Every Great Car Has its Rival

In the humble opinion of this blogger, we tend to describe automobiles as "unrivaled" a little too easily. In the highly competitive luxury car market, this is almost never the case. To the consumer, there is almost always a choice. It may be at a different price point, but there's generally something else out there to consider.

$77K in 1995 is the equivalent
of $120K in 2015
In the case of the 1991-1997 A124 Cabriolet, the challengers weren't an exact fit, but there were other convertibles on the market that could be described as luxury 4-seater touring cars. With just one exception, these other choices tended to be far less expensive and far more plentiful on the roads than the $80,000 Mercedes Cabriolet:
BMW 325i Convertible (E30 and E36) - Priced significantly lower and made in quantities numbering more than 10 times greater than the A124 Cabriolet, this Bavarian had a total production run of 143,371 drop-top units for the E30 and 196,544 for the E36. In classic BMW fashion, these convertibles are arguably sportier but far less mechanically robust than the A124.
Jaguar XJS Convertible - Though the XJS was produced for an astounding 21 years, the convertible version was made from 1988-1996. This may be the closest rival to the A124 Cabriolet. In all, 18,574 convertible XJS cars were produced, including a popular 2+2 version. Much faster and much thirstier.  Comparing this car to a Cabriolet reminds me of comparisons between the XKE and the Pagoda SL. Many consistent points of difference between the two pairs of vehicles.

Audi 90 Cabriolet - In 1991, Audi made its move to go head-to-head with Mercedes and BMW, introducing its B4 face-lifted model badged the Audi 80 in North America. These were larger, more aggressive designs with more luxury amenities such as 15" wheels, bigger wheel arches, and a more upscale interior. Model year 1992 saw the North American introduction of the Audi Cabriolet, the first open-top Audi since 1959.  Like the BMW, this model was significantly less expensive and produced in far greater numbers. For the most part, this was the challenger to BMW's cabriolet, not the model from Mercedes.

Rolls-Royce Corniche IV - In January of 1992, the Corniche IV made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. From 1992-1995, a total of 5,146 convertible models of the Corniche were manufactured in the Crewe facility. The price: more than twice the A124 Cabriolet.

And even though it only had two seats, it wouldn't be right to exclude the Cadillac Allante from this list. The Allante was an unusual Pinanfarina-designed and manufactured vehicle sold by General Motors from 1986-1993. Designed to compete with the R129 Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS, the $59,975 Allante bears some resemblance to the open-model A124. Total production run was a mere 21,430 vehicles. (But when you consider the bodies were flown in from Italy on specially-equipped 747s with just 56 vehicles in each payload, that's an impressive number.)

It may have been related to safety concerns inherent to any open-top vehicle, or perhaps just the swinging pendulum of the market, but consumers looking for a luxury convertible in the early to mid-90s had fewer choices. Today, each of the luxury carmakers offer its own 2+2 convertible in the Grand Touring tradition.


  1. Great article, I wonder where you find the amount of vehicles produced. I own a 1997 BMW 328 and a 1999 BMW M3, both convertibles and great cars, I think I will never sell them.


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