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July 9, 2009

News & Features

Summer Driving Series Part 2: New convertibles let the sunshine in

New York Times News Service

Mazda Miata

Mazda Miata

The good news is that there are plenty of great convertibles on the market now, some of them quite affordable -- such as the Mazda Miata, Saturn Sky and Chrysler Sebring, with prices starting well under $30,000.

The even better news is that, even though convertible weather is upon us, several new models feature a fold-down hard top. When it's in the raised position, it creates a car that is just like a regular coupe -- sealed off from the elements so it's a practical vehicle for year-round use in any kind of weather.

Midpriced convertible models include the Volkswagen Eos, Audi TT and Volvo C70, whose starting prices ranging from the low $30,000s to the upper $40,000s.

For those with plenty of disposable income, there are some great high-end models that allow for open-top cruising in grand style.

Among these are the Lexus SC 430, with a base price of about $67,000; the Jaguar XKR, with a starting price of about $94,000; and the Mercedes-Benz SL, which begins in the upper $90,000s but can range as high as $195,000 for the SL65 AMG performance version.

Here's a brief look at some of these open-top cruisers:

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda's popular little roadster was completely redesigned for 2006, and in 2007, an optional retractable hard top was added to the mix. The base car comes with a soft top. For 2009, prices begin at just under $21,000.

Saturn Sky
The two-seat Sky roadster starts at $26,400. It's one of two small GM convertibles built on the same architecture; the other is the Pontiac Solstice. The manually operated soft top folds completely into the trunk.

Chrysler Sebring
America's best-selling convertible, the Sebring got a complete remake for 2008. It was just the second convertible on the market to offer a choice between a standard soft top and a retractable metal top. The base model, which comes with the vinyl top, starts at $26,890 (plus freight).

Volkswagen Eos
The Eos is a four-passenger hardtop coupe with a folding roof that turns the vehicle into a full convertible. If you'd rather keep the top up, there's a panoramic sunroof. Prices start at $31,500.

Audi TT Roadster
An all-new generation of the TT arrived last year, and it's great on both style and performance. Prices begin at $37,200 (plus freight).

Volvo C70
This midsize, four-passenger model was added to the Volvo lineup two years ago and now has a one-touch control for the three-piece retractable hard top. It has all of the safety features consumers expect with a Volvo. Among those are special side air bags, important in a convertible.

Lexus SC 430
A convertible with a hard top -- the first topless Lexus -- the SC 430 received a mild restyling for 2006, the first since the car arrived as a 2003 model.

Jaguar XK/XKR
The XKR is the up-level performance version of the XK line, whose convertible model begins at a more affordable $84,000. The XKR is a supercharged luxury sports car that goes from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Mercedes-Benz SL
The two-passenger SL-class roadster is a nearly perfect melding of art and science in a production automobile. The SL comes with a power-retractable hard top that folds away into the trunk.

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