It’s Okay To Close The Top

Understanding Why Convertible Drivers Don’t Always Have The Roof Open

By Kevin Miller


I had an epiphany on the way to work today. This week I am testing a 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero convertible. Having wanted a convertible since before I had my driver’s license, this is the first time other than a vacation when I’ve had the opportunity to actually live with one. September is typically one of the best months weather-wise in the Northwest, and this week is living up to that reputation. Daytime high temperatures in Seattle are reaching the upper 70s to the low 80s, one of only three spells all summer where we have reached those temperatures. So right now is the perfect time to be testing a convertible.

Living in Seattle, we have mild summers, pleasant autumn and spring days (if the sun shines), and gray winters. Whenever a day reaches the mid-60s or higher and there is sunny weather, I would consider it to be “convertible weather”. As such, I would assume that a convertible driver should take any opportunity to drop the top and let in some sun. In the past I’ve rolled my eyes at convertible drivers on beautiful days in Seattle driving around with their roofs closed. But I’m beginning to understand why people sometimes have their convertible tops closed on gorgeous, sunny days.

This morning I loaded up the 9-3 for a 25 mile commute. With sun and early-morning temperatures in the upper 50s, I had on a light sweatshirt, a ball cap, and sunglasses in addition to my business casual. I had the top open, the seat heater on, and the climate control adjusted to HOT. I had a pleasant drive out of my neighborhood to the freeway, where traffic kept speeds between zero and 25 MPH for the first ten miles of my trip. I had the radio playing, and was having a wonderful time. I rolled my eyes at the Pontiac Solstice and Mazda Miata I saw with their roofs closed.

After getting through downtown Seattle, traffic lightened and speeds rose to 70 MPH. Suddenly, my ride wasn’t as pleasant. Tractor-trailers noisily roared past making deafening sounds, drowning out the Saab’s 300 W stereo. Driving past concrete freeway walls and under overpasses amplified the ambient freeway noise to nearly nauseating levels. By the time I exited the freeway fifteen miles south of downtown Seattle, I was feeling windblown and weathered. While my low-speed commute invigorated me with some fresh air, the high speeds and heavy traffic on I-5 had quite the opposite effect, perhaps taking my breath away and leaving me road-weary after just 20 minutes at 70 MPH.

Hence my epiphany. I can now understand why I see convertible drivers using available wind deflectors, driving with the windows raised, or driving with the top up. Going al fresco can ruin an otherwise beautiful drive. I made my drive home with the top down but the windows raised, which did cut down on the noise level somewhat. For the remainder of my time with the 9-3, I’ll be cruising the boulevards and suburban streets of the Northwest with the top open and the sun shining in. I’ll look for lower-speed, more scenic routes to my destination when I have the opportunity. But I am going to be much more selective about making trips on the freeway with the top down.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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  1. I live in sunny Hawaii and I don’t understand why convertible drivers don’t drop tops more often. Since we have just two seasons: hot and less hot, there’s no legit reason not to go al fresco all the time. Otherwise, why buy a car that comes with built-in reduced structural integrity, increased weight and subpar aerodynamics?

    Only the tourists who opt for Mustang or Sebring rentals actually bother to lower the roof. They came to Hawaii for a reason. The natives, however, are just wasting their money, Miata drivers excepted. 9 out of 10 Miatas I see on the road are topless.

  2. I live in Arizona. It’s pretty simple:

    If the sun is up, so is the top. After sundown you might drop the top, except in sumer, because when it’s 100 degrees at midnight you want the top up to keep the airconditioning in the car.

    Come december it’s a different story.

    Freeway driving is a bit of a different matter. That motorcycle that is just meerly obnoxiously loud in a normal car with the windows up can be painfully loud with the top and windows down. Diesel fumes in you face: bleah. An at 80mph any piece of paper, plastic, ect in your car is going to go walkabout, so you have to be very dilligent about not having aything in the passenger compartment that is not secured.

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