What do a Mazda Miata and Porsche Carrera S have in common? Not the sticker price, that’s for sure.
At $140,000—the cost of a decked-out Porsche cabriolet—you can buy five Miatas. But then, the Carrera has a killer engine, sublime handling and revved-up exhaust rumble that can be heard blocks away.
Still, don’t make a beeline to your local Porsche dealer just yet. The redone Miata—the MX-5 Club edition below—is the best ever, with sexy sport package, quick steering and grippy rear-wheel drive.
Mazda MX-5 Miata Club PRHT
Mpg: 21 city/28 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
Cargo space: 5.3 cu. ft.
Sure, most Miatas look like toy Matchbox cars. But Mazda butched things up by adding the tuner-like Club model, with front air dam, rear diffuser and racy black accents on the power hardtop, side mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels. Those Euro-like alloys also come with thick, high-performance tires to help hold the road. Inside, the “Fast and Furious” tweaks continue, with red stitching on the black cloth seats, a leather-wrapped shifter knob and steering-wheel audio controls. But there are a few downsides: the engine can sound course when revving to highway speeds, and the quirky release lever for the fuel lid is hidden in a hard-to-reach compartment between the seats. Another bummer: no back seat, which means no rear stowage (except for the tiny trunk) where you can easily toss a briefcase or purse. But the Miata easily beats similar pint-sizers in price, and it retains its crown as the best-selling two-seat convertible in history.
Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet
Mpg: 19 city/27 highway
0-to-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Cargo space: 12 cu. ft.
Pull up in front of a tony restaurant, flip the keys to a valet and—whoa—suddenly you’re a rock star. At least that’s what happened in the Carrera S cabrio, which should be at the top of any midlife-crisis checklist. This is the high-performance model of the iconic 911—redesigned last year—with 400 hp (or a monster 430-hp in the optional Powerkit package). Fast and precise, with 20-inch wheels and stunningly quick braking, this is still the only production car with a seven-speed manual transmission. Yet, soft-top convertibles—without the sturdy rear pillars of a coupe—are prone to cowl shake and wrinkly rooflines. Not so the 911. Porsche reinforced the chassis and used firm curved panels in the canvas top to give this roadster a true coupe silhouette. That top can be raised or lowered in 13 seconds, even while driving at low speeds. Both the automatic wind deflector and rear wing can be stowed with the push of a button. And the glam cabin is tres trendy, with lots of high-tech gauges, 12-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo and sleek Prada-like lines across the dash and center console. Perhaps the only real problem is the low-slung chassis. Older, er, more mature drivers may feel like Mick Jagger when they try to get in this Porsche. But once they’re behind the wheel, they’ll feel as young as Justin Timberlake.