Cabriolet or convertible?

An open-top VW Beetle is a Cabriolet. A roofless Jaguar XK is a convertible. What’s the difference?

Who better to ask than Jaguar Heritage chief archivist and car historian Anders Ditlev Clausager. Cabriolet or convertible, Anders… why two terms?

Well, cabriolet is used mostly by German and French brands, he explains. “The French word “cabriolet” or the German word “Kabriolett” is used instead of “convertible” in France and Germany.

“The word is originally French…”

Convertible? That’s originally American-English but has long been adopted by British-English makers. “Jaguar has used the word “Convertible” since the late 1980s, first for the XJ-S, then for the XK8 and now for the XK.”

The only Jaguar that’s ever been called carbriolet was the first open-top XJ-S in the 1980s, he adds: the one with the roll-over bar and removable targa-style roof panels.

In summary, then, it’s cabrio for French and German, convertible for British and American. I’ve listed some of ’em and it holds up – apart from one. BMW uses convertible, not cabriolet. Why? Not sure; perhaps some historical link to the original BMW Baur convertibles? That’s for another blog post.

Does the rule otherwise hold up, though, Or, do you know of any other exceptions to it? If so, share them below…


Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

Citroen DS3 Cabrio

Audi A3 Cabriolet

Porsche 911 Cabriolet

Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet


Bentley GTC Convertible

Range Rover Evoque Convertible concept

Jaguar XK Convertible

BMW 3 Series Convertible

Ford Mustang

+ Vauxhall Open Tourer

+ Range Rover Evoque: how it was inspirational

+ F-Type: Jaguar’s Evoque