Roadtripping through Europe is unforgettable, especially if you’re doing it in sunny weather in a convertible with the top down. But European roads can be narrow and the alleyways in the small towns tight, so a compact convertible like a Mazda MX-5 (or MX-5 Miata, if you’re from the USA) or Porsche Boxter, is your best bet.
The Old Continent has some incredible driving roads and mountain passes, but a land yacht like a Mercedes S-class or a Bentley Continental GT Convertible could be impossible to thread through a small Italian town. And, you don’t need excessive horsepower and tons of performance to enjoy a sweet-handling car. For an enthusiast, a lightweight roadster is the most rewarding. It’s ironic, then, that Mazda’s ‘Miata’ means ‘reward’ in Old High German, yet the name is reserved for the North American MX-5 and not used in Europe at all!
The Right Car For The Job
If you’re touring two-up in a convertible, you’ll have to plan your trip carefully. A small convertible such as the MX-5 has only enough space in the luggage compartment for two medium-size duffel bags at a push, so you’ll have to travel light. What’s great about a small convertible with no back seat is that lowering the roof often does not impinge on the luggage area. And, with a convertible, you don’t have to fight for headroom as you would in coupe vehicles.
Some cabriolets have tiny back seats that you can use to stow things and some larger models take up cargo space to fold the roof. This means you can travel to your overnight accommodation with quite a lot of luggage and the roof up. Upon arrival, you leave the luggage at your hotel and go for roofless day trips, when you don’t need to cart your luggage around with you. Whatever you pick, remember to plan, because space in the vehicle is likely to be at a premium. How much space are you willing to sacrifice?
Touring can, therefore, be quite tricky in a small convertible, but it’s possible if you take the minimum and make use of laundry facilities at your hotel. Such a compact car is also great for the sometimes narrow European lanes and alleys and their gas mileage is excellent too. Great examples include:
- Mazda MX-5
- Mini Convertible
- Porsche Boxter
- Audi TT Roadster and A3 Convertible
- Mercedes-Benz SLC
Of course, one class size up opens up new possibilities in terms of luggage space and might still be quite compact enough for the roads you’ll travel on. Such options include:
- Audi A5 Convertible
- BMW Z4 and 4 Series Convertible
- Porsche 911 Convertible
- Nissan 370Z Roadster
- Jaguar F-Type Convertible
Planning Your Trip
The best time to visit Europe is generally in summer, unless you want to ski, which you won’t if you’re doing a road trip in a convertible. However, summers can be hot and accommodations crowded and expensive because of the peak season, so review your plans if this is an issue. Spring or autumn might be better times to do such a trip, even though the weather might be slightly more unpredictable. September or March might be a little brisk, but it will usually be cheaper and the roads will not be quite as busy. Plan your en-route accommodations well in advance. Generally, September seems to be a great month to go anywhere in Europe.
Top Road-Trip Choices
There are too many to cover in one article, so here are just a few very popular road-trip options in the warmer parts of Europe to whet your appetite:
- September is a great time to visit Germany, with lower prices and fewer tourists than in summer, but with good weather. The Alpine mountain passes offer breathtaking views, but so does the charming Rhine Valley between Düsseldorf and Mainz, a 146-mile route. Avoid the busy July and August months. The Romantische Strasse in Germany’s southern Baden-Württenberg and Bavaria states is noted for its many castles and palaces along the way.
- The Col de l’Iseran is the highest paved Alpine mountain pass at 9,068 feet and if you’ve ever watched the Tour de France, you would have seen its amazing views. Crossing the border into Spain, Port de Larrau is well worth a visit for the steep passes leading there and its isolated location. The challenging Route Gentelly is worth a mention for its tight corners, sheer drops, and unbelievable views. And don’t forget the French Riviera and the Côte d’Azur!
- The Stelvio Pass (yes, the Alfa Romeo SUV’s name) is one of the best in the Alps and was made famous on Top Gear. This is notable for being the second-highest paved road in all the Alps. It’s an intoxicating blend of views and switchback turns. Stop often and take it all in. And what would a visit to Italy be without driving through the villages of the Cinque Terre or the world-famous Tuscany and Amalfi Coast? These places are less crowded before July or after August.
- The UK has many wonderful driving roads but the weather can be unpredictable any time of year. Still, you just have to experience Scotland and beautiful valleys such as Loch Maree or tackle a trip from Edinburgh to Skye, with lots of castles, valleys, and lochs along the way. Or take the A82 from Glasgow into the Scottish Highlands. Wales has stunning roads too, most notably the Black Mountain Pass, taking the A4069 along the Brecon Beacons.
- Spain has so many great roads, we cannot possibly mention them all. Just consider the Andalusian coastline, where you can take the quiet N-340 along the Costa del Sol. The spectacular mountain roads leading up to El Chorro are a must-try in Spain, as are the mountain roads of Catalunya that lead up to Mount Montserrat.
If a road trip through Europe sounds like a great idea, start planning now. It is a big continent and you will require a couple of weeks to enjoy such a trip to the full. You won’t be able to drive all the roads you yearn for, so you’ll have to prioritize and plan. This article will have given you a taster to whet your appetite so you can start planning your vacation. The right sights and scenes in great weather and piloting a rewarding driving machine can turn out to be an unforgettable European experience.