Piston Slap: Daddy's Daily Driven Droptop?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap daddy s daily driven droptop

TTAC Commentator furhead writes:


A while back I had written in with a question about which is the best wagon to get. The advice was great, but I didn’t follow any of it. We ended up with a 2005 Camry SE simply because it was too good of a deal to walk away from. The car is fine…and I guess that is the problem. That is all it is: fine. Except for the seats, they suck. The front seats are by far the worst seats that I have ever had to travel in. Any ride longer than 1 hour requires a bottle of Advil nearby in order to make it through.

So now, after living with two children for some time now, my wife and I have a better idea of what we need and don’t need, and we are coming to the realization that we don’t need a car that neither one of us likes and makes our backs hurt on long drives.

We have something bigger and likely always will, which is making us start to wonder: could we make due with a convertible? We would like it (whenever we rent a car, it has no roof). The kids would like it (they always request all the windows and sunroof open). We both really like Saabs and miss my old SPG, which has us looking at 2006 – 2008 9-3s as well as first generation Volvo C70s (the new hard top looks great, but eats too much trunk space). I know there are potentially other options, but seating for four and front wheel drive are necessary as we live in the northeast (AWD options are likely out of our price range of roughly $12-$14k). Comfortable seats is also a high priority as we regularly travel 3 – 4 hours to visit family.

I have a good independent mechanic who specializes in European cars, and we are a three car family, so when the convertible is inevitably in the shop, we won’t be in a bind.

So, is there any chance that I could hear from parents who have a convertible (of any kind) as a daily driver? Are the compromises worth the enjoyment?

Sajeev answers:

Ah yes, beancounted seating was so 10 years ago! Many cars (including the Camry) from this era had pretty horrible seats. Not sure if new Camrys have better seats, but they are better for a few minutes at a time. But from what I’ve seen in new rental cars (Fusion, Avenger, 300 etc) they are light years ahead of previous iterations.

That said, the best seats in modern family cars are certainly in the domain of the Swedes. I am sure 99% of human bodies are supremely comfortable in them.

So anyway…about your Swedish droptop fantasy. Your expectations of the potential SAAB-Volvo are spot on, since this is a third vehicle and you know a good Euro mechanic, buy one with an excellent service history. But only after your mechanic gives it their stamp of approval. If you keep the child seats (assuming your kids are that small) locked in the rear and fill them with kiddos with the top down, this sounds pretty simple. Not having a roof makes it seem easy.

My only concern is safety: do you want to daily drive a vehicle with a flexi-flyer body packed full of kids in bad weather surrounded by SUVs?

Will you hear from parents with a daily driven drop top? Only one way to find out: off you go, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 35 comments
  • Kevin Miller Kevin Miller on Dec 04, 2013

    In August of this year I did what you are now contemplating: I bought a 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero cabrio as a third car for our family, which joins my old 9-5 sedan and my wife's Ford Flex in our fleet. Our kids are 5 and 8; they like riding with the top down only on "perfect" days, and I prefer driving the cabrio with the wind deflector in place most of the time given Seattle's cool climate. The rear seat isn't huge though, and with my long legs I can see some complaining coming from the kids when they get a bit bigger. So, while we've certainly gone on family drives in the convertible, it is mostly used by only one adult on good "convertible" days, and parked in the garage the rest of the time. As you're considering the convertible for a third car, I'll tell you to go for a 9-3 cabrio. There's nothing like it!

  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Dec 04, 2013

    This is a no-brainer, if you already have 2 daily drivers and want something fun then dump that Camry and get whatever your heart (and wallet) desires for a convertible. The Saab convertibles have excellent reputations, the Volvo supposedly has the best seats ever, you could also check out BMW convertibles, Benzes, Lexus IS-C, Mustangs or Camaros, maybe even a Murano convertible (LOL), someone earlier suggested the G6 convertibles and I like those a lot, they seem much better made that a typical G6, a Jeep Wrangler is also a good suggestion, nice to have the overall capability in a "toy" if you are not looking for a sports car anyway and if you ever get tired of it you can probably sell it for whatever you paid for it. Kids love convertibles, they will be thrilled, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of it too if you like the open air driving. And whoever said that convertibles can cause permanent hearing damage is being ridiculous, we have an MR2 Spyder that is as loud as any convertible can be, my dad had an S2000 that wasn't much quieter, and the noise levels at highway speed was nothing close to "damaging". Somewhat annoying at times, yes, but I can talk on a cell phone with the top down so it isn't too terrible. A modern car like you are looking at will be fine. And you should be taking the back roads anyways when the top is down. :)

  • Fred Remember when radios were an option? Do you know you can use your phone to listen to any radio station in the world? This is just a whole waste of time.
  • Pig_Iron ASTC 3.0 AM radio was successfully demonstrated at CES. It is a common standard shared with terrestrial television, so the audio equipment is commonized for broadcasters. And no royalty fees to pay, unlike HDRadio which has been a less than stellar success. 📻
  • Art Vandelay Crimes that are punished with fines encourage abuse by those enforcing them. If it is truly dangerous to the public, maybe jail or give the offenders community service. People’s time tends to be very valuable to them and a weeks lost work would certainly make a high earner think twice. If it isn’t a big danger why are police enforcing it (outside of raising money of course). Combine it with a points system. When your points are gone you do a week imitating Cool Hand Luke.
  • Cha65697928 High earners should pay less for tickets because they provide the tax revenue that funds the police. 2-3 free speeding tix per year should be fair.
  • Art Vandelay So the likely way to determine one’s income would be via the tax return. You guys are going to be real disappointed when some of the richest folks pay no speeding fine the same way they minimize their taxes