Why I went topless in Miami.
When I announced that I was spending several days going “topless in Miami,” I had more than a few friends make comments along the lines of, I didn’t know you were that type of girl!
I guess I didn’t know I was that type of girl either until I got behind the wheel of some of the best looking convertible and open-air vehicles out there.
The Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA), which consists of automotive journalists, writers, and content creators in South Florida, hosts a signature event every year called Topless in Miami. Members of the organization, along with representatives from many car makers, ride, drive, and VOTE on their favorite convertible and open air vehicles.
Once again, this year’s event was presented by The Haartz Corporation, a leader in highly engineered and uniquely designed convertible toppings and interior surface materials. The company’s world headquarters and North American manufacturing operations are in Acton, Massachusetts, with additional manufacturing in Mannheim, Germany and coming soon, Pune, India.
Haartz invited me as their guest. My job was to stay in accommodations they provided me at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida, and spend the day driving convertibles (aka going topless).
It was a tough decision as you can imagine but someone has to bring you to hard-hitting news about convertibles. (And what better place to do it!)
We started the event with dinner at a Miami icon, The Rusty Pelican, known for its amazing views of Miami. We were greeted with mojitos and kisses on our cheeks and I figured out very quickly that this was a culture into which I could easily assimilate.
Bright and early the next morning, we arrived in the Rumbar for all the instructions we needed to know for the day.
Each driver was assigned a wristband, making them part of the blue or orange team. Your wristband determined which cars you were asked to drive, rate, and vote on for the awards dinner later that evening. As a part of Team Blue, I was asked to drive eight vehicles spread over three categories: Performance Full-Size, Performance Roadster, and Panoramic Luxury.
Car category: panoramic luxury
Hyundai Genesis RWD 3.8
With clipboard in hand and armed with water, a hat, and sunscreen (all must-haves for convertible driving in South Florida), I was quickly ushered into my first vehicle, the Hyundai Genesis RWD 3.8. I traveled with Harvey Schwartz, a journalist who told me that at one point he worked for 30 different automotive publications (28 of which are now defunct!).
His experience as a photographer, though, helped set the stage for the day. He showed me an out-of-the-way spot that provided a perfect backdrop for each and every car with a beautiful view of Miami!
BMW X5 eDrive
This event offered a lot of firsts for me including the first time I’ve driven a BMW! After driving just a few miles away from the hotel, I declared (in my mind) that this competition was officially over and the BMW X5 eDrive was my overall winner and they should just send me home with it.
But in the name of fairness, I snapped a few pictures and decided to keep going.
Infiniti QX60 3.5L V6 AWD
Upon first glance at the Infiniti QX60, I felt like I was jumping into a minivan, something Infiniti tried to design out of the vehicle. But once I got behind the wheel, this thing could move!
When I stopped at my “spot,” I took the time to really explore the panoramic roof.
It was a tough category overall. The roofs were so varied. Some opened partially and some all the way and some (like the panoramic portion above me in the Infiniti) didn’t open at all. I think car companies still have a way to go before these vehicles that typically don’t appear on a convertible line-up have a true open air feel.
My winner: BMW X5 eDrive
SAMA winner: Hyundai Genesis RWD 3.8
Car category: performance roadster
Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG
This was another first for me. My first time driving a Mercedes and unfortunately, I think it’s tainted my experience for life. I’m not sure it can get better than this.
With the AMG performance package, not only was this convertible zippy but it also had all the luxuries I need at this point in my life. But the true magic came when we put the top up.
With a hard-top convertible that includes a sunroof, the only way to improve was to add Magic Sky Control which allows you to change the transparency of the glass… like magic!
The only downside I could find was the trunk. Although convertibles aren’t generally known for their storage space, the hard-top definitely takes up more space in the trunk than its soft-top counterparts.
Nissan 370Z Roadster Touring Sport 6MT
This was surprisingly the only manual transmission in my particular line-up and of course I drove it LIKE A BOSS. Okay, well, maybe not entirely like a boss but I didn’t stall at all!
This is a car just made to be a roadster and fun to drive with the top either up or down.
But the real measure is one that is used for many convertibles as a standard of trunk space. CAN IT FIT A GOLF BAG? I didn’t happen to have a golf bag with me but opening the trunk, it was immediately obvious that, yes, a golf bag can fit. And Nissan even has the sticker to tell you so.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
The last entry in this category is probably the one I was most excited about. It had the most exotic look and was totally foreign to me. Proving that performance cars can be chick cars too, I grabbed Sandra Frederick from Haartz for an all-girls ride in this beast.
As Sandra can attest, that trunk is heavy because it’s also kind of like a hood. There’s a fraction of space back there because most of the room is taken up by the engine. It’s fast. It’s loud. And it’s definitely not the car you take to the grocery store. There is a roll-up soft top back there as well but we never saw the point in putting the top up!
My winner: Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG
SAMA winner: Mercedes-Benz SLC43 AMG
Car category: performance full-size
Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium
I have to admit that I walked into this one with a bit of a bias. I’m a former Ford Mustang convertible owner and I’ve always liked it. Stepping into the GT was a different experience but I loved the kick of the engine as I quickly accelerated to the local 30 mph (yes, it was killing me to drive so slow with all these great cars!).
What surprised me were all the amenities in the car that made it feel like more than an all-American muscle car.
And the car was beautiful both with the top down or up.
Did I mention this is the exact color my Mustang was?
Chevrolet Camaro RS 2LT Convertible
With Ford already a clear winner in my mind, I sat down into the Camaro and was pretty shocked. The interior felt even more high-tech than the Mustang.
And the exterior has classic American good looks, of course.
In the end, it was probably the top up look that helped me make my final choice.
My winner: Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium
SAMA winner: Chevrolet Camaro RS 2LT Convertible
We ended a long day of driving with an amazing meal at the Ritz-Carlton and the presentation of well-deserved awards.
Of course, I didn’t get to drive all the vehicles but I did take a few more out for a spin after my scoring was done. If you want to see more photos from my “topless in Miami” adventure, be sure to head to the AGirlsGuidetoCars Facebook page.
Special thanks to Haartz who was the overall winner in my book. They put the soft-top in most soft-top convertibles out there!
Accommodations for this trip were provided by The Haartz Corporation via A Girls Guide to Cars. All opinions expressed in this piece are my own.