Dear Tom and Ray:
I want one more crack at a convertible, having had a wonderful Dodge Dart convertible in earlier years (it was stolen in Detroit when I left it with a company to replace the top and they parked it on the street — boo hoo!). Background: I'm 93 years old, drive a 2000 Subaru Outback (also a great car but has high mileage and a roof). I have extensive driving experience — across the country twice, 3,300 miles last summer (Mill Valley, Calif.; Durango, Colo.; Moab, Utah; across Nevada and back home). No arrests, no accidents, no problems (so far). What would you recommend for a secondhand, moderately priced, safe (air bags), serviceable and fun convertible? Many thanks for your assistance. I've loved your column and radio show for many years. — Anne
Ray: Well, first I have to ask if you'd accept a marriage proposal from my brother. He's been looking for someone like you ever since Wife No. 2 changed the locks.
Tom: I see you in a Porsche Turbo Carerra, Anne — as long as I'm not making the payments. I've made enough "payments" already, if you know what I mean!
Ray: Actually, the car that first comes to mind for you is the Toyota Camry Solara. It's basically a Camry with two doors and a convertible top.
Tom: There are several things that make me think the Solara is the convertible for you. First, it's based on the Toyota Camry, which means it'll be durable, reliable, ergonomically practical and easy to service.
Ray: Second, it's a little bigger than some of the sportier convertible alternatives, like the Mazda Miata, the Mini Cooper or the VW Golf Convertible. And if you're driving across the country, it's nice to have a little room for your belongings and not feel cramped. Plus a slightly larger car will feel more stable on the interstate at high speeds. Not to mention that size often adds some measure of safety if you do have an accident.
Tom: Third, the Solara's a little higher off the ground than those other cars. That means you can get into it without having to "fall" down into the driver's seat, or rappel back out of the car with a grappling hook. That also means you'll see better when you're driving. I thought of the Mustang for you, too. But you sit pretty low in the Mustang's seat, and I don't know how tall you are (you didn't mention a playing career in the WNBA), but you may feel a little bit like you're sitting in a bathtub when driving the Mustang.
Ray: Finally, it's an easy car to drive. Yeah, it doesn't corner at 90 mph like a Porsche, but it won't require constant vigilance on your part to keep it in its lane, either. And with the top down on a nice day, any car is fun.
Tom: I don't know what you consider affordable, Anne, but for about $20 grand, you can pick up a very nice used Solara. I recommend red. Send us a picture, and enjoy it!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)