Convertible lovers on the West Coast of the United States, this is your chance to gloat. Those of us who live on the Atlantic coast face a cruel reality. Our timeframe of convertible-worthy weather is as short as the lifespan of a butterfly.
We, however, get something you don’t: The glorious days of fall, when the temps lower and the foliage explodes into color. There’s nothing so great as dropping the top, switching on the heater, and breathing the fall air, as sweet and fresh as a Honeycrisp apple. Still, it is the most bittersweet game. Every time we pull the car from the garage, we wonder: Will this be the last open-top tour of the season? Several years ago it snowed the day before Halloween.
This year, fall on the East Coast has felt more like an extended spring, and our top-down days have been plentiful. But so too have the fall colors been delayed. I was hoping to perfectly time my last fall fling to a very special vehicle, the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. My $176,385 test car was painted a classic shade of Mercedes aluminum that harkens back to the 1930s Silver Arrows. The interior was a gorgeous russet red. The elegant soft top saves weight and, in this case, was a simple black, showing off the roadster’s wide and low body.
Under the elongated hood is a 4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 flush with AMG power (550 hp; 502 ft lbs of torque), giving the car enough gusto to sprint from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. It is hard to contain yourself and live within the speed limits when driving the GT C, so the thing to do is immediately remove the roof and get into the open-air mood. Listen to the banging of the engine, feel the air swirling around your ears.
This is not a car that encourages distracted driving. The width demands that it be wielded mindfully. As in the very best kinds of sports cars, this is a vehicle that you have to pay attention to. Its siblings—like the GT R coupe—are tuned for the racetrack, but without the roof the AMG takes on a new character. The foundation of the body is stout and sturdy. Sans top, you experience a mixture of solidity and space—rock and air, if you will—that makes it unique.
Still, I worry that I may have pushed the season one day too far. It is November 1. Halloween was sunny and brisk, but today the low skies are pushing in and the Manhattan skyline shimmers in a silvery light. I catapult over the George Washington Bridge and head upstate toward the region’s canopy of trees. My goal is West Point, the site of the famed military academy, and the scenic roads that surround it. The trees are indeed turning, garlands of reds and yellows streaming down the sky as the breeze blows, some even infiltrating my cabin.
I stop in the town of Highland Falls, just outside one of West Point’s gates, for a burger at a local joint, Schade’s, a tradition whenever I’m in the area. But I’m really here for a special slice of Route 218, otherwise known as Storm King Highway, a slither of asphalt pitched on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River. It is here that the car uncoils, and I put the 7-speed transmission into manual just to hold the gears and hear the engine howl and the tailpipes spit. You don’t even have to go fast to feel the rhythm of this special road. Here the car becomes a plane, hanging between the river far below and the clouds overhead.
And then the clouds open and the sun shines through. The golden leaves light up and steam rises off the asphalt and the world is beautiful. It leaves me with but one question: Should I leave it alone, as a perfect last drive of the convertible season, or try again next week?