horsepower V12. With either choice, the SL will certainly make an impression when you arrive at your destination.
Price: Starting at $17,345
We couldn’t create a list of new 2-seat sun chasers without a nod to 2-wheeled alt-fuel transport. Although electric motorcycles have had a tough time breaking into the motorcycle market in significant numbers, the 2015 Zero SR should earn some electric bike devotees. The longest-range electric motorcycle in production, the Zero SR has a lithium-ion battery unit that provides 67 horsepower and a maximum speed of 102 mph. It can travel up to 151 miles a charge for city riding, and 94 miles of highway riding at 55 mph. Instant torque makes the SR a true crotch rocket, enabling a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds. Showa suspension components and Bosch anti-lock brakes help keep the torque under control. If you desire a truly environmentally sound sun-chasing experience, the Zero SR should be on your shopping list.