The Northwest might have the best summers on the planet. Where else can you find the combination of moderate temperatures, majestic landscapes and mercilessly few mosquitoes? The season practically demands transportation that puts wind in your hair. (And no, I don't mean a boat.)
An open-roof car brings a new dimension to driving. Obviously you'll see more, but you'll also hear different sounds and smell Ivar's fish and chips when on the viaduct. Seriously.
Here are some sun-loving vehicles for less than $40,000. The approximate base prices include destination but not incentives that might be available. While convertibles are the most common way to boost your vitamin D levels while behind the wheel, I'm throwing in a few interesting twists on the tan-while-commuting dynamic.
For the budget minded, the smart fortwo at around $18,000 is the most affordable new open-roof car in the U.S. (the electric version will set you back around $28,000).
Maybe you need a semblance of a back seat. In that case, check out the Fiat 500. The standard model begins at around $20,000, while the high-performance Abarth is around $27,000. From the side, the Abarth looks like a regular 500. From the back, you can see that the canvas roof (which has three positions) slides back on rails.
The best-selling sports car is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. I've owned mine for 25 years, so I understand why it's been such a hit. There are two versions: the classic soft top, at $24,500, and a retractable hardtop, which starts at $29,500. With telepathic handling, it's a car you practically wear.
Jeep's upcoming compact Renegade can be had with an optional My Sky dual-panel glass roof. Retract the front glass like a standard sunroof, or remove both pieces for an open cockpit. If you can't wait until early 2015 to get one at the expected starting price of around $17,500, there's always the classic Wrangler at $23,400.
The second-generation Kia Soul has a panoramic glass roof. To get it, choose the Exclaim package, and then the Sun and Sound option, for a total of $23,700. It also snags you a killer Infinity audio system.
Ford's iconic 2014 Mustang convertible starts knocking on your wallet at $28,300. Its standard 305 horsepower V-6 provides ample power for a drive to Paradise at Mount Rainier.
Eternal rival Chevrolet Camaro was launched in hardtop form only, so many buyers forget that it's now available with a retractable cloth top. The V-6 behind the bow-tie badge pumps out 323 ponies. That bump in power comes with a bump in price: The Camaro convertible begins at around $32,000.
The Volkswagen Beetle convertible gives you flower power as well as the ability to see and smell them better. The iconic shape starts at around $26,000. For around $26,550, you can get another car that's instantly recognizable — the Mini Cooper Convertible. Its soft top can open partially above the front seats. It's perfect for the times when you want sun, but not too much.
My favorite retractable hardtop mechanism, regardless of price, is the Volkswagen Eos. It's the only vehicle to integrate a retractable glass sunroof into a fully folding roof. It's two cars in one, beginning at $36,500.
It's not too late to start enjoying our great weather in a sun-friendly vehicle. Ideal conditions usually last through September in the Northwest. It'll put you in a great mood, too. I know I'm always looking up in a convertible.